Men’s basketball winning streak reaches double digits against Ball State


Matthew Brown

Kent State senior Chris Payton celebrates after making yet another basket against BSU during the game on Jan. 20, 2023.

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

The last time the Kent State men’s basketball team started 6-0 in the conference was 2005-06.

Friday, at the M.A.C. Center, the Flashes did just that, winning their sixth-straight conference win and a 16-game home winning streak.

Once the Flashes scored the game’s opening basket, they never looked back, defeating Ball State 86-65 for their tenth consecutive win.

This was the sixteenth game opponents have scored under 70 points and No. 1 in the Mid-American Conference in points allowed per game at 62.4.

KSU improves to 16-3 overall and remains first in the MAC at 6-0.

The Cardinals fell to 13-6 on the season and to third in the MAC at 4-2  – Akron is now second at 4-1.

“The best crowd of the season by far, and everybody was awesome tonight,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “It was a great environment, and I think that had a lot to do with how hard and how well we played.”

Ball State missed their first five shots and turned the ball over twice, leading to a 5-0 lead for Kent State.

After converting their first basket of the game at 14:52, the Cardinals went on a 10-4 run, bringing the score to 11-10.

Kent State redshirt senior Sincere Carry fights through BSU defenders as he drives towards the net during the game on Jan. 20, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

Over the next six minutes, the Flashes outscored Ball State 16-7, converting on three shots from behind the arc (27-12).

“It was our home crowd that night, gave me a boost tonight, and I just wanted to put on the show for them,” redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry said. “[We] wanted to reward them with a good game because we really appreciate them for coming out and supporting us.”

In the final three minutes, the Flashes went on a 9-5 run as Carry made a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded – KSU led 45-28.

Kent State is 12-0 when leading at halftime.

In the opening 20 minutes, Kent State forced 11 turnovers, leading to 13 points.

“We were able to get the ball inside, and a lot of times, that was off penetration,” Senderoff said. “That is a big part of what we do, and today we were able to do it at a really high level.”

The Flashes scored 24 points in the paint to the Cardinal’s eight points.

Carry led all scorers with 14 points, and sophomore guard Jalen Sullinger added 11 points.

Kent State’s defense continued to apply pressure as the Cardinals missed 11 of their first 14 shots in the opening eight minutes.

“Overall, I’d say our defensive effort was really good tonight,” Senderoff said. “Making it really difficult for them to get into what they like to do. They do a good job of using inside-out passing and shooting threes off of penetration. And we did a good job limiting that today.”

Over the next four minutes, the Cardinals made four baskets and five free throws, outsourcing the Flashes 14-11. The score was now 80-59, but Carry and the Flashes already did the damage.

Carry finished with a game-high 18 points and three assists, and senior forward Chris Payton had a season-high 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting while grabbing six rebounds.

Kent State senior Chris Payton contends with Ball State’s Basheer Jihad at the net during the game on Jan. 20, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

Sullinger, who has now scored in double figures in back-to-back games, totaled 13 points.

KSU forced 15 turnovers, scoring 17 points, and tallied 42 points in the paint.

Kent State shot 50.8 percent from the field and held the Cardinals to 36.5 percent.

Senderoff was pleased to see his team defended at a high level without fouling.

“I thought in the first half in particular, we did a great job of not fouling, and it was an important piece of what we were doing to get a big lead,” he said. “We sort of relaxed a little bit which allowed them to get to the free throw line.”

Back on the road

Kent State will now travel to Northern Illinois (6-12, 2-3 MAC)

Tipoff is Tuesday 7 p.m. in DeKalb, Illinois.

The Huskies have the third most turnovers in the MAC, and the Flashes have caused the most turnovers in the conference.

“If we continue to win and get to play on national TV, like we did tonight, we’ll continue to get publicity, and then really what it comes down to is our kids being able to handle that because that’s not easy,” Senderoff said. “Sometimes it’s harder to handle success than failure, so continue to compete hard every day, and if we continue to win, good things will happen.”

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