Cleveland State scored first to jump ahead of the Kent State men’s basketball team, and Kent State took almost 10 minutes to gain a lead.
With 10:27 to play in the first half, senior forward Philip Whittington hit a jump shot assisted by senior guard Antonio Williams.
With that shot the Flashes pulled ahead 18-17, and though Cleveland State responded immediately over the next 6 minutes Kent State went on a 22-4 run.
Cleveland State did not truly threaten again, and Kent State would win 81-59 in the M.A.C. Center Saturday night.
The first half Kent State run included a 4 minute stretch during which the Vikings did not score.
Williams, who had 19 points and 2 steals, spearheaded that defensive stand alongside fellow senior guard Troy Simons, 13 points and 4 steals.
“(Our defense) started out with our bigs,” Williams said. “They protect the rim so well, so we can put pressure on the guards, get into gaps and get steals. That’s just our defense.”
The Flashes had four players score in double digits including Williams and Simons, with Whittington scoring 14 and sophomore guard Anthony Roberts adding 11.
Coach Rob Senderoff hopes that trend of varied scoring continues, and contrasts it with the offensive focus of last year’s offense, which was carried by Jaylin Walker
“I think our team in general is a balanced group,” Senderoff said. “This year’s team we have a lot of different guys who are really good scorers. We might not have that one elite guy that (Walker) was, but we have a number of guys who are capable and on different nights different guys are gonna lead in scoring.”
Three of the four players in double digits make up the dangerous guard trio of Williams, Simons and Roberts.
“I think we have good guards,” Willams said. “We (the guards) are real interchangeable, so we can change spots. Sometimes I bring it up, sometimes Troy (Simons), sometimes Anthony (Roberts). So one guy doesn’t get tired of bringing the ball up.”
“(The guards) have been really good this year,” Senderoff said. “We have a lot of depth and that is something that is difficult for me, that guys have gotta understand it’s not always going to be their night necessarily.”
Roberts is representative of that depth, as he is only a sophomore and comes off the bench most nights.
He started the game slow, not scoring in the first half, but took off late to break double digits.
“(Roberts) is a shot maker,” Williams said. “He hits tough shots so he gets himself going. Even is he isn’t shooting we just tell him ‘you know your game, shoot the ball’ and that’s what he does.”
Cleveland State is 4-6, but Senderoff says they are a scrappy team and he is proud of how his players performed.
“I think (Cleveland State) is playing incredibly hard,” he said. “Early in the game they came at us, I think they (shot) 4 of 6 to start. Then once we were able to get some turnovers and create some misses we were able to get out in transition and get some easy baskets for ourselves.”
With this win the Flashes move to 8-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to 6th ranked Ohio State in Columbus.
“(Being 8-1) feels amazing,” Whittington said. “We think we have to get to another gear for us to continue to win games towards the end of the season. It feels great right now and we are going to celebrate and everything. But we have got to be able to move on and continue to prevail.”
Next, Kent State will travel to El Paso for the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Dec. 16, over winter break.
The Flashes will play UC Irvine, and if they win they face the winner of UTEP vs. North Carolina A&T for the championship of the four team tourney.
Contact Owen MacMillan at email@example.com