KENT, OHIO –Kent State Golden opened its game against the Niagara Purple Eagles with a 20-4 run in the first nine minutes and never looked back as the Flashes had little trouble in a 100-72 win Wednesday night at the MAC Center.
With the victory, Kent State (6-4) improved to 4-0 at home and has won consecutive games for the first time since they opened the 2016-17 season with three straight triumphs.
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Senior Jimmy Hall led four KSU players in double figures with 20 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Adonis De La Rosa collected a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards, Sophomore Jaylin Walker had 12 and junior Jerrelle DeBerry had 11 coming off the bench.
Niagara (2-7) suffered its third loss in the last four games but was coming off a victory on the road Sunday against defending Metro Atlantic Conference Champion Iona.
The Eagles were led by freshman Shane Gatling, who had 18 points, going 7-of-10 from the field coming off the bench. Junior Khalil Dukes had 17 with eight rebounds, while fellow junior Matt Scott added 15 also with eight caroms.
One of the keys to the Flashes 20-4 run to start the game was the inability of NU to find the basket, as they missed 12 of their first 13 shots. The visitors’ only field goal during the run was a three-pointer by Dukes from the left arc at the 16:05 mark. Niagra would not hit another field goal until the 9:50 mark when Gatling connected on a fade-away jumper.
In the meantime, KSU’s advantage never fell below double digits. Its largest lead of the opening stanza was 17 points, 45-28, following a three from the left arc by Jalen Avery. Kent State went into halftime with a 45-30 advantage.
In the second half, the visitors from upstate New York tried to get back into the game, closing their deficit to 12 on three occasions. The last was 62-50 on the heels of a 10-0 run with 12:57 remaining when Gatling hit a jumper from the right wing.
That would be as close as Niagra would get. The Flashes found their shooting touch and pushed the lead to as many as 30 points in the final moments before winning by 28. it was the second time this season KSU reached 100 points in a game. Back on November 18, they scored 111 points against Division III Hiram in the first game of the Gulf Coast Challenge.
Checking the stats, Kent State shot 50 percent for the game (39-of-78), thanks to going 52.5% (21-of-40) in the second half. The Flashes held NU to just 36.1 percent (22-of-61) from the floor and won the battle of the boards 45-38.
KSU’s next game is Saturday night as they continue their home stand against the Highlanders of NJIT, who in their last game at Minnesota gave the Golden Gophers all they could handle before losing 74-68.