“We need to do better”: as men’s basketball falls to TSDTR

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

In last season’s Mid-American Conference championship game, the Kent State men’s basketball team scored 55 points against Akron.

Friday in Akron, the Flashes repeated themselves, losing  67-55 to the Zips.

“They were tougher than us. They were more committed than us and to what they were trying to do than we were,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “They played better than us. Hopefully, we can learn from this and get better.”

KSU is now 18-5 overall and falls to second place in the MAC at 8-2.

Akron improved to 17-6 on the season and now has sole possession of first place in the conference at 9-1.

Over the first five minutes, both teams traded baskets as the Zips led 9-8.

At the 16:25 mark, redshirt junior guard Giovanni Santiago left the game and would not return due to a hand injury.

“I’m not sure his hand was in a splint,” Senderoff said. “I’m sure we’re gonna have to get him an x-ray, and we’ll find out from there.”

Senderoff said losing someone with as much experience as Santiago hurt, but Akron was more committed in the Friday game.

“He moves the basketball, and doesn’t turn the ball over, so it certainly hurt that he only played three minutes,” he said. “It’s unfair to say if he played this game would be different because they were committed to winning at a significantly higher level than we were tonight, and then we got to get better from that.”

After going on an 8-0 scoring run, Akron led 17-8 with 12:30 remaining in the first half.

During this time, UA was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and forced two KSU turnovers.

Sophomore guard Jalen Sullinger then converted two 3-pointers, leading the Flashes to a 12-9 scoring run.

With seven minutes remaining in the first half, the Zips led 26-20.

Over the next three minutes, Kent State shot 3-of-3, cutting the Akron lead to 30-27.

Both teams went back and forth in the half’s final four minutes, and the Zips led 34-29.

After scoring 30 or more points in three of his previous four games, Akron junior guard Xavier Castaneda led all players with 10 points.

Redshirt senior guard Malique Jacobs added nine points, shooting 4-of-5 and making one shot from behind the arc.

Each team converted five shots from behind the arc.

“We got some stops during that stretch, and we got out in transition,” Senderoff said. “We kept them off the free throw line to end the half.”

In the opening four minutes of the second half, the Flashes shot 1-of-7, leading to a 7-3 scoring run by the Zips – the score was now 41-32.

Over the next five minutes, the Flashes were outscored 10-7 as Akron built a 51-38 lead.

After going on a 9-2 scoring run, Kent State trailed 53-49 with 6:50 remaining in the game.

In the game’s final seven minutes, the Flashes were outscored 14-7, with the Zips scoring all of their points at the free-throw line.

Castaneda finished with a game-high 24 points. Akron’s junior forward Enrique Freeman totaled 19 points, 14 rebounds and finished 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.

Redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry had a team-high 15 points, shooting 29% from the field, including 2-of-13 from behind the arc.

Sullinger played a season-high 35 minutes, totaling 13 points and shot 50% from 3-point range.

As a team, Kent State attempted 11 free throws, converting seven – Akron was 20-of-25.

“They were physical, and they played strong at the rim,” Senderoff said. “So give them credit, but there were some of them where there’s no reason to foul at that time. We need to do better.”

Back home

KSU will be back in the M.A.C.C. Tuesday, taking on Bowling Green (10-12, 4-5 MAC) at 7 p.m. BGSU is tied for sixth in the conference.

Last season, the Flashes defeated BGSU both times and have won six consecutive games against the Falcons.

Bowling Green has allowed the fourth most points (76.7) in the MAC, and Kent State has scored 76 or more points in 12 of its 23 games.

“We have to play with togetherness, and we have to compete for all the same purposes if we want to win,” Senderoff said. “We just didn’t play the right way tonight, and this had nothing to do with anything other than them [Akron] competing at a really high level and playing the right way.”

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