Kent State struggles to score, gives NIU sweep

With four seconds left on the clock and the designed play collapsing around him, Kent State men’s basketball forward Danny Pippen heaved a deep contested three.

The shot was too strong, and clanged off the rim into the hands of a Northern Illinois University (15-9, 8-3 Mid-American Conference) defender.

As the game clock sounded Kent State fell 54-57, dropping its second game in a row to go to 16-8 on the season and 6-5 in the MAC.

After losing to Ball State earlier this week Kent State once again struggled against a top MAC defensive unit, scoring only 54 points in each game.

“They really guard you,” said assistant coach Matt Sligh in a postgame interview with Golden Flashes Radio. “They really force you to play the right way, and they’re tough and physical. Just a lot of credit to how they guarded.”

The first half was not particularly low scoring, as a last second 3-pointer from Kent State guard Troy Simons gave the Flashes and Huskies a 32-32 tie into the half.

But Simons’ game is representative of how the game played out in general, as he scored nine points and 3-7 shooting from three in the first half, but didn’t score in the second half and only got one shot off.

Kent State scored only 22 points in the second half.

“I thought we moved the ball pretty well, [we just] got stagnant in the second half and missed some shots, but more importantly we had some crucial turnovers late,” Sligh said. 

The Flashes finished the game with 15 total turnovers, many of which were unforced as NIU only grabbed five steals.

Five of those turnovers were accountable to Pippen, including one late when Kent State was only down one.

However, Pippen did lead the Kent State offense with 16 points to go along with eight rebounds and a block.

The next leading scorer for Kent State was sophomore guard Anthony Roberts, who put up 13 and a team-high four assists.

Kent State’s defense continues to perform despite struggles with production on the other end of the court.

After being outrebounded by 17 in their last matchup with NIU, the Flashes outperformed on the glass 39-36, but struggled to turn those extra possessions into second-chance points.

Sligh is not worried about Kent State’s situation following two consecutive losses.

“I think today was a good step in a lot of ways,” Sligh said. “Hopefully we can build on it and come out of the bye week hot.”

Kent State will be back in action after eight days off to face Ohio University at home Feb. 15.

On an additional note, senior guard Mitch Peterson took a hard fall while drawing a charge six minutes into the game, hitting his head on the bottom of the hoop.

Peterson left the game on a stretcher, but was able to stand under his own power and seems to not be badly injured.

Allen Moff of the Record-Courier got this quote from coach Rob Senderoff:

“Mitch is OK. He hurt his neck but he’s going to be fine,” Senderoff said.

Owen MacMillan is an assigning editor. Contact him at [email protected].