“They played with purpose, and we were just playing”: Five takeaways from Kent State’s biggest loss this season


Kent State coach Rob Senderoff covers his face during Kent State’s 71-52 loss at Ohio State on Nov. 25.

Ian Kreider

Kent State opened the game shooting the ball well, but foul trouble, technical foul frustration and settling for contested jump shots led to a 96-68 loss. Here’s five takeaways from an ugly offensive performance:

1. Senior guard Antonio Williams’ foul trouble hampered the offense.

With about 16 minutes left, Williams picked up his fourth foul of the game. It was the third time he fouled a Mississippi State player on a layup. The other foul came when he dropped his shoulder into a defender. All four fouls could have easily been avoided, especially considering Williams’ importance to the Flashes’ offense. 

It’s just the second time this season Williams picked up four fouls in a game. Last season he had 13 such games. He finished with 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting, adding two assists and four turnovers in 22 minutes. 

In his absence, sophomore guard Anthony Roberts chucked up 13 shots, most coming on contested jumpers. He finished 5-for-15, including 2-for-8 from the 3-point line, scoring a team-high 16 points. Senior guard Troy Simons struggled as well. He scored seven points, shooting 2-for-4 from the field, while recording as many technical fouls as rebounds and assists combined. The technical foul resulted in him fouling out with 15 minutes left in the game.

The only two positives from the guards were that Williams avoiding fouling out and senior CJ Williamson played well for a six-minute stretch during the first half. Outside of that, they chucked up inefficient shots and were called for two technical fouls. 

2. Junior forward Danny Pippen played one of the worst games of his career.

Pippen’s usually the most dominant player on the floor, even against No. 2 Ohio State. But he seemed distant. His usual “in your face” attitude was nonexistent. He got dunked on by Prince Oduro with 13 minutes left in the game.

He did not record his first block until 11 minutes left in the game. He recorded only four rebounds, all coming in the second half, and he looked outmatched by Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry. 

After scoring an efficient nine points in the first half, Pippen could only muster two points in the second half, while failing to record a made field goal. 

He recorded one block. It was his first block in two games. He did not record multiple blocks in a game for the fifth time this season, after doing so eight of the first 10 games.

3. Roberts played his least efficient game of the season.

Tasked with running the offense in Williams’ absence, Roberts instead opted to throw up contested jump shots. Although he recorded a team-high three assists, the offense struggles to move the ball when he is the primary ball handler. He added two turnovers and could not string together multiple quality possessions.

After a 3-for-3 start over the first six minutes of the game where he attacked the basket for layups. Roberts settled from the outside, shooting 2-for-12 from the field over the final 34 minutes of play.

4. Kent State’s defense, particularly in the second half, gave up too many easy looks.

Mississippi State shot 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half, but still led 45-39 heading into the second half thanks to open layups and free throws. They finished the half shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, while going 9-for-10 from the free throw line.

In the second half, those trends only increased. They shot 5-for-8 from 3-point line, and went 20-for-28 from the foul line. 

“They were getting layups and driving the ball to the rim and getting on top of the basket whenever they wanted,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “Give them credit for how hard they played and how well they competed together.”

They added eight offensive rebounds, while senior forward Philip Whittington and Pippen combined to grab three defensive rebounds in the second half. 

“They’re a great offensive rebounding team, which they’ve been all year,” Senderoff said. “They’ve got great length and great size. They were very, very physical.”

5. Kent State gave up in the second half.

The Flashes proved against No. 2 Ohio State that they can stay in games against just about any team in the country.

But unlike against the Buckeyes, when Kent State was outscored 23-4 over the final nine minutes when the Flashes simply ran out of energy, they appeared to give in to frustration and stopped playing hard.

“They kept playing really hard and we didn’t,” Senderoff said. “That’s the bottom line. They kept playing hard. They were probably embarrassed by their most recent loss. They played with purpose, and we were just playing.”

Mississippi State shot 29-for-38 from the free throw line. The Flashes shot 12-for-16 from the line. 

The Bulldogs’ attacked Kent State inside nearly every possession, Perry finished with a game-high 26 points and 17 rebounds, while shooting 50 percent from the field. He also shot 10-for-14 from the foul line.

“His efficiency was the best thing he did tonight,” Senderoff said. “He didn’t do anything that I’d call ‘special.’ It’s not like he made these ridiculous plays. He was around the ball, finished when he caught it and he offensive rebounded. To me, he gets all the credit. I don’t think he forced a shot. He played within the flow of their offense.’”

It was the Flashes’ worst since a 95-61 loss at Eastern Michigan on Jan. 12 of last season.

“This was an embarrassing loss for us,” Senderoff said. “It’s obviously disappointing at every level. Hopefully, we can learn and get better from this.”