Flashes lose their composure, squander Whittington’s best game in nearly two months, five takeaways from the loss to Ball State

Senior forward Philip Whittington (25) attempts to make a shot during the men’s basketball game on Feb. 4, 2020 against Ball State. Kent State lost 62-54. Whittington scored a game-high 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

Troy Simons committed a technical foul that gave Ball State a 52-45 lead with 9:10 left. The senior guard missed a 3-pointer, but felt he was fouled, and he adamantly expressed his feelings to the officials. At the same time, senior guard Antonio Williams picked up his fourth foul fighting for the offensive rebound.

The Cardinals not only made both free throws, but scored after the inbound. It was a potential seven-point swing that cost the Flashes their momentum at a crucial turning point.

Less than five minutes later, Williams fouled out after he fought for another offensive rebound. 

Kent State’s offense came to a screeching halt after it held a 22-9 lead with under 10 minutes remaining in the first half. The Flashes scored with ease inside, using the size of senior forward Philip Whittington to the tune of seven points on 4-for-5 shooting. 

Ball State responded with a 26-6 run over the final 9:34 to take a 35-28 lead into halftime.

“We came out with the right energy, and we jumped on them early,” Whittington said. “We didn’t sustain it for the whole 40 minutes. I think that’s been a problem with us all season. We either get down first and we come back or we beat them up and we get complacent and let them back in the game. We gotta fix that.”

Kent State could not secure its fourth consecutive win, despite holding Ball State to 32 percent from the field. Here are five takeaways from the Flashes’ 62-54 loss:

1. Kent State shooting 1-for-20 from the 3-point line was a once-in-a-season type performance.

You are not gonna win a lot of games shooting 1-for-20 from the 3-point line.

The Flashes added a sub-.500 performance from the foul line to produce an even worse shooting night.

“We gotta shoot better, obviously,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “They’ve been good all year defensively so you’ve gotta give them credit, but some of that is also on us. … They don’t defend free throws.”

They shot under 40 percent from the field for the first time since a 71-52 loss at Ohio State on Nov. 25. They also scored under 60 points for the first time since that game as well.

2. The lack of ball movement, particularly in the final 30 minutes of the game, doomed Kent State’s half court offense.

Attempted isolation, hero ball play has become a staple in the Flashes’ losses this season. Tuesday night the four culprits were Simons, Williams, sophomore guard Anthony Roberts and junior forward Danny Pippen.

Each player has had their moments this season, but the four combined to shoot 14-for-41 and 1-for-15 from the 3-point line. 

“We’ve done this before,” Senderoff said. “We start shooting bad shots or not moving the ball the way we’re supposed to and all of a sudden another team scores nine out of the last 10 times to end the half [15-1 run].”

Roberts added four points in a 48-second span, but the majority of the game he proved to be ineffective. 

The Flashes finished with 10 assists and 11 turnovers, which dropped their record to 3-3 in games when they have 10 assists or less. 

The lack of fast break opportunities created more isolation problems in the half court setting. The inability to get easy attempts fast break led to poor shot selection and forced shots late in the shot clock. Here’s an example of two of their four fast break points:

3. Whittington’s size and post hook made him unstoppable in the paint.

He opened shooting 4-for-5 with the only miss coming on an attempted tip. His one weakness was free throw shooting. He set the tone for the rest of the team, going 4-for-8 from the line. 

“We lost so I don’t really care about [my performance],” Whittington said.

He finished with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting and seven rebounds. He didn’t turn the ball over for the first time in four games. He was the most dominant player on the floor for the majority of the game. He got virtually no help until Roberts’ short scoring spurt in the waning minutes.

4. The bench played one of its worst games of the season.

Junior forward Tervell Beck finished a layup through contact, drawing a foul with just under 12 minutes left in the first half and a chance to give Kent State an 18-5 lead. 

He missed the free throw, and played only three more minutes in the game.

CJ Williamson and Mitch Peterson combined to shoot 1-for-8 and score two points in over 33 minutes.

Ball State’s bench outscored them 18-4.

5. Kent State played some of its best defense of the season.

The Flashes held Ball State to 19-for-58 shooting, including 6-for-24 in the second half. Whittington and Pippen guarded the rim without fouling for most of the game. The pair combined to block only one shot, but they served as a deterrent, which helped hold Ball State to 18 points in the paint.

“When a team scores 62 points in your gym, you’re supposed to win,” Senderoff said. “Tonight we couldn’t make a shot.”

Kent State plays its next game on Friday at 7 p.m. at Northern Illinois. The Huskies are 14-9, 7-3 in MAC play. They beat the Flashes 76-69 on Jan. 21. The MAC’s leading scorer, Eugene German, scored 17 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

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