Men’s basketball loses MAC championship game to rival Akron


David Dermer

Redshirt senior forward Tervell Beck goes up for a shot during the Kent State men’s basketball team’s loss to Akron in the MAC Championship on Saturday, March 12 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

Kent State lost 75-55 to Akron in the Mid-American Conference Championship game, and the team’s 14-game win streak comes to an end.

“All the credit goes to Akron,” head coach Rob Senderoff said. “Coach Groce, their staff, their players, played at a ridiculously high rate, we did not.”

Hours before the game, multiple Flashes were given disciplinary actions after a viral explicit video surfaced that was posted to ​​redshirt junior forward DJ Johnson’s Snapchat, including redshirt junior guard Malique Jacobs.

Senderoff addressed the situation following the loss.

“We had a player on our roster who did something really, really, really dumb,” he said. “We’re in the locker room celebrating, under no circumstance should that have gotten onto a Snapchat. In my pregame talk I called it asinine because I have no other adjective to describe it other than that.”

Johnson was suspended indefinitely while Jacobs was suspended for the first half of the game.

Senderoff defended Jacobs’ role in the incident.

“My issue is, to assassinate this person’s [Jacobs] character,” Senderoff said. “I’m not gonna let that happen. I’m not hearing it, I’m not allowing that to be the narrative. Malique had no idea that was going to be [released], it was in the locker room, it’s not supposed to have gotten anywhere.

Senderoff was emotional when talking about Jacobs’ journey over the past year.

“I’m gonna talk about him (Jacobs) for a second,” Senderoff said. “A year ago his grandma, who raised him, had a stroke. His closest mentor, which was my Director of Basketball Operations [Brian Barnes], passed away. His journey to Kent State, wasn’t recruited by anyone, went to prep school, damn near every person he knows has been killed or is in prison. He is, after this semester, three credits from graduating college and will be the first member of his family when that day happens.”

Senderoff also pointed out Akron fans’ treatment of the Flashes.

“We went to Akron’s campus for two hours,” Senderoff said. “And these two dudes [Jacobs and redshirt junior guard Sincere Carry] got mfed all over the place. At the end of the game, Jacobs did something that he shouldn’t have done, shoot, it couldn’t have been that bad the MAC was using it in their promo. And okay, it happens. [But], you cannot assassinate this dude’s character.”

Senderoff is referring to an incident after KSU beat Akron on Feb. 11, and members of the team ran over to the Akron crowd, waving at them. Jacobs was caught on camera throwing up middle fingers to the crowd. The video of the incident was used in promotion for the tournament this weekend by the MAC.

It was a nightmare for the Flashes in the first half, and they went into the locker room trailing 34-25.

“We just didn’t execute tonight,” Carry said. “We weren’t all on the same page, and we just played badly, it happens.”

Akron came in with a great defensive plan and executed it, forcing 11 turnovers in the first half. Carry had seven turnovers in the first half.

“He played a little too fast,” Senderoff said. “Maybe I should’ve taken him out of the game to give him a breather, but we were short-handed and, quite honestly, I didn’t feel like I could, and I probably should’ve.”

The Flashes struggled on defense, clearly missing Jacobs’ defensive presence on the court.

“It was real hard to just sit there in the first half and just watch,” Jacobs said. “My team was playing so hard, they know I’m like the engine of the team.”

Jacobs leads the team in rebounds, with almost eight per game, and steals, 48 this season. He is second in blocks with 24.

Akron shot 48 percent (12-25) and 45 percent (5-11) in the first half. The Zips moved the ball around well with seven team assists.

Redshirt senior forward Justyn Hamilton played well in the first half, scoring seven points with three rebounds. Hamilton was perfect shooting the ball, not missing a shot.

“He was awesome, I’m really happy for him,” Senderoff said. “Obviously I wish the outcome was better, but he played great and he kept us in the game in a lot of ways because he played so well.”

Kent State could not get anything going in the second half, as the nightmare evening continued.

Akron’s defense smothered Kent State forcing a total of 19 turnovers total and scoring 20 points off the turnovers.

Akron shot the ball very effectively, shooting 56 percent (13-23) and 62 percent (5-8) from three in the second half.

Hamilton had a good night scoring 19 points, with eight rebounds and two steals. He was the only Kent State player with double-digit points.

Carry matched his season-low in points with six and only had two rebounds.

Jacobs had seven points and three rebounds.

The Zips will represent the MAC in the NCAA Championship Tournament.

Kent State will now wait to see if it will appear in the National Invitation Tournament [NIT]. The NIT is widely known as a tournament for teams that do not make the NCAA tournament.

“It is hard to get here,” Senderoff said. “This league is a grinder, it’s hard to get to this point and I felt like we were going to play well tonight, but you know what, I feel like we are going to play well every night and tonight we didn’t.”

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