Men’s basketball dominates in second half to stay perfect at home

Junior forward Danny Pippen drives against Detroit Mercy. He scored 18 points and tied a team record seven blocks in the 92-57. Dec. 3, 2019.

At the end of the first half Kent State was barely up against Detroit Mercy, leading 36-30.

The Titans scored first in the second half, bringing the deficit to four. But from then on, Kent State outscored Detroit Mercy by more than double.

The Flashes would go on to win 92-57 to keep a perfect record at home and move to 7-1 on the season.

“The second half (was) I think our best half that we played all year,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “(We were) finally able to score the way I think we are capable of. Ball movement was great and overall the whole group played at a really high level.”

The Flashes were led in scoring by junior forward Danny Pippen, who had 18 points along with 11 rebounds and five assists.

Pippen has been Kent’s top scorer in recent weeks, but the offense was more spread out against Detroit than it had been all season.

“We have a lot of different guys who can score,” Senderoff said. “The biggest thing is not caring about ‘what if I don’t score tonight and somebody else scores.’ When you move the ball a lot you get open and you are able to make shots a lot more easily than when you are trying to force something.”

Senior forward Philip Whittington and senior guard Antonio Williams both scored 17, senior guard Troy Simons added 16, including four 3-pointers, and sophomore guard Anthony Roberts came off the bench to score 13.

Arguably, even better than the Kent State scoring attack in the second half was its defense.

When asked why the defense is better this year Pippen replied, “I block shots,” with a smile.

Pippen did have seven blocks on the night [five more blocks than any other player on the court] but gave credit to the guards for playing well against Titans’ standout Antoine Davis, who came into the night averaging over 25 points.

“(The guards) studied through,” he said. “Our defensive pressure allows and prepares us to win the game, so we followed our principles and you see the outcome.”

Whittington points to the Flashes’ willingness to play tough defense and the work of assistant coach Aaron Fuss in preparing them to shut opponents down.

“We have got guys who want to play defense and the coaches do a really good job,” Whittington said. “Coach Fuss, shout out to him, he does a good job of telling us what we have to do and putting us in the right position on the defensive end.”

Playing well on both ends of the court allowed Kent State to quickly come to dominate the second half, and the team looked to close the door on Detroit as early as they could. 

“We knew we had to put them away,” Whittington said. “First half we just weren’t making shots. We were playing great defense, but we just want to make the shots we are capable of. Once our guys hit a couple shots and we got easy layups and finishes, the game really opened up.” 

Once Simons found his footing from three and the Flashes were succeeding in forcing the ball inside, the game seemed all but decided. 

With 3:48 left in the game, freshman guard Giovanni Santiago assisted Pippen on a hard dunk, and Pippen followed it up with another assisted by senior forward Mitch Peterson less than a minute later.

Those displays of physicality punctuated an overall dominant Flashes performance.

Kent State will try to remain undefeated at home this Saturday as Cleveland State visits the Memorial Athletic Convocation Center at 7 p.m.

Contact Owen MacMillan at [email protected]