YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO – The Kent State Golden Flashes used a balanced scoring attack to open their 2014-15 season with a 69-61 victory over the Youngstown State Penguins Saturday night at the Beehgly Center.
Kent State (1-0) collected its seventh consecutive season-opening victory, along with the seventh straight against the Penguins from the Horizon League.
Sophomore Jimmy Hall led KSU with 14 points and five rebounds, while seniors Kris Brewer and Devereaux Manley each scored 12 as eight different players made the scorebook.
“We knew coming into the game, it would be a tough game, a physical game. They would try to take us of out of some things offensively.” KSU assistant coach Eric Haut said.
The game opened up with a pair of ties at 5-5 and 7-7 before the Flashes went up 14-11 at the 14:46 mark on a reverse layup by Hall. The sophomore forward was playing his first game for the Blue and Gold after transferring from Hofstra.
YSU used a pair of baskets by Amiker to take its first lead of the game, 15-14, at the 12:37 mark.
With the Flashes holding a 22-19 lead at the 10:20 mark on a driving layup by junior college transfer Gary Akbar, the Penguins scored seven unanswered points to open their largest lead of the game 26-22 at the 7:28 mark on a pair of free throws by junior Sidney Umude.
KSU regained the lead at the 4:45 mark on a three-pointer by senior Devereaux Manley from well beyond the arc. A starter last season, Manley came off the bench in the opener, going 4-of-6 from three-point territory. He tallied nine of his 12 points in the first half.
The Flashes shot 52.4 percent in the first half (11 of 21), with six of those baskets coming from long range, and held a precarious two-point lead going into halftime at 35-33. YSU shot 41.9 percent from the floor though having a 19-15 rebounding edge.
One glaring negative statistic for the home team was 6-for-15 from the free throw line. Their inability to connect from the foul line would come back to haunt them in the second half.
“It was only a two-point margin, because they beat us to 50-50 balls, they had more offensive rebounds than us (9-2) and had 20 points in the paint to just 10 for us.” Haut said.
As the second period began, KSU scored six straight points -- four from Hall and two from Brewer -- to open an eight-point lead, 41-33, almost two minutes in.
The Flashes matched that advantage on two occasions, the last being 47-39 on a jumper by Brewer, who scored 10 points in the second half. YSU then went on a 9-0 run to take its final lead of the game, 48-47, on a driving layup by Amiker with 12:36 remaining.
KSU regained the lead for good on the next possession with a conventional three-point play by junior Khaliq Spicer. That began a 12-2 run that saw the visitors open a nine-point advantage, 59-50, at the 9:16 mark on a layup by Hall off a beautiful pass from Brewer.
The largest lead by the Flashes was 11 on a free throw by Hall. Like Brewer, he scored 11 points in the final 20 minutes. When asked about Hall and the inside game, Haut replied, “We said at halftime we had to get the ball into the paint. Getting 24 of those in the second half was key for us. We got the ball to Jimmy down (on) the low post and he converted.”
KSU went onto win the game by eight, but not without a scare as Brewer went down on the floor with 1:52 remaining. He returned to the bench under his own power, walking rather gingerly.
In the second half, the Flashes went 12-of-23 from the floor (52.2%) finishing the evening at 52.3% (23 of 44). It was their best shooting performance since they shot 63.3 percent in a win at home over Central Michigan in mid-February. Like YSU in the opening half, KSU only went 9-of-18 from the foul line in the second stanza and was only 16-of-30 over the 40 minutes.
The Penguins second half shooting went as cold as the weather outside as they hit just 10-of-31 (32.3%) after the break. That included 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. YSU narrowly edged Kent State in battle of the boards, 37-36. However, the Penguins went 7-of-11 from the foul line and were a dismal 50 percent for the game (13-of-26).
Saturday’s game marks the beginning of a stretch of five games in eight days for KSU, which opens its home schedule Monday night when Malone College visits the MAC Center.