The Polar Vortex that had gripped the Midwest and affected a large swath of the nation with record-low temperatures and power outages had finally been declared over by Wednesday morning.
But while the kids were finally back to school after a few extra days off and pets found it safe enough to venture back out side without fear of instant frostbite, the Kent State basketball team appeared to miss the memo and stayed in hibernation mode.
Despite temperatures in Northeast Ohio back to more normal wintertime double digits, the Golden Flashes offense remained in a deep freeze throughout much of Wednesday’s Mid-American Conference opener against visiting Ohio.
Kent State shot a season-low 28.3 percent (17-of-60) for the game, resulting in a disappointing 59-53 defeat that marked the Flashes third consecutive loss.
“Obviously we didn’t shoot the ball very well and we struggled to finish,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “I’m sure Ohio had a lot to do with that. (I’m) disappointed for sure because we did compete and we did defend. (But) we gave up too many transition baskets.”
With defense from both squads stealing the spotlight early in the game, Kent State’s offense started slow, scoring just 19 first-half points on 8-for-30 (26.7 percent) shooting. But the Flashes (9-5, 0-1 MAC) picked up their aggressiveness to start the second half and appeared to be back on track – albeit briefly.
But after rallying to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit, KSU’s offense steadily returned to its previous sluggish state and all but froze again over the final – and deciding - six minutes of action. In the end, the Flashes just barely increased their shooting efficiency in the final half at 9-for-30 for 30 percent, combining for a season-low 28.3 percent for the game.
“(Ohio’s) a good defensive team,” Senderoff said. “They’re big and athletic…they’ve been a good defensive team all year.”
After trailing 26-19 at halftime, the the regrouped Flashes retook the lead 38-36 on a Dev Manley 3-pointer, capping an 8-2 run with a bang. Manley, who led the Flashes with 13 points, nailed another 3 after Darren Goodson split a pair of free throws, but the Flashes’ four-point lead was shortlived.
Bobcats senior forward Travis Wilkins got hot from long range as well, sandwiching a pair of 3-pointers around the Bobcats (11-3, 1-0) trip to the foul line. An alley-op dunk off a steal by Maurice Ndour gave the Bobcats a five-point lead, 51-46, with 3:45 to go, that they never relinquished.
“There were a lot of layups we missed,” said Flashes senior forward/center Mark Henniger, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. “You definitely want to get those back because they could have turned the tide of the game. But at this point we have to look forward and bounce back.”
Ohio senior guard Nick Kellogg, son of former Ohio State stanout basketball player Clark Kellogg, led all scoreers with 19 points, but was also active in every phase of the game in adding six rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block.
“The thing I like about him the most…he can make a mistake now and still be aggressive.” Said current Ohio coach and former KSU coach Jim Christian. “And that’s what good players do. He can make a mistake and will look at me and we’ll have a little eye contact, he’ll (indicate) ‘it’s my fault’, but then he’ll get it right back. He doesn’t go into a shell, he doesn’t stop playing, he makes the next play. That’s what we all need to do, that’s what I tell them.”