Flashes beat Cleveland State with ‘best offensive’ effort

Sean Joseph

Kent State’s Jay Youngblood does a reverse layup during the game against Cleveland State Saturday at the M.A.C. Center. Kent State won 83-68.

Credit: Steve Schirra

In what Kent State coach Jim Christian called their best performance yet, the men’s basketball team defeated Cleveland State 83-68 Saturday night at the M.A.C. Center.

“This was our best offensive game all year,” Christian said. “We spent the last two practices on that completely.”

The Flashes were led by seniors Jay Youngblood, who scored 19 points, just shy of making it his third 20-point performance in a row and Nate Gerwig, who recorded a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“Coach (Christian) challenged me to see how many rebounds I could get tonight,” Gerwig said. “I felt that this was altogether my best game ever. It just happened to be against Cleveland State, but it could have been against anyone tonight.”

Kent State ran away with the game in the second half, leading by as much as 20. But it was in the first half that Youngblood and Gerwig played their best.

Youngblood was 6-of-6 for 2-point field goals, 2-of-2 for 3-pointers, and 1-of-1 from the free-throw line, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the first half. Gerwig was also perfect, making all four of his 2-point shots in the first half.

Kent State led by nine at the half and were up by no less than six points with 15:59 left in the second half.

Rebounds were the key to the game, Christian said. The Flashes recorded 29 defensive rebounds compared to the Vikings’ seven offensive rebounds. They also had 14 offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points, compared to the Vikings’ three.

“Rebounding was the difference in the game,” Christian said. “Today we got effort from everyone on the boards.”

Free throws could have made a bigger difference for the game as well.

Vikings’ freshman forward J’Nathan Bullock set a team record by attempting 20 shots from the free-throw line, 11 of which he made. Altogether, Bullock was the game’s leading scorer with 21 points.

But leg cramps have plagued the Vikings since their second pre-season scrimmage and continue to be a problem, Cleveland State coach Mike Garland said. Vikings’ standouts, junior guards Carlos English and Raheem Moss suffered from cramps and were out for most of the second half.

“I’m not going to use cramps as an excuse: they just outplayed us,” Garland said. “The bottom line is Kent State showed us what Kent State basketball is all about, and we weren’t able to sustain anything.”

Youngblood and senior forward Kevin Warzynski both received treatment for back injuries before the game, Christian said. Warzynski had not practiced since before the Flashes played Youngstown State Wednesday. Despite back problems, he scored 13 points and recorded four rebounds.

“I feel like if I don’t play, I let my team down,” Youngblood said after the game. “I let the game come to me and don’t force anything like that.”

Contact campus editor Sean Joseph at [email protected].