KENT, OHIO – The Kent State Golden Flashes and Akron Zips opened ther 2015-16 Men’s Basketball seasons Saturday night with victories in the inaugural Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament before an enthusiastic crowd of 5,471 at the MAC Center.
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The Golden Flashes had four players in double figures, led by fourth-year junior Kellen Thomas. He registered a career-high 18 points, along with five rebounds an assist and a steal.
“It was a great team win.” KSU had coach Rob Senderoff said. “We still have a lot of work going into our next game on Wednesday (at Southern Illinois), but it was a good start.”
Xavier Pollard came off the bench to score 15 points and three steals. Chris Ortiz had 12 points and 16 rebounds, while Jimmy Hall added 10 with nine boards.
KSU led the game throughout, building as much as an 11-point lead late in the first half before entering intermission with 40-33 advantage on the strength of shooting 50 percent from the field (17-of-34) and 25-14 rebounding edge.
In the second half, the Penguins, of the Horizon League, closed the margin to two, 65-63, when Matt Donlan hit a pair of threes -- the second coming from the left arc with 5:08 remaining.
The visitors, however, could not not get any closer as the Flashes rebuilt their lead to 10 points in the closing stages before winning by nine.
Senior Bobby Hain led YSU and all scorers in the contest with 20 points and seven rebounds with three assists and a steal.
The big stat of the game was KSU pulling down 53 rebounds to 34 for YSU.
“You can’t beat a quality team, if you can’t rebound the basketball.” Penguins head man Jerry Slocum said.
Kent State gets back into action on Wednesday when they travel to Carbondale, Ill to battle the Southern Illinois Salukis from the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Zips used a 16-0 run midway through the first half to take control of the game and were never headed in their victory over the Vikings from the Horizon League.
“It was a typical Akron early season game.” Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said. “We played well in short stints, but we did not finish in the second half. Cleveland State played hard and it showed us we need to be in control for 40 minutes.”
Sophomore guard Antino Jackson had 12 points with five assists and a steal to lead UA while senior Reggie McAdams added 10 and five rebounds.
From the 10:18 mark of the first half, the Zips lead never fell below double digits, building a 40-22 advantage at halftime. In the second half, the game’s biggest differential was 21 points (61-40 with 5:26 remaining) before winning by 12 thanks to a late Vikings run.
“Overall, I don’t feel bad about the game” CSU head man Gary Waters said. “I thought we had some freshman jitters in the first half, and they (Akron) took advantage of it.”
Cleveland State, one of the youngest teams in all of Division I coming into the season, was led by junior guard Andre Yates. He led all scorers with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Demonte Flannigan had 11 with eight boards.
UA had some extra motivation on Saturday night, they came out onto the floor dressed in purple uniforms and with the name ‘Peters’ on the back rather than their tradition blue and regular names on the back.
The purple color stands for pancreatic cancer and the name ‘Peters’ was for the late Dan Peters, who was an assistant coach on the Zips staff and passed away in 2014 due to the disease.
UA opens its home schedule on Monday night as Division III Hiram College comes to Rhodes Arena.