Early in the first half the Kent State men’s basketball team was in a much closer game than expected with Hiram College.
Kent State is a young team and has lots of players in new roles, and with 6:54 left in the first half Hiram was up by six.
“You can tell by how we started the game we were anxious,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “But as the game progressed, you saw us loosen up a bit and play more the way we expect to.”
Kent came out in the second half and slowly started to build a lead, until senior guard Troy Simons crossed over his defender and hit a long two.
This opened a run during which the senior scored 9 points in just 90 seconds, including back-to-back threes.
“My teammates told me to just keep shooting,” Simons said. “They said it would fall eventually, don’t think about that bad shot.”
Simons would finish the game with 17 points, shooting 4-8 from three.
Also scoring 17 points was senior guard Antonio “Booman” Williams, while sophomore guard Anthony Roberts led the team with 18 points.
The Flashes would go on to win in dominating fashion, 97-58, on Wednesday night.
Junior forward Danny Pippen played in his first game since suffering a knee injury which caused him to miss the entirety of last season and lead the team in rebounds.
Pippen said his knees felt good and he played like his old self. He was happy to be back on the court.
“I loved it,” Pippen said. “I had my whole family there, and the atmosphere was great. I hadn’t played college basketball in 17 months, so I was happy.”
Coming back from a less severe injury was freshman Giovanni Santiago, who broke his hand in the preseason.
Santiago came off the bench for his first college minutes, scoring 11 points and leading the team with 10 assists in 23 minutes.
Senderoff said Santiago needs to be more aggressive and physical, but made important some plays.
“For his first college game I thought (Santiago) played very well,” Senderoff said. “He really sparked us at the end of the first half.”
Senderoff was not satisfied with the play of senior forward Philip Whittington, who is a central piece of the Flashes offense, but came away with only two points on 1 of 8 shooting.
“Tonight (Whittington) struggled finishing on top of the rim,” Senderoff said. “But he is a proven player and he needs to produce. These next two games Phil has to play well for us to have a chance to win.”
With 10 minutes left and Kent up by more than 20, the band let it be known who they wanted to see, chanting for freshman Kalin Bennett to see the court.
They soon got their wish and Bennett, the first Division I scholarship basketball player on the autism spectrum, went in to score a basket and grab two rebounds. Bennett also rung the victory bell for the team after the final buzzer.
“This game was a lot of fun to display all the work we have put in,” Bennett said. “When they said for me to ring the bell that was a really good, exciting feeling. Hopefully it won’t be the last time.”
The Flashes have two much more challenging games up next, traveling to play Towson in Maryland on Nov. 11 and Wright State in Dayton the following Saturday.
Senderoff hopes the team can keep its late game moment rolling going into the road trip.
“Hopefully moving forward we will continue to compete and play for each other, more like we did in the last 26 or 27 minutes (tonight),” he said.
Contact Owen MacMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org