Home winning streak reaches 18 for men’s basketball


Matthew Brown

The Kent State men’s basketball team rings the bell after securing a narrow victory against Central Michigan University on Jan. 31, 2023. The game ended with a final score of 81-69.

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

Kent State men’s basketball team had won 17 consecutive games inside the M.A.C. Center.

Tuesday, after trailing at the half for only the second time this season at home, the Flashes defeated Central Michigan 81-69.

KSU’s 18-game home winning streak is the second longest in the nation – UCLA is first with 19.

“It’s good to get a win and do it coming from behind. We were in a similar situation a week ago, where we didn’t play great in the first half, and then it snowballed,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “Tonight, we didn’t play well in the first half, and then we played to our ability in the second half; we were able to speed them up and have them miss some shots. So that was growth and was good to see.”

The Flashes improved to 18-4 overall and remained tied for first with Akron at 8-1 in the Mid-American Conference.

CMU fell to 8-14 on the season and is tied for eighth with three teams at 3-6 in the conference.

In the two previous home games, Kent State opponents were scoreless in the first five minutes.

After five minutes on Tuesday, the Chippewas led 10-7; they started the game 4-of-7 from the field.

After going on a 16-5 scoring run, the Flashes led 22-15 with 9:30 remaining in the first half; sophomore guard Jalen Sullinger converted two 3-pointers during this time.

Over the next six minutes, Central Michigan outscored Kent State 21-13 and took a 36-35 lead.

In the final 2:30, both teams traded baskets as CMU went into halftime, leading 44-41.

Kent State redshirt senior Malique Jacobs darts around Central Michigan University freshman Max Majerle during the game against Central Michigan University on Jan. 31, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

“Our defense was not where it needed to be in the first half,” Senderoff said. “Give them credit for how they played. I thought they offensively rebounded the ball well, and they were more connected.”

Coming into the game, the Chippewas were last in the MAC shooting 29% from behind the arc. In the first 20 minutes, they shot 9-of-14.

CMU center Markus Harding led all players with 17 points, shooting 5-of-5 from behind the arc.

Redshirt junior Giovanni Santiago led the Flashes with 11 points and shot 3-of-3 from three – he was also 4-4 from the field.

“Everybody making the job easier for me, and me just being ready to shoot when I’m open,” Santiago said. “That’s what the coaches want me to do, and that’s what my teammates want me to do.”

Redshirt senior guard Malique Jacobs added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Kent State attempted 19 free throws in the first half, converting on just 11.

Second half 

Both teams went back and forth in the opening four minutes, and the Flashes still trailed 48-46.

The Flashes took a 54-50 lead with 13:15 remaining in the game after going on an 8-2 scoring run.

Over the next five minutes, Kent State went on a 14-10 scoring run, shooting 4-of-7 from the field. Senior forward Chris Payton scored nine points over the run.

Kent State had the lead 68-60 with 7:25 left in the game.

KSU continued its hot shooting, converting three of its next four shots, building its lead to 75-62 over the next three minutes.

In the final four minutes, the Chippewas outscored Kent State 9-6.

Payton finished the game with a season-high in points (18) and rebounds (12), which is his first double-double of the season.

“I’ve always expected myself to play this way, and now I’m just playing with high expectations,” Payton said. “I’m not doing anything that I haven’t done before, but definitely, there’s a huge confidence boost right now. In terms of just me knowing where I’m supposed to be on the floor offensively and defensively.”

Payton has now scored in double figures in four consecutive games.

Kent State senior Chris Payton dunks the ball during the game against Central Michigan University on Jan. 31, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

“The biggest compliment I’d give to him isn’t about how he’s playing. It’s just how he’s handled everything,” Senderoff said. “He was an All-American in junior college, then went to Pitt and barely played, and early in the year here, he wasn’t playing much at all, but each day he kept practicing hard and having a great mindset and being a great teammate to everybody. There isn’t anyone on the roster that he hasn’t been a great teammate too.”

The Flashes had six players with double-digit scoring figures.

“It’s good when you have multiple guys that can score,” Senderoff said. “That’s what we need – everybody contributing and being a part of it every night.”

Rivalry action 

The next time the Flashes take the court will be in Akron (16-6, 8-1 MAC) Friday at 9 p.m.

The Zips, who defeated KSU 75-55 in last season’s conference championship, is currently on a seven-game winning streak.

“They beat us last year in the conference championship with a number of the same returning guys, so they’re going to play with a lot of confidence,” Senderoff said. “We have a lot of the same returning guys as well, that lost that game that were disappointed.”

Payton, who has yet to play in the wagon wheel rivalry, said these games must be taken more “seriously.”

“You’re a little bit more focused than you are for other games, but just a different vibe, and practice is more intense,” he said. “Coach is going to be a little bit harder on the details, and we just have to play how we know we’re supposed to play.”

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