KENT, OHIO – The Kent State Golden Flashes completed the non-conference portion of their schedule with a complete domination of the Broncs from Texas-Pan American 74-54 Friday night at the MAC Center.
The game was just the second for Kent State (9-4) on home territory since November 29th as it snapped a two-game losing streak heading into Mid-American Conference play on Wednesday night at home against Bowling Green.
“We played probably the best we have played over 40 minutes this season -- both offensively and defensively,” Flashes head coach Rob Senderoff said. “We wanted to play well, coming off of two losses (at Texas-El Paso and at nationally ranked Kansas) we came out with a lot of energy and came out with a win.’
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The loss sent Texas-Pan American (5-9) to its fifth consecutive loss and seventh in the last eight games. The last time the Broncs tasted victory was on December 13th when they defeated Lamar 66-60 at home in the Rio Grande Valley.
Sophomore Janari Joessar led all scorers in the contest with 27 points adding nine rebounds and three steals on his score line. No other UTPA player reached double digits.
The two teams traded the lead for the first three minutes before the Flashes took the lead for good as they went on a 14-3 run to take an 18-7 lead at the 12:03 mark on a three by Manley. He scored 14 points in the opening half, going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
It was not a good day physically for Manley, Senderoff said after the game that Manley had been sick with the flu.
Senior Kris Brewer took Manley’s starting spot and registered 10 points, along with three assists and a blocked shot. He was the third KSU player scoring in double figures on the evening.
The Broncs, who play their games in the Western Athletic Conference, stayed in the game thanks to Joessar. The native of Estonia scored 19 points in the first half, equaling his average for the season. He went 7-of-11 from the floor, with five of those baskets coming from three-point range.
His three from the right corner at the 8:35 mark pulled Pan American to within five at 23-18. It was the closest PAU would get for the remainder of the game.
KSU finished the first half outscoring the Broncs 27-5 to take its largest lead of the half, 40-23, on a three from the left corner by Manley. Kent State went into the locker room with a 15-point advantage at 40-25.
The Flashes built their margin thanks to shooting 50 percent from the floor (15-of-30) and surprisingly going 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Coming into the game, KSU had managed just 57 percent from the charity stripe. For the game Kent State went 14-of-17 (82.4%). When asked about the improvement, Hall said “We shoot a lot of them (in practice). Today was a good day” In addition, the home team had a 19-13 rebounding edge and turned the ball over just four times.
The Flashes defense also came to play as it held UTPA to just 35.8 percent from the floor (10-of-26). The visitors committed eight turnovers, which KSU converted into 11 points.
In the second half, the Flashes lead would not fall below double digits. The closest Pan American could get in the second period was 14 points on two occasions. The last as 52-38 at the 12:29 mark on a layup by freshman Isiah Hobbs.
KSU’s lead grew to as much as 27 points 72-45 at the 6:35 mark when Hall tipped in missed free throw by Brewer before winning by 20 to improve their home record to 5-2.
The Flashes shot 50 percent in the second half (11-of-22) and finished the game at 50 percent (26-of-52) they dominated the rebounding battle 37-27 while holding UTPA to just 36.5 percent from the floor over the 40 minutes (19-of-52).
The defense also had five blocked shots and seven steals, along with putting the brakes on Joessar. He scored eight points in the second half.
“I finally put Derek (Jackson) on him -- our best defender -- in the second half,” Senderhoff said. “It took me a whole half to find a way to stop him. I should have put Derek on him earlier but that was my fault.”