Men’s basketball battles back and forth with nation’s No. 2 team

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

Kent State’s men’s basketball team had allowed 60 points per game going into Saturday’s contest with No. 2 Houston.

The Cougars averaged 79 points in their previous five games of the season.

The Flashes’ defense held UH to 49 points, forcing 23 turnovers and recording 18 points off of turnovers.

“It is not easy to continue to defend at a high level when you’re struggling to score,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “That is something to be really proud of, and it gave us a chance to win.”

The Cougars defeated Kent State 49-44.

KSU has lost two games in a row and falls to 5-2 – Houston, now 6-0, extended their winning streak to six games.

A battle of scoring runs 

Kent State started the game 3-of-4 from behind the arc, leading to a 13-3 lead in the first four minutes.

“For us to have a chance in this game, you have to get off to a good start,” Senderoff said. “They’ve been swallowing teams up at the beginning of games, so it was important.”

KSU kept its defensive pressure up, forcing nine turnovers in the first nine minutes. The team’s lead was now 18-9.

On the season, Houston has averaged nine turnovers per game.

The Flashes were held scoreless in the final 8:30, as the Cougars went into halftime leading 24-22.

At the half, KSU shot 19.4% from the field – Houston shot 30.8%. Kent State had 15 rebounds to Houston’s 34.

The Flashes opened the second half on an 8-0 run, leading 30-24.

UH answered with a 15-0 run to take a 39-30 lead with 8:37 remaining.

Redshirt senior guard Malique Jacobs ended the Flashes’ eight-minute drought with a free throw. With 6:35 remaining in the game, the Cougars led 39-33.

Redshirt sophomore forward VonCameron Davis made the first 3-pointer of the second half for KSU, followed by a score by sophomore center Cli’Ron Hornbeak. These shots cut Houston’s lead to 39-38 with 5:50 left in the game.

Davis tied the game at 41-41 with his second 3-pointer of the game with 2:59 remaining.

With 1:05 left in the game, Jacobs made a shot from behind the arc and gave the Flashes a 44-43 lead.

Eighteen seconds later, the Cougars made a layup for a one-point lead.

Houston ended the game on a 6-0 run.

Senderoff said his team’s mentality helped them battle through Saturday’s scoring runs. Saturday’s game featured both teams going on runs of scoring, and Senderoff said that it’s the team’s mentality to battle through them.

“Toughness and competitiveness are what it is really about,” he said.

Davis led KSU with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and made two 3-pointers.

“He stepped up big time and made some huge plays down the stretch,” Senderoff said. “There’s nobody in the locker room that didn’t lay it out there while they were on the court today. I’m proud of the way they all played tonight.”

Despite shooting 2-of-22, redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry finished with a career-high eight steals.

“He obviously struggled on offense but is an unbelievable competitor,” Senderoff said. “They struggled on offense because of his defense, and I think that feeds to the whole team.”

Senderoff said this game showed the Flashes how competitive they can be.

“Now we have to go out there and be that team consistently,” he said.

Davis led KSU with 14 points. Senior guard Marcus Sasser had 19 points for Houston. Both teams had only one other player to score in the double digits.

KSU shot 23.8% from the field and grabbed 33 rebounds. The team attempted 11 free throws, converting on eight.

Houston shot 32%, totaling 56 rebounds. The Cougars attempted 17 shots from behind the arc and made two.

Back in the M.A.C. 

The Flashes return home Friday to take on South Dakota State (3-4) at 7 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center.

The Jackrabbits have three players averaging 10 or more points this season and average 68 points per game. On Nov. 7, Akron (3-3) defeated SDS 81-80 in overtime.

Sophomore guard Zeke Mayo leads South Dakota State in scoring 12 points per game and averages 8.2 rebounds per game.

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