KENT, OHIO – The Kent State Golden Flashes used a 19-2 run early in the second half, combined with a stifling defense, to defeat the Central Michigan Chippewas 63-53 Tuesday night at the MAC Center.
For Kent State (15-5, 6-1 MAC), it was a sixth consecutive victory after dropping its conference opener to Bowling Green. In addition, the six-game win streak is their longest since a six-game skein from November 17- December 1, 2013.
“A great win for us tonight.” KSU head coach Rob Senderoff said. “They (CMU) are an explosive offensive team. We guarded for 40 minutes. We made just enough plays and (it was) a great job by everybody.”
Seniors Devareaux Manley and Kris Brewer paced KSU with 16 points each. Sophomore Jimmy Hall had 15 while pulling down 15 rebounds.
Central Michigan (14-4, 4-3 MAC) saw its two-game winning streak come to an end while setting a season low in points scored. The Chippewas were a remarkable 30 points below their seasonal average.
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Junior Chris Fowler led CMU with 15 points, while junior John Simons and sophomore Braylon Rayson had 10 points each.
The game was a battle of leaders atop their respective divisions, and the Western Division leaders opened an early 10-5 lead at the 14:44 mark thanks to a pair of three-pointers from redshirt freshman Josh Kozinski.
They were two of just four three-pointers the Chippewas would make the entire game as theMAC and Division I triple leaders fell well short of their 11.3 treys per game average.
The Flashes responded with a 7-0 run, gaining their first lead in the game, 12-10, at the 8:32 mark when junior Chris Ortiz scored on an alley-oop pass from senior Derek Jackson.
CMU then went on an 11-3 spurt to regain the lead 19-15 when Simons was fouled beyond the arc and made all three of his free throws attempts..
The Flashes regained the lead using a four-point play by Manley and a three from the right arc by Brewer go up 22-21.. After Rayson hit a jumper from the baseline for CMU, Jackson made a pair of free throws with 35 seconds to give the home team a 24-23 lead at intermission.
Neither team shot the ball well in the opening half -- both teams making eight shots from the field. The two glaring statistics were:
-- The teams combined 9-for-19 from the free throw line along.
-- KSU turned the ball over eight times while holding a 15-11 rebounding edge.
At the start of the second half, Rayson hit a three from the right arc to give the Chippewas a 26-24 lead. It would be their last lead of the game as the Golden Flashes went on a 19-2 run to take the lead for good at 43-28 at the 11:39 mark. A key to the run was Manley, who scored the first seven points, while Hall added six.
The 15-point margin was the largest of the game by either side. Just after that run, CMU sliced away at its deficit – starting with a big slice. The Chippewas ran off 12 unanswered points and used a press defense that confused KSU. Central closed the margin to 43-40 when senior Austin Keel scored on a conventional three-point play with 8:33 remaining.
That, however, would be as close as the visitors from Mount Pleasant could get for the remainder of the contest.
The Flashes steadied their ship, making some key baskets and getting enough stops to rebuild their lead – an advantage that reached 11 in the closing moments before finishing at 10.
The Flashes, who recorded their 13th win in the last 14 outings against CMU, shot the ball much better in the second period. By hitting 10-of-21 from the floor (47.6%), they finished the game at 45 percent (18-of-40). KSU was also better from the free throw line, going 17-of-24. Still, they finished the contest at just 63.6 percent (21-of-33).
KSU dominated the boards 43-25 thanks to the 15 caroms by Hall, currently tied with Buffalo’s Justin Moss for the most in a MAC game this season. Moss notched 15 in a Bulls win over Miami. In addition, Hall collected his fourth double-double of the season -- his first in MAC play.
When asked about his evening on the boards, Hall said “It’s just willpower down there. I just wanted to get all the rebounds I could.”
CMU shot just 11-of-38 from the floor in the final stanza (28.9%) and 19-of-56 (33.9%) over 40 minutes. The Chippewas forced 18 KSU turnovers -- many of them using the press defense -- and converted them into 14 points.
The two glaring CMU stats were going 4-for-23 (17.4%) from beyond the three-point line and converting 11-of-19 from the charity stripe. The issues proved to be their undoing.
When asked about KSU’s defensive prowess, Davis said “They not only held us to 53 points, but in all areas way below our average.”
KSU remained in first place in the Eastern Division with the victory and will return to action late Friday night at Buffalo. CMU remained tied in the Western Division with Western Michigan, who lost to Buffalo. The Chippewas return home on Saturday against Ohio to open a three-game home stand.