The Kent State men's basketball team (18-7, 9-2) used a familiar formula on Wednesday night to beat Ball State 76-42 in front of 2,825 loyal fans at the M.A.C. Center in Kent. Great defense and another second half surge sent the Flashes to their eighth win in a row, keeping them at the top of the MAC standings, one game in front of Akron and Miami (8-3).
Kent State's physical and focused defense hounded Ball State all night long. The Cardinals (12-11, 6-5) shot 15 for 52 for just 29 percent and were forced into 19 turnovers by the active hands of KSU. The Flashes converted those miscues into 21 points to hold a +16 advantage (21-5) on points off turnovers.
Senior forward Anthony Simpson, a leading candidate for MAC Sixth Man of the Year, came off the bench and had 11 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Defending MAC Player of the Week Chris Singletary was hampered by a sore knee due to an injury suffered in practice a couple days ago but was still able to contribute 11 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Justin Greene had his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds while going at defending MAC Freshman of the Year Jarrod Jones from Ball State.
Freshman point guard Randal Holt provided a spark off the bench with 1o points, six assists and zero turnovers.
Simpson and Holt helped Kent State's bench out score Ball State's bench 40-10.
“Our bench was great tonight,” said Head Coach Geno Ford. “We were getting nothing offensively from the starting five in the first half, but the bench stepped up to shoot 7-10 and score 22 of our 31 points.”
Kent State started the second half on a 24-5 run and never looked back. A Rod Sherman three pointer at the 11:13 mark gave KSU a 55-26 advantage. The Flashes shot 53 percent in the second twenty minutes.
The game got off to a sloppy start as the Flashes held a 10-3 advantage at the under 12 minute media timeout. Kent State's stingy defense allowed them to overcome their own offensive struggles and pull away for some breathing room at the break. KSU took a 31-21 lead into halftime.
"Kent State is an excellent ball club," Ball State head coach Billy Taylor said. "It was only a 10-point game at half and I thought we could fight back and make it a game. As we started to make mistakes in the second half, things compounded and we really showed our youth and didn't have the mentality to be successful here tonight."
MAC TOURNAMENT WATCH - If the MAC tournament started today KSU would be the number one seed and play the winner of #8 Bowling Green and #9 Ohio. Tomorrow night cross divisional play will conclude when Central Michigan plays at Ohio.
FLASHES HEAD TO BUFFALO - Kent State will get back into East play at Buffalo on Saturday afternoon at Noon. Kent State fans, get your DVR's ready as the game will be televised on ESPNU. It will be a tough road challenge for KSU. With the game being nationally televised, expect the Buffalo students to be ready. With Kent State beating Buffalo by 35 back on January 20 to begin this eight game winning streak, expect Reggie Witherspoon's guys to be ready too. Buffalo has won two in a row including Wednesday night's 84-67 home victory over Eastern Michigan. Two main keys to beating Buffalo again will be winning the battle of the boards and containing Buffalo's Rodney Pierce.
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL - KENT STATE 69, WESTERN MICHIGAN 39
Yoshica Spears and Taisja Jones each scored in double figures to guide visiting Kent State to a 69-39 victory over Western Michigan in a Mid-American Conference game Wednesday night.
Spears led all scorers with a career-high 19 points and Jones scored 14 points.
KSU (15-8, 8-3) held a 41-22 rebounding advantage. Lorriane Odhiambo grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and scored eight points for the Golden Flashes.
''We've been rebounding well all year, and that's one of our strong points,'' KSU coach Bob Lindsay said. ''We played very poorly against Eastern Michigan, and we wanted to come out and play a lot harder on defense tonight. . . . I thought we did a pretty good job of that.''
This is the second time this season KSU has held an opponent under 40 points.
Rachel Bennett (eight points) and Jamilah Humes (seven points, seven assists) were also key players for KSU, which led 39-23 at halftime and was never challenged in the second half.
Ebony Cleary scored 12 points for the Broncos (7-17, 2-9).