‘That’s when we’re at our best’: Men’s basketball silences Eastern Michigan offense


Emma Van Winkle

Kent State starting five, red-shirt senior Malique Jacobs, Sincere Carry, Miryne Thomas, sophomore Cli’Ron Hornbeak and red-shirt sophomore VonCameron Davis (left to right) getting ready for the game against Eastern Michigan on February 17, 2023.

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

Kent State men’s basketball team has allowed the fewest points (63.9) in the Mid-American Conference this season. 

Friday, the KSU defense limited Eastern Michigan to its second-fewest points on the year en route to an 81-54 victory. 

It was the 20th consecutive home win for Kent State (22-5), as the team improved to 12-2 in the MAC, remaining in first place. 

The Eagles fell to 6-21 on the season and are ninth in the conference at 3-11. 

Redshirt senior guard, Malique Jacobs, finished the game with three steals, bringing his season total to 77, setting a Kent State single-season record. He was second in the nation in steals per game (3.0) coming into the game.

“It feels good to have a record,” Jacobs said. “I have a great team that has inspired me to do it.”

Redshirt senior guard, Sincere Carry, said the two complement each other perfectly. 

“I feel like we can work good against any other guards,” he said. “If I can’t get a stop, I know we can switch, and he’ll get the stop, so I just think it’s a perfect fit together.”

Kent State red-shirt senior Malique Jacobs and Miryne Thomas having some fun with the crowd during the game against Eastern Michigan on February 17, 2023. (Emma Van Winkle )

EMU guard, Emoni Bates, the second in the conference in scoring, was held scoreless in the first half, shooting 0-of-5 from the field. 

“We knew we had to come out to play early because they have Emoni Bates,” Jacobs said. “He’s a great scorer, so we knew we had to just sit on him definitely in the first half.”

Kent State started the game on a 15-2 run, leaning on its defense and creating four turnovers. 

EMU responded with a 17-5, bringing the score to 20-19. 

“We were great defensively early, and that got us out to a big lead,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “And then, we just didn’t play as connected defensively for a stretch that got them back in the game.”

The Flashes ended the first half on a 21-6 run, going into the break leading 41-25. 

“We were turning them over and creating transition baskets, and that’s when we’re at our best,” Senderoff said. “Across the board, we just had a really good defensive effort to close the half, and when we’re locked in, defensively, that really helps our team.”

Bates scored the first points after the break, and he went on to score 15 of the 29 second-half points for the Eagles. 

After shooting 39.3% in the first 20 minutes, the KSU defense limited the Eagles to 26.9% during the second half.

In the Flashes’ last three games, they have averaged 40 points inside the paint against EMU, they finished with 42. 

“We’ve really put an emphasis on making sure that the ball gets in the paint, and these guys have really bought into that,” Senderoff said. “We need to make sure we got back to doing what we do well, and we have to continue that as we move forward.”

Carry finished with a game-high 17 points and recorded six assists – he has now scored in double figures 23 times this season.

Jacobs totaled 13 points, five rebounds and three steals. 

After scoring a career-high 12 points on Tuesday against Western Michigan, sophomore guard, Julius Rollins, finished with a new career-high 13 points.

Kent State sophomore Julius Rollins signaling for the ball during the game against Eastern Michigan on February 17, 2023. (Emma Van Winkle)

“He’s done a great job and has really helped our team a tremendous amount here,” Senderoff said. “When your number is called, you have to be ready, and to his credit, he has been ready.”

Back on the road

Kent State will travel to Muncie, Indianapolis, to take on Ball State (19-7).

The Cardinals are in third place in the MAC at 10-3 in the conference.

Tip-off is 7 p.m. Tuesday.

In their previous matchup this season, the Flashes defeated BSU 86-65 on Jan. 20.

“We just need to keep getting better and keep playing for each other,” Senderoff said. “Regardless of how things are going, just keep moving forward as we make our way to tournament games.”

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