Kent State moves onto the championship game to take on Akron


David Dermer

Redshirt junior Sincere Carry reacts during the Kent State men’s basketball team’s win over Ohio in the semifinals of the MAC tournament in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, March 11.

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

The Kent State’s basketball team controlled the paint to advance to the finals of the Mid-American Conference tournament.

KSU won 67-61 over Ohio University and has now won 14 straight games.

“That’s this time of the year,” head coach Rob Senderoff said. “Guys have to step up and make plays and I thought across the board we did that.”

Kent State got it done down low in the first half, leading 31-23.

The Flashes scored 20 points in the paint and out rebounded Ohio University 21-13.  

KSU scored six second chance points in the first half off the rebounds. 

Kent State shot the ball well in the first half, shooting 46 percent (13-28) from the field and 42 percent (3-7) from three point range.

Ohio  struggled offensively shooting 33 percent (8-24) and just 23 percent (3-13) from three point range. 

“I thought we did a really good job with Mark Sears in the first half,” Senderoff said. “He’s an all-conference player and in the first half we were really good on him.”

Shots started falling for the Bobcats in the second half, as they shot 47 percent (11-23) and 45 percent (5-11) from behind the arc in the second half. 

Kent State dominated down low in this game, out rebounding Ohio 40-27. The Flashes had 38 points in the paint and 11 second chance points in this game. 

“We did a good job of scoring on top of the basket and driving the ball,” Senderoff said. “Shots fall and they don’t fall, we had more assists than turnovers, we were great on the offensive glass, had a number of blocked shots and we played well.”

Redshirt junior guard Malique Jacobs was a huge part of the success in the paint having 19 points with 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. 

Redshirt senior Justyn Hamilton controlled the boards well, scoring six points with seven rebounds, three blocks and an assist. 

The MAC Player of the Year, redshirt junior guard Sincere Carry, contributed as well with eight rebounds also scoring 16 points and dishing out four assists.

Carry and Jacobs had a combined 18 rebounds as guards in the game. 

“I think that was very important,” Jacobs said. “It gives our teammates extra confidence to shoot, like we were telling Andrew [Garcia] to shoot even if it was a bad shot or good shot, we were crashing, so it was giving them a lot of confidence, because they know when the shot went up we had a good opportunity to get the second chance bucket.”

Despite the shooting improvement from Ohio, Kent State held the lead the entire second half, even when the Bobcats brought the game to within two. 

“We were expecting them to throw punches,” Carry said. “I just kept telling my teammates we gotta just respond to every punch they throw at us. I felt like we did a good job, but we never got down on ourselves and we stayed together the whole game and played as a team, and at the end we just made a lot of big plays.”

Kent State will take on Akron in the championship game for the MAC title and the chance to go to the NCAA tournament. Kent State beat Akron in both regular season matchups this year.

“It really doesn’t matter who you are playing when you have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament,” Senderoff said. “The fact that it is Akron, that is gonna make the atmosphere here better, because we are gonna have a great crowd tomorrow night.”

The last time Kent State won the MAC tournament was against none other than Akron in 2017, when KSU won 70-65. 

Tipoff will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Rocket Mortgage Field House in Cleveland. The game will be broadcasted live on ESPN 2. 

Jacob Hansen is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].