KENT, OHIO – The Kent State Golden Flashes improved to 3-0 on the young season as they led from start-to-finish in defeating the Southern Illinois Salukis, 74-51, in their opening game of the 2014 Men against Breast Cancer Classic Friday night at the MAC Center.
Kent State, which opened the season on Saturday with a road win at Youngstown State followed that up on Tuesday with a come-from-behind win at home over Division II Malone, is off to its best start since 2008-09.
“We played well -- a great team effort.” KSU head coach Rob Senderoff said. “I am proud of how we played, how we responded. It was good to see everyone that stepped on the floor contribute in a positive way.”
Southern Illinois (1-2), out of the Missouri Valley Conference, is opening the season with five straight games away from its campus in Carbondale for the first time since 1963. The Sulukis were led by sophomore Sean O’Brien and junior Anthony Beane, each scoring 12 points. Freshman Jordan Caroline tallied 11 while pulling down eight rebounds.
The Flashes opened the game by scoring nine of the first 11 points. Six of them came from Hall, who had 12 in the opening 20 minutes. The transfer from Hofstra has scored in double digits in his first three games for the Blue and Gold.
When asked about the beginning of his season with the Flashes, Hall said “I believe in myself. I work hard with my game, and it is showing right now.”
The lead opened to 19-8 when Manley hit a three-pointer from the top of the key at the 13:15 mark. SIU closed within eight on a conventional three-point play by Bola Olaniyan, who scored eight points coming off the bench. KSU responded with a 9-0 run to build a 28-11 advantage at the 8:25 mark on two free throws by Hall.
The Flashes largest lead of the half was 18 points at 43-25 when Jackson connected on a three from the right side of the arc. It was 43-28 at halftime.
Kent State built its lead by shooting 51.6 percent in the first half (16 of 31), with seven of those baskets coming from three-point range (7 of 12). In addition, KSU forced the Salukis into 12 turnovers, converting them into 16 points.
SIU led the rebound battle 16-13. However, it shot only 43.5 percent from the floor (10 of 23).
In the second half, the Flashes lead never fell below double digits, although SIU did close the margin to 13 points on two occasions. The last was at the 14:17 mark (52-39) on a pair of free throws by Beane. He came into the game averaging 23 points in his first two outings, including a career best 32 points in a win at Tennessee State. KSU held him to half his average.
When asked about guarding Beane, Jackson said “I knew I was going to have a tough task. I am a good defensive player. We played more together as a team, especially the guards. We controlled the game.”
From that point on, the Flashes started to pull away, opening their biggest lead of the contest 24 points 69-45 on a three by Brewer. He scored 10 in the second half, going a perfect three-of-three from the floor two of those from beyond the arc.
The final margin was 23 points as KSU posted its first ever win against the visitors from ‘The Valley’.
In the second stanza, Kent State was shooting around 40 percent from the field before finding the range to finish the period at an even 50 percent (10 of 20) and at 51 percent for the game (26 of 51). KSU also won the battle of the boards (33-30) thanks to a 20-14 advantage in the second half.
The only blemishes on the evening for the Blue and Gold was shooting 66.7 percent from the foul line and committing 14 turnovers. Nine of them came in the second half.
The Salukis, meanwhile, went ice cold in the second stanza. They hit just 7-of-28 from the floor (28 percent) and were at only 35.4 percent over the 40 minutes.
The Flashes play the second game of the tournament on Saturday night against the Illinois-Chicago Flames out of the Horizon League, who opened the tournament losing to Yale of the Ivy League, 70-58.