Five takeaways from Williams’, Simons’ career-highs in win at Bowling Green

Antonio “Booman” Williams, senior guard, drives the ball towards the hoop during Kent State’s game against Hiram College on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.

Ian Kreider

Kent State needed at least one guard to step up after a 28-point loss at Mississippi State on Dec. 30. During the loss, the Flashes starting three guards combined to shoot 12-for-29. Friday night they got quality guard play from each starting guard en route to a 79-61 win at Bowling Green. The Falcons were favored in the preseason poll to win the Mid-American Conference. Here are five takeaways from Kent State improving to 11-3, 1-0 in MAC play:

1. Senior guard Antonio Williams and sophomore guard Anthony Roberts could emerge as the top guard tandem in the MAC.

The pair bounced back from one of their worst performances against Mississippi State, during which, they combined to score an inefficient 26 points on 40 percent shooting, while turning the ball over six times.

Roberts scored eight points over the first five minutes, finishing the half with 11 points on 57 percent shooting. He also proved to be a quality facilitator, finishing the half with a team-high four assists. Then Williams added downhill drives to the basket with transition opportunities to score 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting, adding four rebounds and three assists.

The guards limited a hampered Justin Turner to four points on 2-for-7 shooting in 24 minutes. According to the Toledo Blade, he suffered a hamstring injury in a 91-84 win over Cincinnati on Nov. 24. He missed six games, and in his second game back he was limited.

“(The guards) focused in on the defensive side of the ball,” coach Julian Sullinger said on the Kent State radio network postgame show. “As that happened, a lot of (our guards) shots started falling. They really did a good job on Justin Turner.”

Williams tied his career-high of 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting, while Roberts finished with 11 points, going 0-for-3 in the second half.

2. Kent State’s bench will need to play better, but junior forward Tervell Beck played well as Pippen picked up his third foul early in the second half. 

Beck scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds playing relief minutes for Whittington and Pippen. He scored the bench’s first seven points and added quality minutes after Pippen picked up his third foul near the 19-minute mark. 

Beck averaged 4.1 points per game, while playing over 14 minutes six times so far this season, including three games in a row. He will be the go-to big if Pippen or Whittington get into foul trouble. 

Beck’s listed at 6-foot-7 inches and 230 pounds. He runs the floor well, but can also replace some of the inside scoring when Whittington and Pippen are on the bench.

3. Whittington and Pippen both getting in foul trouble did not impact the Flashes much because they were able to get out in transition.

The Flashes’ ability to force turnovers and turn missed Bowling Green 3-pointers into transition opportunities ultimately canceled out poor performances from Whittington and Pippen, who each went to the bench early in the second half with foul trouble. 

Both failed to play 20 minutes. Whittington played well in limited time, scoring an efficient eight points and grabbing seven rebounds, while only turning the ball over once. He started a number of fast break opportunities with quick outlet passes to Williams or Roberts. 

Pippen struggled to do much. After an impressive start to the season, he has appeared distant in the past two games. He went 2-for-8 from the field. One of his makes came on a catch and shoot three:

While the other came on a post hook where he simply overpowered his defender. More on Pippen’s struggles later.

4. Senior guard Troy Simons put the game out of reach in the last seven minutes, but remained mostly dormant in the first half.

Simons tied his career-high of 17 points. He scored 15 points in the second half with most of his scoring came late and sealed the blowout win.

He spent most of the first half deferring to Williams and Roberts, but with under seven minutes left, he made three 3-pointers in less than a three minute stretch to give the Flashes a 77-55 lead.

“I wish we were giving him Michael Jordan’s ‘secret stuff’ like Space Jam,’” Sullinger said. “He’s just consistent in what he does. He has the same approach. He plays the right way all the time, whether he has two shots at half time or eight shots at halftime, he continues to play the right way.”

The tandem of Williams and Roberts became Williams and Simons in the second half. The pair combined to score 27 points in the 2nd half, while Bowling Green scored just 23 points.

5. The Flashes’ transition offense appeared unstoppable with at least four players on the court at all times who could run the floor well.

Williams, Roberts and Simons each had their fair share of transition opportunities, but add in Beck and Santiago late in the game and Kent State pulled away. Santiago only played six minutes and recorded one assist, but his vision is unique:

The Flashes scored 21 points on fast breaks in Friday’s win, improving to 9-1 when they score at least 13 fast break points this season. The Falcons shot 3-for-23 from 3-point range, giving Kent State long rebounds, leading to transition opportunities. 

Kent State will play Toledo on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center. The Rockets are coming off a 61-57 loss at Ball State. 

Contact Ian Kreider at [email protected]