Simons’ career-high, most 3-pointers since 2013 help Flashes snap two-game losing streak

Senior Mitch Peterson [13] and senior Troy Simons [3] celebrate after Simons dunks, making the score 41-38 against Ohio Sat. Feb. 15, 2020. Kent State University won 87-72, as Simons scored a career-high 27 points.

Ian Kreider Sports reporter

Senior guard Troy Simons drove left and dunked the ball with his right hand. He walked towards the camera on the baseline, flexed and screamed after finishing through Lunden McDay, who tried to take a charge. Instead McDay was called for a blocking foul, and Simons added his 19th point of the first half at the free throw line.

“They over closed out on me, and I saw a lane on my favorite side; I actually like driving on the left side,” Simons said. “Then I just went up and dunked it.”

Here’s the play:

The play allowed Simons to show off his capabilities that appeared nonexistent in recent games. He scored five points and nine points during the Flashes’ two-game losing streak, and only attempted one shot in the second half of their most recent loss at Northern Illinois.

“My point guard was just finding me,” Simons said. “Booman [Antonio Williams] was penetrating the gaps of the defense, and I was moving off the ball hunting for my shots, and he was finding me.”

Here are five takeaways from Kent State’s 87-72 win over Ohio:

1. The bye week allowed the Flashes to rest, shoot and get treatment.

They played arguably their most complete game of the season after not competing for eight days.

“We just needed a week off so we could take care of our bodies,” Simons said. “It really helped a lot.”

Simons’ career-high in points played a huge part in the win, but a career-high 21 points for sophomore guard Anthony Roberts also helped carry the scoring load, particularly in the second half.

As Simons’ shooting slowed, the Flashes were looking for another offensive catalyst to carry their scoring load — enter Roberts.

He scored 11 of his 21 points over the final eight minutes. His clutch scoring helped end any hope of an Ohio comeback. His 80 percent shooting mark is the highest of his career in games where he takes 10 or more shots. He found his spots and limited early shot clock pullup jumpshots.

2. Simons’ shooting carried the offense to its most 3-pointers made since 2013.

The Flashes started breaking Ohio’s full-court press early in the game, which gave Simons open opportunities from the perimeter.

He capitalized to the tune of five first-half threes.

Senior guard Williams regularly found Simons around the perimeter after he would drive and draw the defense’s attention.

Simons’ shooting canceled out junior forward Danny Pippen’s worst game of the season. He scored six points on 0-for-6 from the field. He went 6-for-6 from the foul line in the first four minutes of the half to counter the Bobcats’ 6-0 run, which allowed Ohio to take a 44-42 lead.

Pippen’s free throws gave Kent State a 48-44 lead with 16 minutes left. The Flashes didn’t trail for the remainder of the game.

3. Williams showed restraint on the defensive end and improved playmaking ability on offense.

If you’ve been to a Kent State basketball game in the past year and a half, you know Williams likes to drive and finish inside.

What you may not have realized was his improved playmaking ability and outside shooting, paired with his restraint on the defensive end.

Saturday afternoon all of the latter was on display, as he scored 16 points on 50 percent shooting, including 3-for-5 from three and a career-high seven assists.

“I’ve been seeing it for a few games, everybody just collapses once I’m driving the gaps,” Williams said. “I was just making the right play and finding the open guy. It just happened to be Troy a lot.”

Four of his assists resulted in made threes by Simons. 

“I feel like every time he shoots it’s gonna go in,” Williams said. “Coach [Rob Senderoff] has been talking about making the right pass and saying our percentages are great when we make the right pass.”

Williams also used his athleticism to put an exclamation point on the win:

4. Kent State’s defense continues to show marked improvement.

The Bobcats shot nearly 50 percent, but the Flashes forced 18 turnovers and turned it into 25 points. They limited Ohio to two second chance points in the second half and 2-for-8 from three.

Kent State also held Jason Preston to six points in the second half. He finished with 20 points and 12 assists, but he turned the ball over seven times. 

“As good as his statline is, I thought we did a good job guarding him for the most part,” Senderoff said. “He’s a really good player. He’s gonna score some baskets, but overall I thought our defense on him was pretty good.”

Senior guard CJ Williamson guarded Preston in stretches, and added a season-high 14 points on nearly 70 percent shooting, while senior guard Mitch Peterson played quality minutes guarding Ohio’s Ben Vander Plas. The 6-foot-8-inch forward was held to 12 points and five rebounds. Peterson and others forced him to turn the ball over five times.

5. The Flashes are the most confident they’ve been all season.

The bye week did wonders for a team facing its second three-game losing streak of MAC play. Simons and Williams both emitted confidence after the game, after each finishing with their best performance in nearly a month.

“My teammates told me to hunt for my shot,” Simons said. “They told me to be patient on offense and let the ball come to me and to just move without the ball. That’s what I was doing today.”

Simons affected the game for the majority of his 36 minutes, avoiding his usual 15-20 minute lull, while Williams avoided foul trouble. He finished with zero fouls in 35 minutes.

“[Avoiding foul trouble] kept me in the game a lot, way more than I’ve been playing,” Williams said. “It kept me in a rhythm. Sitting, sitting and coming back in, trying to just jump into the flow is hard. Every time I stay out of foul trouble I have a good game.” 

Kent State will play its next game at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 at Eastern Michigan.

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]