Simons’ career-high not enough, five takeaways from Kent State’s slow start, loss at Miami

Sophomore guard Anthony Roberts (15) dribbles up the court during Kent State’s 77-53 win over Stetson on Nov. 31, 2019. Roberts finished with a game-high 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

Ian Kreider

If you tuned in to the second half of Kent State’s loss 77-74 loss at Miami, you would’ve thought that the Flashes should be a top-25 team in the country.

Senior guard Troy Simons scored a career-high 24 points with 18 points coming in the second half. 

Sophomore guard Anthony Roberts orchestrated a fast-paced offense that scored 53 points in the second half, as senior guard Antonio Williams watched from the bench after getting into foul trouble. Junior forward Danny Pippen scored nine points in the final three minutes.

But Kent State’s not a top-25 team, and they did play in the first half, digging themselves into a 31-21 hole. They scored the fewest first half points since Feb. 2016 in a 74-65 loss at Miami.

Here are five takeaways from the Flashes’ confusing first conference loss:

1. Roberts proved he can operate the offense in short spurts with Williams on the bench.

Roberts facilitated the offense better than Williams on Tuesday night. Although Roberts finished with just two assists and four turnovers, the bulk of his offensive inefficiency came in the first half. His ability to push the ball up the floor in the second half led to Simons’ career night. 

Roberts scored 14 points In the second half as he setup possessions that ended with open threes for Simons, Pippen and senior guard Mitch Peterson. His constant driving, mixed with his ability to make pull-up jumpers, allowed him to get around his primary defender and force other RedHawks to help, leaving shooters open. The Flashes shot 60.7 percent in the second half after shooting a pedestrian 9-for-27 in the first half. 

Roberts engaged second half almost led to a comeback win. The sophomore may not be a true No. 1 option yet, but in spurts, he can carry an offense like he did for most of the second half. 

2. Simons played his best game overall, and there’s a large enough sample size to prove that he can carry this team for minutes at a time.

Simons is the most dangerous 3-point shooter the Flashes have had since Devareaux Manley. 

Simons made six 3-pointers, a feat that hasn’t occurred since Jaylin Walker went 6-for-9 from three in a 29-point performance at Miami last March.

Simons ability to get hot after not shooting for minutes at a time is a rare and valuable trait, especially for a team that has five players average in double digits. He’s dangerous on pull-ups, catch-and-shooting and come off screens for tough threes from anywhere on the court.

3. The Flashes had a lack of inside presence until Pippen’s late scoring.

Whittington was clearly not 100 percent. He played 12 minutes and went 0-for-3, grabbing just one rebound. Pippen played poorly until the final three minutes, and Beck provides quality hustle plays but it remains to be seen if he can score consistently when he’s the lone big man.

Beck scored two points in 17 minutes, attempting just one shot. He grabbed three rebounds and was one of three Flashes who finished with more turnovers than assists, joining Williams and Roberts. 

4. Williams’ foul trouble did not negatively impact the offense for the first time this season. 

Williams picked up his fifth foul on a push off as he tried to create space for a midrange jumper with about eight seconds left. Three of his five fouls came on the offensive end, as he attempted just three shots (2-for-3) in 28 minutes. 

He racked up a career-high seven turnovers and grabbed only one rebound.

Tuesday night was one of the first nights in his career where the offense looked better with him off the floor. His turnovers interrupted the flow of the offense that scored 29 points with Roberts as its main facilitator for about eight minutes in the second half. 

5. Senior guards CJ Williamson and Mitch Peterson played well, but the Flashes need more from the bench.

If Kent State had two wishes for the remainder of the season, they would be that Williamson continues to provide scoring in short spurts off the bench while playing lockdown perimeter defense and that a second true playmaker could emerge off the bench.

Sure, Roberts played that role well Tuesday, but he shouldn’t have to for 10 minutes at a time because he’s such a unique scoring threat.

The Flashes need true freshman guard Giovanni Santiago to play around 10 minutes a game to give them some relief.

That’s not currently possible, as Santiago struggles defensively and is not a threat to score. He’s a pass first point guard who has unique court vision, but it’s not utilized because he’s such a detriment defensively.

Aside from Williamson, Peterson played well down the stretch. Despite missing a wide open corner three that would have tied it. His staple hustle plays and timely 3-pointers kept the game close late in the second half.

Kent State’s next game is Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Western Michigan. The Broncos are coming off an 85-82 loss to Bowling Green. 

Contact Ian Kreider at [email protected].