Kent State’s basketball team commanded the first half, but the game ended up coming down to the last seconds in a 74-69 victory.
Kent State improves to 2-1 on season after its win against James Madison University on Monday to open up the Naples Invitational in Naples, Florida.
The Flashes held the lead for almost the final 12 minutes of the first half. Redshirt junior guard Malique Jacobs led the way in the first half with 10 points alongside redshirt sophomore Giovanni Santiago’s eight points.
“When you take the guards of Malique, Giovanni, and Sincere [Carry], those guys are dynamic,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “Sincere didn’t shoot a great game, but he had eight rebounds and eight assists, Malique has been our leading rebounder, and a lot of guys played well and stepped up.”
KSU took a 34-26 lead into halftime.
The second half was back-and-forth, then James Madison went on a 10-0 run starting at 13 minutes in the second half to take a 52-49 lead, its first one since early in the first half.
Redshirt senior forward Justyn Hamilton made some clutch shots in the paint, bringing KSU back ahead with a 67-60 lead with 3:51 left in the game. Jacobs also drew some crucial fouls, recording seven points off of free throws during KSU's 18-8 run.
Jacobs finished the day with 6 fouls, shooting 9-11 from the line.
Hamilton’s mid-range game is something Senderoff wants to see out of him.
“[Hamilton's) certainly a good mid-range shooter,” he said. “We want him shooting inside the arc as much as possible, and he has been a good jump shooter his entire career.”
The Flashes finished the day shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line, including a second half where they made 15-of-18.
Kent State started getting pressed when James Madison’s defense started double-teaming the ball, forcing some key turnovers which brought it back to a one-point game with 44 seconds left.
“I think that's good for us because that is the first time someone has trapped us,” Senderoff said. “We weren’t perfect but there are certainly some things we can learn from that and move forward with it.”
“A lot of times when you play these games, it is the first time you see certain things. We weren’t perfect, and had a lot of turnovers, but there were some things we did well."
Redshirt Junior Sincere Carry made four clutch free throws in the final 24 seconds to put James Madison away.
Jacobs was the leading scorer with a season-high 18 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. He shot 66% (4-6) and 1-1 behind the arc.
Hamilton also had a nice game finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds. He shot 66% as well (8-12) with a steal and a block.
Carry struggled shooting wise but made up for it with his ball movement, finishing with a team-high eight assists and a team-high eight rebounds. He shot 30% (3-10) but finished with 12 points.
Carry came into the game as the team's leading scorer, averaging 16 points a game and shooting 47.6 percent from the field.
KSU went 25-of-49 (51 percent) on field goals, its highest in a game this season.
The Flashes turned the ball over 18 times, the most this season, and JMU scored 21 points off those turnovers.
Kent State out rebounded James Madison 32-21, its second-straight game out rebounding its opponent by double digits after being dominated on the boards in its first game of the season against Xavier.
“In general you want to see improvement game after game,” Senderoff said. “But to see that after last time and 40 minutes against a good team today was a very good sign.”
Kent State will play George Washington (2-4) Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the second round of the tournament. The winner will advance to the final.
Jacob Hansen is a reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.