Second-half surge: Men’s basketball dominates defensively in successful season opener

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

Shooting 54.2% from the field, the Kent State men’s basketball team defeated Northern Kentucky 79-57 in its season opener Monday.

“We played a really good second half, and our defense was great all game,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “Eventually, some shots started to fall, and we took care of the ball a little bit better in the second half. If you do those things, you give yourself a chance to be successful.”

Monday, the Flashes held NKU to 30% from the field and 18.4% from behind the arc.

“This is a good team we played tonight, and we had to defend at a really high level from the start,” Senderoff said. “Sort of made a really good team not look very good.”

KSU opened the game with a 10-1 lead and never slowed down, leading for 38:25 in the game.

Sincere Carry, Miryne Thomas, Giovanni Santiago, Malique Jacobs and Cli’Ron Hornbeak were starters.

Carry and Jacobs started the most games last season. Santiago started 14; Hornbeak started seven.

Thomas, a transfer from Ball State, started 30 games with the Cardinals.

The Flashes outscored Northern Kentucky 44-28 in the second half.

Redshirt senior guard Carry scored 15 of his 20 points after halftime.

“He’s an awesome player,” Senderoff said. “As he continues to let the game come to him, good things are going to happen.”

Carry led the Flashes with 20 points, five 3-pointers and seven assists. Last season, he averaged 17.9 points per game, the highest on his team, and made 78 3-pointers.

Thomas, a redshirt senior forward, provided an immediate impact for Kent State. He scored 11 points — all in the first half — and totaled five rebounds.

“He played really well tonight,” Senderoff said. “He got into a little bit of foul trouble early but had a huge impact on the result tonight.”

Thomas made four personal fouls.

Sophomore center Hornbeak led KSU with a career-high 13 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds and two blocks. He finished with eight points.

“That’s the best game he’s ever played,” Senderoff said. “I’m really happy with how he played tonight. He just needs to stay humble and continue working to get better as the season goes on.”

Senderoff credited his team’s defensive performance to the scouting team.

“They were able to get these guys ready the last couple of days in practice,” he said. “We started with Sincere guarding their best player, and it spread throughout the team, and everybody who came in contributed on the defensive side.”

Sincere guarded Northern Kentucky junior guard Marques Warrick, who was named to the Horizon League preseason first-team.

He finished with six points on 15.4% shooting and 0-5 from behind the arc. Last season, Warrick averaged 16.8 points per game and made 76 of 215 3-pointers.

The KSU defense totaled seven steals, four blocks and forced 12 turnovers. Northern Kentucky forced 11 turnovers.

Senderoff said rebounding will be addressed.

“They did a great job on the glass, and that’s something we certainly have to work on,” he said. “We have to do a better job of defensive rebounding as a unit in order to win some of these games moving forward.”

Kent State lost the rebound battle 42-34 and allowed 19 offensive rebounds. KSU had nine offensive rebounds.

Senderoff was “impressed” with the way his team competed.

“We just played really hard tonight, and I hope we can continue to do that,” he said. “Continue to compete and to play for each other.”

The Flashes’ home opener is at 5 p.m. Thursday against Division III Baldwin Wallace.

The Yellow Jackets lost to Cleveland State 74-52 in an exhibition game Nov. 3.

KSU is 24-25 all-time against the Yellow Jackets – and this is the first matchup since 1963.

Baldwin Wallace went 15-17 overall last season.

Senior guard Anthony Mazzeo had the most points for the team last season with 468. Out of the Yellow Jacket’s top-three scorers last season, he and senior guard Jake Snyder are returning.

Senderoff is looking for a big turnout at the M.A.C. Center.

“It would be great to have a student section,” Senderoff said. “I’m hoping that we can have people that want to see us play, and I’m hoping that our fans will come out and support these guys.”

Jacob Shondel is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]