Men’s basketball defeats Northern Illinois advancing to tournament semifinals


Matthew Brown

Kent State redshirt senior Sincere Carry works around NIU sophomore Zarique Nutter as he crosses the court during the MAC Quarterfinals game against NIU March 8, 2023. Kent State would go on to win the game with a final score of 76-57.

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

On Jan. 24, the Kent State men’s basketball team gave up a season-high 86 points to Northern Illinois. 

Thursday, the Flashes (26-6) held the Huskies (13-19) to a season-low 18 points in the first half en route to a 76-57 victory in the quarter-finals of the Mid-American Conference tournament. 

“The conference tournament is a different animal from the regular season,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “And I’m really excited that we were able to get this win when we defended at a really high-level tonight for almost the entire game.”

The Flashes forced 17 turnovers, leading to 28 points. 

“My main focus is just locking in on defense,” redshirt senior guard Malique Jacobs said. “We got so many scores, so when it comes to me, I’m just really locked in on defense.”

In the team’s previous matchup, the Huskies’ sophomore guard David Coit scored 32 points on 5-of-9 shooting from behind the arc – Thursday, he scored 10 points on just 3-of-11 shooting. 

“That was my main focus tonight,” Jacobs said. “It wasn’t getting buckets. It was just stopping him.”

After scoring the first basket of the game, the Huskies were held scoreless for the next five minutes, and with 11:25 remaining in the first half, the Flashes led 11-4.

Kent State sophomore Cli’Ron Hornbeak shoots a lay-up during the MAC Quarterfinals game against NIU March 8, 2023. (Mathew Brown)

Over the game’s next three minutes, Kent State went on a 10-3 scoring run, building its lead to 21-7. 

Kent State then went on a 7-4 scoring run, leading 28-11 with 3:40 remaining in the first half. 

Over the first half’s final minutes, NIU outscored Kent State 7-3, bringing the score to 31-18 KSU.

The Flashes shot 42.9% from the field after 20 minutes; Northern Illinois shot 22.2%, respectively.

In the opening four minutes of the second half, both teams traded baskets as the score was now 41-25 KSU.

Over the next four minutes, Kent State shot 4-of-6, building its lead to 50-32. 

Both teams would trade baskets in the final 12 minutes of the game. 

As a team, KSU shot 47% from the field and 24% from deep. The Flashes forced 17 turnovers while having 28 points off of turnovers. 

Northern Illinois shot 37% from the field while going 6-of-18 from three.

The Flashes recorded 42 points in the paint – NIU scored 24. 

“For us to be successful, that’s what we need to do,” Senderoff said. “Overall, that’s a really key one for us all year, and tonight we did a good job.”

Jacobs led all players with 19 points, redshirt senior forward Miryne Thomas recorded 10 points and 14 rebounds – his third double-double and redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry totaled 13 points. Sophomore center Cli’Ron Hornbeak added a career-high 16 points. 

“[I] just tell myself to go out there and play hard,” Thomas said. “I’m from Cleveland, and I’ve watched a lot of games in this arena, so it

Kent State redshirt senior Miryne Thomas catches a rebound as NIU sophomore Zarique Nutter attempts to guard him during the MAC Quarterfinals game against NIU March 8, 2023. (Mathew Brown)

was easy for me to want to play hard here.”

In late December, Kent State traveled to Texas, where they played games on consecutive days to prepare for the conference tournament. 

“You try to take every experience you’ve had during the regular season, and you try to carry those over here in March,” Senderoff said. “That experience certainly is one that our guys are familiar with, and they know what they need to do to recover for that.”

Staying in Cleveland

The Flashes will now play the winner of Buffalo v. Akron in the semifinals. 

KSU swept Buffalo this season and split the season series with Akron. 

Tipoff is Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Rocket Mortgage Field House 

“I’ve been in the league a long time now, and nothing is given when you come up here,” Senderoff said. “So the fact that we’re playing tomorrow night is great, and now we need to focus and see who we’re going to be preparing for.”

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