KENT, OHIO – The Kent State Golden Flashes picked up their third straight win and fourth in the last five games as they defeated the Ohio University Bobcats 69-59 Saturday night before 5,084 fans at the MAC Center.
With the victory, Kent State (12-5, 3-1) moved into a first place tie in the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division along with Akron, Bowling Green, and Buffalo, who all were victorious on Saturday.
“We played hard and we played well tonight.” Flashes head coach Rob Senderoff said. “We guarded for 36 minutes about as well as we could. The final four minutes you can blame me (jokingly), but a great win for us.”
KSU had four players in double figures, led by senior Derek Jackson with 18 points along with four assists and a steal. Fellow senior Kris Brewer came off the bench to score 14 and add five assists. Sophomore Jimmy hall had 12 with two steals and a blocked shot, while junior Chris Ortiz chipped in 10,
Ohio (5-10, 0-4 MAC) absorbed its fourth consecutive defeat and fifth in the last six games. The Bobcats have not tasted victory since December 30 when they defeated North Carolina-Wilmington at home, 72-53.
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Senior Maurice Ndour led all scorers in the game with 19 points while pulling down 12 rebounds his seventh double-double of the season. Stevie Taylor, a senior as well, came off the bench to score 10 points, going a perfect sis-for-six from the free throw line.
Saturday’s matchup was a crucial divisional game for both squads, and it was the home team that took early advantage. KSU scored the game’s first seven points, with the last coming from Hall, who turned and shot over Ndour for a layup.
The Bobcats failed to score for the first 5:59 until reserve Treg Setty connected on a three-pointer from the right arc.
The basket began a 10-3 run to give Ohio its first and only lead of the game when freshman Ryan Taylor connected on a three from the right arc at the 10:29 mark for a 13-12 advantage.
Less than a minute later, Brewer hit a three from the right arc, and KSU had a lead it would not relinquish. The Flashes went on a 13-0 run, opening a 26-13 lead at the 3:07 mark when Ortiz scored on a tip-in of a missed shot by Brewer.
One of the key points of the game came after the Bobcats closed the margin to 27-19 when freshman Antonio Campbell scored on a layup with 42.3 seconds remaining in the half. After Senderoff called a time out, KSU worked the ball around until Jackson connected on a three from the right arc with 6.8 seconds remaining. That gave the Flashes a 30-19 lead at halftime.
When asked about that final first half possession, Senderoff said “Getting a double digit lead at halftime was big for us. We have a set (play) we call, and Derek made a big shot there.”
Neither team shot the ball well in the opening period as KSU went 11-of-29 from the field (37.9%) and was just four-of-eight from the free throw line. Ohio’s shooting from the floor was even worse, going just 7-of-27 (25.9%)
When asked about its opening half defensively, Jackson said “We were all tuned into the game plan. We were all on the same page.”
The Cats held a decisive 23-16 rebounding edge, but that was counterbalanced by turning the ball over 11 times as KSU converted them into 10 points. For its part, KSU had just three turnovers with three steals and four blocked shots.
In addition, the 19 points Ohio registered was its lowest in any half so far this season and the fewest KSU had surrendered.
At the start of the second half, the Flashes opened a 39-26 lead at the 14:03 mark on a slam dunk by Jackson. However, the Cats were able to close the deficit to 10 points on two occasions. The last was 42-32 at the 11:05 mark when redshirt freshman Khari Harley was fouled beyond the arc and made all three free throws.
That was the closest the visitors from Athens would get until the final moments of the game as the Flashes used a 16-6 spurt to open 20 point lead, 58-38, with 6:54 remaining when Jackson and Brewer ended the run with threes.
The Flashes largest lead of the contest was at 61-40 when Jackson, like Harley, was fouled and made all three free throws. With the final 10-point win, KSU improved its home mark to 7-3 overall and 2-1 in MAC play.
Both teams shot the ball marginally better in the second half as KSU was11-of-26 from the floor (42.3%) and finished the contest at 40 percent (22-of-55), going 8-of-20 from three-point range. Ohio as also 11-of-26 from the floor, finishing at 34 percent for the game (28-of-53).
The Bobcats won the battle of the boards, 41-34, including 12 offensive boards, which led to 10 points. They turned the ball over just three times in the second 20 minutes, but their 14 for the game were converted into 13 KSU points.
Coming into the game, Ohio had four players scoring in double figures (Ndour, Ryan Taylor, Campbell, and fifth-year senior ‘Bean’ Willis. Ndour did score 19 while the other three score a combined 15 points, going 6-of-32 from the floor.
The Flashes turned the ball over just seven times in the contest. Aiding their cause were six steals and seven blocked shots as they held the opposition under 60 points for the second consecutive game and the eighth time overall in 2014-15.
Both teams return to action on Wednesday. KSU hosts Toledo, who lost at home to Western Michigan in overtime. Ohio heads to ball State, who fell to Buffalo on Saturday.