Best start in three seasons: Men’s basketball is 3-0 after silencing Portland’s offense


Matthew Brown

Kent State redshirt sophomore VonCameron Davis leaps into a shot at the basket during the game against Portland University on Nov. 14, 2022.

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

Led by its defense again, the Kent State men’s basketball team earned its third consecutive early-season win.

“It started in the first half on the defensive side of the ball tonight,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “It was really good for us to win a game like that.”

This season, the Flashes have held their opponents to 345 shooting and forced 60 turnovers. 

KSU held Portland to 35% shooting in the first half and recorded nine steals. Redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry led the team with four steals. 

The Flashes defeated the Pilots 77-65 in the M.A.C. Center. Kent State improves to 3-0 on the season – the Pilots fall to 3-1.

This is the first time KSU has won its first three games since 2019.  

Kent State redshirt senior Sincere Carry ducks under his Portland University opponent to close in on the net during the game on Nov. 14, 2022. (Matthew Brown)

At the half, Kent State led 38-24. Redshirt senior guard Malique Jacobs was leading the Flashes with 13 points.  

Portland had scored over 40 points by halftime in all three of their games this season. KSU has scored over 35 points in both of its games this season. 

“We had to get them uncomfortable because they are a tall team,” Jacobs said. “Coach told us we had to pressure the ball to be successful.”

The Pilots starting lineup features five players who are 6-feet-2 inches or taller. KSU has three players at least 6-foot-2. 

Portland had 15 turnovers in the first half; KSU had eight – and scored 13 points off those turnovers. 

The Pilots opened the second half with an 11-4 scoring run, converting on three 3-pointers. 

KSU responded with a 14-7 run, giving the Flashes a 56-42 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game. 

“That was the only lapse we had in the game at the start of the second half,” Senderoff said. “We didn’t get the stops we needed, but the guys came out of a timeout and refocused. 

“We did a really good job from that point forward by extending the lead.”

Jacobs and sophomore center Cli’Ron Hornbeak returned to the Flashes’ starting lineup after missing the previous game against Baldwin Wallace due to injuries.

“Cli’Ron has been a really good here to start the year,” Senderoff said. “The key for him is to continue to remain hungry and humble. If he does that, because he has a good work ethic, he’ll continue to get better.”

Jacobs was “excited” to be back on the court. 

“I love basketball,” he said, “and it’s my life, so it was great to be out there.”

Kent State redshirt senior Malique Jacobs fends off Portland University sophomore Jarrett Bryant as he looks for an open teammate to pass the ball to. (Matthew Brown)

Jacobs finished the game with a team-high 21 points, six steals and six rebounds. Hornbeak totaled nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. 

Redshirt junior forward Moses Wood led the Pilots with 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals. He went 3-for-3 from the free throw line and 2-of-6 on 3-pointers.

KSU’s redshirt senior forward Miryne Thomas, a transfer from Ball State, wanted to be the “hungry” guy coming into the season. He finished with 10 points and was 2-2 for free throws. 

“I want to fly around and do things like cause disruptions and speed our opponents up,” he said. “I’ve learned that my guys got my back no matter what, and then no matter what, it’s always about the next play.”

Kent State redshirt senior Miryne Thomas swings around Portland University redshirt junior Kristian Sjolund as he pushes toward the net during the game on Nov. 14, 2022. (Matthew Brown)

Thomas said his team has found their defensive identity in practice. 

“We all take a lot of pride in our defense, and it’s just so competitive in practice,” he said. “We got a lot of good guys on our team; our roster is deep.”

Going into Monday, Portland had scored over 89 or more points in each of their games this season. Kent State had scored over 76 points in its two games. 

“We were swarming defensively and did a great job at creating a lot of turnovers and a ton of deflections,” Senderoff said. “We really sped them up, and it was an excellent effort by us tonight.”

The Flashes stay home for their next game at noon Wednesday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-3). Last season, the Golden Lions finished 7-24.

The team lost two of their top scorers from last year to graduation.

This year, graduate student guard Shaun Doss Jr. leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.8 points per game. He has totaled nine 3-pointers. 

“Good teams are able to sustain the momentum. They’re able to do it game in and game out regardless of who you’re playing,” Senderoff said. “Wednesday is going to be a big challenge for us to see if we can continue to have that energy.”

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