"A lot of the issues we had the first time we played them, we focused on and corrected," noted head coach Rob Senderoff. "We were plus on rebounding, 10 less turnovers than last time and gave ourselves a chance to win. Our point guard play was off the charts. We had big minutes all around. This was a great road win for us."
The Golden Flashes were . . .
Avery logged career highs of 16 points, five rebounds and two steals. Zabo scored 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting, much of which came late in the first half when the team was in a shooting slump.
"Two games ago, I brought them in and told them, from here on out, it's the two of you guys," Senderoff said. "To their credit, they both stepped up. Jalen Avery hit a huge three that gave us the lead, and (also) free throws when we needed them.”
Meanwhile, reigning MAC Player of the Year Jimmy Hall continued his fantastic run, logging team bests of 18 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. He connected on 8-for-12 from the floor after shooting a combined 64 percent last week.
Nine Huskies reached the scoring column, but only two managed double figures. Levy Bradley led with team highs in points (12) and rebounds (7). Jaylen Key hit 5 of 6 shots from the field on the way to 11 points, while Marshawn Wilson was just off double figures with nine markers.
The first half was a close one in both teams enjoyed relatively small leads. Kent State took the biggest advantage early, when an 11-3 run gave the Flashes the largest lead of the period, 22-15.
Northern Illinois used 11 players for at least five minutes in the first half and found scoring punches off the bench to stay in the game. Austin Pauga hit back-to-back threes that eliminated the Kent State advantage with nine minutes left in the half. From there, the period was played within a single possession margin. The Huskies took a 37-35 advantage into the break.
Northern Illinois scored the first bucket of the second half, but the Flashes quickly took control of the game. An 11-2 run put KSU up by five points. After a bucket from the Huskies, Avery and Zabo hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Kent State its second seven-point lead at 52-45 with 12:43 left.
The Flashes never trailed over the final 13 minutes, but the home team made it a fight down the stretch and Northern Illinois worked the deficit down to 65-64 with 3:42 remaining.
Over the remainder of the game, Kent State locked down the Huskies and prevented them from converting another field goal. NIU was 0-for-2 in the final 3:42 and committed two turnovers.
Avery brought the Flashes home, scoring the final eight points of the game and elevating the lead back to seven at the horn.
Kent State played efficient basketball, with 71 of 73 points coming on 3-pointers, free throws and shots in the paint. The Flashes shot 44.6 percent (25-for-56) from the floor and 42.9 percent (9-for-21) from 3-point range.
Northern Illinois shot 46.2 percent (24-for-52), but 33.3 percent (5-for-15) from 3-point range. The Flashes won the rebounding battle, 37-32, with 11 offensive boards.
Kent State will chase its third straight win on Saturday when it battles Central Michigan in the M.A.C. Center at noon.
Northern Illinois will be at Toledo Saturday for a 2 p.m. (ET) tilt against the Rockets.
(Courtesy of KSU Athletics)