First No. 2, now No. 14: Men’s basketball travels to Gonzaga for second ranked matchup of season

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

When Kent State men’s basketball team takes the court Monday, it’ll face its second nationally-ranked team in three games.

On Nov. 26, the Flashes lost to now No. 1 Houston 49-44 – though they held the Cougars to 32% shooting and 11.8 % from behind the arc.

Now, KSU will play No. 14 Gonzaga.

“We’re playing the best offensive team in the country, year in and year out,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “We feel like we have a good offensive team too. Let’s see how we can compete against the best of the best in that.”

Senderoff said his team will build off its performance against Houston.

“Our team left that game feeling like we can play with anybody,” he said. “And we have a chance to beat anybody.”

Against Houston, the game was tied up five times and had five lead changes. Including a last-minute lead change from KSU was caused by a 3-pointer from redshirt senior Malique Jacobs with 1:05 remaining, giving the Flashes a 44-43 lead.

After two successful free throws by the Cougars, Kent State missed two shots from behind the arc that could’ve tied the game.

The low down on Gonzaga

The Bulldogs are 5-3 on the season – Kent State is 6-2.

Gonzaga lost to No. 6 Baylor 64-63 in their latest game Friday. In 2021, Baylor beat the Bulldogs in the national championship 86-70.

“We’ve challenged ourselves with this stretch of games,” Senderoff said. “We’re going to need to play really well and share the basketball and create opportunities in transition is going to be huge for us.”

On the season, the Flashes average 13.4 assists per game and 21.5 points off turnovers. Gonzaga records 15.3 assists per game and averages 15.4 points off turnovers.

Jacobs, who leads the country in steals with 28, also leads KSU’s defense. Redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry is 13th with 22 on the season.

Kent State’s 20 forced turnovers per game are ranked ninth in the country.

Gonzaga has three players who average more than 10 points per game – Kent State also has three players.

The Bulldogs are led by senior forward Drew Timme, who puts up 18.6 points per game while shooting 61% from the field.

Redshirt senior forward Miryne Thomas leads the Flashes with 18 3-pointers, shooting 36%. Junior guard Julian Strawther leads Gonzaga with 17 3-pointers, shooting 42%.

The Bulldogs average 81.1 points per game while giving up 75.1. The Flashes have scored over 75 points six times this season.

This will be the first-ever matchup for the two programs and the seventh time Gonzaga will face a team from the Mid-American Conference.

The Bulldogs are 5-1 against the MAC, with the one loss coming at the hands of Toledo in 1964.

Tip-off is at 9 p.m. in Spokane, Washington.

“It’s really difficult to win no matter who you’re playing,” Senderoff said. “When you’re playing a program that’s expecting to win and has experienced players that have played in the NCAA tournament, you have to bring forth great effort, which I expect we will do.”

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