Flashes fall in home opener to Delaware State

Kali Price

Fouls, free throws and rebounding hurt the Kent State basketball team in an intense effort last night at the M.A.C. Center.

The Flashes (0-1) dropped their home opener to Delaware State (1-1) 65-56.

“We knew what they were going to do,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “We didn’t execute our game plan at all, offensively or defensively. And those things happen at the beginning of the year, and we need to get better at it. We need better leadership from our seniors, which I’m sure we’re going to get. We need to play harder, and that’s the bottom line.”

Executing the game plan was key for the Flashes, which lacked in defensive effort, especially in rebounding.

“(The lack of rebounding) meant a lot to it,” Christian said. “When you give them second chance opportunities, then you’re going to play defense for a long period of time. They got all the long, loose ball rebounds which we emphasized all week. We did a poor job of it, and that’s what happens. They deserved to win that game.”

On the defensive side, the Flashes kept giving the Hornets second chances.

“There wasn’t much on defense,” Christian said. “It was a lot of loose balls. The shot clock would get to 10, and the guy would get taken, and they’d miss it, and they’d get an offensive rebound and go at them again. We just didn’t finish guarding the whole shot clock.”

The Flashes only posted five offensive rebounds and 16 on the defensive side.

The Flashes took an early lead but lost it with 6:40 left in the first half.

The Flashes only took the lead two more times in the contest. With 1:17 on the clock in the first half, the Flashes led 28-27 and started off the second with two dunks from senior center Nate Gerwig.

The Hornets came back with a 3-pointer with 17:02 left to go from junior guard Jahsha Bluntt. The Flashes then tied it up with a lay-up from senior guard Jay Youngblood, but then failed to score another field goal for the next 11 minutes.

Youngblood led both teams in scoring with 20 points, including one 3-pointer and seven free throws, and Gerwig trailed Youngblood with 16 points.

Senior forward Kevin Warzynski broke the Flashes’ scoring drought with his second 3-pointer of the game.

Warzynski hit two of four 3-point attempts, leading the Flashes in 3-point percentage.

But the Flashes stayed at 40 for four more minutes, allowing the Hornets to take an eight point lead before Youngblood sunk a jumper and drew the foul.

The Flashes were unable to bring the game any closer than within five points with 16 seconds left when senior guard DeAndre Haynes hit the last of the Flashes’ points with a 3-pointer.

But it was the Hornets’ defense that kept the Flashes down.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Youngblood said. “They switched their defense up. They started pressing and going from zone to man-to-man. We weren’t running our offensive. We weren’t running our plays.”

The Flashes only hit 19 of 42 field goal attempts, posting a 45.2 field goal percentage.

The Hornets kept the Flashes from posting any points in the paint by putting pressure on the post.

“If you don’t have the personnel, if you don’t have the big people, you have to utilize your strength,” Delaware State coach Greg Jackson said. “We wanted to force their big people away from the basket. Not letting them just step under the basket, we wanted to limit their possession. We thought if we could keep the big people away from the basket, we’d have an excellent chance of rebounding.”

The Hornets’ tallest player was 6-foot-9 junior forward Aaron Fleetwood, who recorded only two defensive rebounds.

The Hornets did have “an excellent chance of rebounding” posting 22 defensive rebounds.

“They played a match-up defense,” Christian said. “The ball was open in the post; we just weren’t throwing it in. We kept emphasizing it and emphasizing it. We just didn’t execute anything we set out to do offensively or defensively.”

But the Hornets kept the defense switched up, causing problems for the Flashes.

“We kind of changed the defense a lot,” Jackson said. “We played a zone on one side of the floor, and we played a man on the other side of the floor. We gave them different looks; they thought we were in man, but we were basically in zone.”

Gerwig was left open on the post for the majority of his 30 minutes.

“They do a lot of things that are uncanny on defense,” Gerwig said. “We lost a couple of balls; I know I lost a couple of them. We didn’t follow the game plan at all.”

The Flashes also had trouble at the free throw line. Youngblood drained seven of nine free throws, followed by Gerwig – the only other player that made free throws – making four of six attempts.

The Hornets made 23 of 28 free throw attempts, posting an 82.1 percentage, whereas the Flashes hit 11 of 17 attempts, ending the game only hitting 64.7 percent of free throws.

The Flashes continue the South Padre Island Classic when they host Austin Peay at 7 p.m. tonight at the M.A.C. Center. The game will be televised on TV-2.

But Christian said he expects the team to improve and use last night as a learning experience by then.

“We’re going to learn from this,” Christian said. “We didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing. We’re not going to win or lose a MAC Championship on the first day; we’re disappointed in our performance; there’s no excuse for it – I’m not going to make any. We’re going to try and get better, and we’re going to work our butt off tomorrow night.”

Contact assistant sports editor Kali Price at [email protected].