Pittsburgh improved to 72-1 all time at the Petersen Events Center against non-conference opponents and held off Kent State, winning 71-59 on Saturday afternoon in a nationally televised game on ESPNU.
The Golden Flashes came up with a hard fought effort, but couldn't overcome their own offensive struggles. Kent State shot 37 percent (23/63) in the game, including a dismal 3/19 on three pointers, including 0/9 in the second half. The Golden Flashes shot just 33 percent in the second half.
“We had some guys struggling to put the ball in the basket," Kent State head coach Geno Ford said. "They are terrific at position team defense. They show very well on screens and are good at being where they are supposed to be. When we did get some open shots, we missed them. We had very few positives on offense. Against a team like this, had we not gotten to the glass or played as hard as we did, we could have lost by 25 points.”
One of the bright spots for the Flashes was the play of Chris Singletary. Playing in his second game since coming back from surgery, and looking very close to being completely healthy, the burly Chicago nativeled the Flashes with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. Singletary went to work in the second half in the mid post. That is usually when KSU's offense is as productive as it can be.
“My teammates did a great job of finding me in the post," Singletary said. "Most of the time, I was going one on one down there. I was staying patient and then would make my move.”
Senior Frank Henry-Ala also provided a spark for KSU with 10 points, all coming in the second half.
Kent State was down nine at the half, 38-29. The Flashes battled and threatened to close the gap in the second half, but could not get over the hump against the Panthers.
Pittsburgh benefited by shooting 9/16 on three pointers for 56 percent. A couple of those threes were during a late clock situation when the Panthers would hit a dagger to deflate the Golden Flashes' defensive effort.
“I thought that their two 30-second buzzer shots were the biggest plays in the game," Ford said. "We guarded well for 34 seconds, but to no avail. I think that we were foolish on defense. We over helped on those plays. They shot the ball very well. We knew it would be a challenge. Just look at their record at home against non-conference opponents. I know they’ve struggled shooting the ball recently. To be honest, the worst thing for us was how poorly they played against Indiana. They looked really good tonight, better than they have on the film that we watched.”
Pittsburgh guard Brad Wanamaker led four Panthers in double figures with 18 points and a perfect 3/3 from long distance.
"Kent State is a good team and they’re one of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference," Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon remarked. "They’ve played a lot of road games in the early-going here, but they’re going to win a lot of games this season.”
Kent State will be off next week for Fall Semester final exams and will resume their season on Sunday, December 20 against the Islanders from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
SWITCH IT UP - Kent State used their fourth different starting lineup in nine games on Saturday. Sherman, McKee, Henry-Ala, Greene and Parks were the quintet for the Flashes.
PRODUCTION FROM THE BIGS - Kent State will need more baseline production from the likes of Brandon Parks and Anthony Simpson if the Golden Flashes hope to be a legitimate contender in the MAC in February and March. Combined totals of two points and five rebounds from the two of these players aren't enough. Coach Ford has spoke this season about how when Simpson plays well and produces, Kent State has a much better chance of winning. When he doesn't produce, the Flashes struggle. Now that Singletary is back Simpson won't have to produce quite as much, but he needs to do more than he did today. If this lack of production continues this season, expect Ford to go to small lineups with Singletary at the 4, with a combination of Sherman, Holt, McKee and Evans on the perimeter during crunch time in the Mid-American Conference season.
SHOOTING WOES - Kent State's issues from behind the three point line continued on Saturday. The Flashes were just 3/19 from long range, with Evans and McKee going a combined 3/14. This will also have to improve as the team goes forward. Some more production from the post, and some guys who could command double teams would help open up the perimeter and get some open looks for the guards. At the same time, if the Flashes can shoot the ball better from the perimeter, maybe that can open up some more room to operate for the post players to work with. I realize Tyree Evans is a flat out shooter, and you need to allow him to take some shots outside of everyone's comfort zone, but that doesn't stop me from cringing or scratching my head when he shoots an off balance 25 footer after wildly coming off a screen. I guess an Evans launch is better then a turnover.
HOMECOMING - McKee played in front of a large group of friends and family on Saturday. He played at Plum High School in Plum Borough, PA, right outside Pittsburgh. It was a struggle for McKee, going 0/5 from the floor and finishing with 0 points.
- Kent State and Pittsburgh met for the 17th time in history. KSU is now 8-9 all-time against Pittsburgh.
- Henry-Ala tied a career high with 10 points.
- KSU wore their alternate black road uniforms and are now 1-4 in those games.
- Kent State is now 4-6 on the ESPN Family of Networks since the 2006-07 season.
- Fourth game this season Kent State has forced 19 turnovers.
- Evans had a career high four steals.