For the second straight game Kent State trailed at the half. This time, the Flashes were down 42-38 to Purdue Fort Wayne after turning the ball over 11 times. Here are three things that changed in the second half of Kent State’s 75-68 win over Purdue Fort Wayne that helped them improve to 4-0:
1. Senior guard Mitch Peterson’s defense proved to be the difference. He played just three minutes in the first half and his only recorded statistic was a steal. The Flashes were discombobulated in the first half defensively. They failed to close out on wide open 3-pointers and even left the rim open (during which the Mastodon’s missed four open layups). With Kent State leading 70-65 with 32 seconds left, Peterson stripped the ball from 6-foot-11-inch forward Dylan Carl, who was about to score to cut the lead to three. Twenty seconds later, Peterson came away with a block on forward Matt Holba’s 3-point attempt to seal the win.
Peterson checked into the game to guard Holba for the remaining 9:47. During that stretch Holba shot 1-for-5, including 1-for-4 on 3-point attempts.
“I switched onto (Holba) and I think that helped us defensively,” Peterson said. “It helped me make plays for the team. Ultimately, it helped get us the win.”
Peterson’s used to the role of guarding larger forwards because he served that role last year when senior forward Danny Pippen’s knee injury cost him the season.
“Last year I had some exposure to it definitely,” Peterson said. “I’m versatile on defense. I can play guard and the four man so I know how to do those types of things.”
2. Senior guard Troy Simons made a shot. Well actually, multiple shots. He, like many Flashes, struggled to shoot the ball the entire first half and finished 0-for-4 including 0-for-3 on 3 pointers.
“I think we just need to settle down a bit in the first half,” Simons said. “I think we’re just so excited to be back on the floor in front of our fans again because every second half we come out and settle down. We don’t have as many turnovers and we play team ball how we’re supposed to.”
He finished the game 5-for-10 and 3-for-7 on 3-pointers. He hit two threes over a two minute span early in the second half to keep the Kent State offense afloat. His third three came with 1:58 left and gave the Flashes their largest lead of the game, 70-63.
“My teammates just kept telling me to shoot,” Simons said. “In the first half, I was really just finding my teammates and doing all the little stuff like Mitch (Peterson), and in the second half, they told me ‘Keep shooting, we’re going to find you.’”
3. Senior guard Antonio Williams recovered from arguably the worst first half of play in his Kent State career to finish with a game-high 16 points.
He had four first half turnovers, and picked up his third foul about three minutes into the second half.
“He keeps doing this stuff (foul trouble), and he needs to get better because we do need him on the floor,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “Defensively, his presence is really, really good, and then he made some huge plays (down the stretch).”
He finished the second half without committing another foul, while totaling 10 points, two assists and no turnovers, including several layups through contact late to keep Kent State in front. His final made field goal came with just under four minutes to play after a long offense rebound by Simons off a missed 3-pointer by Peterson as the shot clock expired. Williams drove hard and finished through 6-foot-5-inch guard Marcus DeBerry to extend the lead to 67-63.
“He needs to learn to play hard without fouling,” Senderoff said. “I don’t think he did a ton differently in the second half, but it was more in his mindset. He didn’t gamble as much. He didn’t reach, little things that he’s got to keep working at because we need him for 40 minutes.”
Peterson, Simons and Williams each played large roles in Kent State’s third straight win by seven points or less this season.
“It’s good to get these close wins now because during MAC play it’s every night,” Peterson said. “Every night is a challenge. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing Miami to Akron. It doesn’t matter. It’s every night.”
Contact Ian Kreider at firstname.lastname@example.org.