This season is sure to be a roller coaster for the young Kent State basketball team. On days like Saturday, it was a thrilling ride that ended in a 61-47 road win at Ball State’s Worthen Arena.
But coach Rob Senderoff and his staff know not every game that’s full of ups and downs will end like this one.
The Golden Flashes scored a bumpy victory after starting off ice cold on offense. They came back for a double-digit lead at halftime, survived a second-half rally that cut the deficit to one and then roared back to hold off Ball State (7-7, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) at home.
Kent State (10-6, 1-1) avoided its first 0-2 league start since the 1996-97 season.
“The guys knew what was at stake,” assistant coach Bobby Steinburg said in a radio interview following the game.
“You just can’t start out 0-2 in the MAC.”
It looked like that might happen after the Flashes came out of the gate with weak shooting, falling behind 0-7 only minutes into the game. With Kent State trailing and in need of a spark, reserve sophomore guard Devareaux Manley helped the Flashes pull ahead for the first time, 23-20 with four minutes to go in the half.
Manley finished with eight points off the bench, and his energy helped kick-start the offense.
The Flashes closed out the first half with a 17-0 run and took a 35-20 lead into the locker room.
Kent State started the second half by pushing the lead to 18 points, but the cushion seemed to lull the Flashes into a false sense of security.
After the Flashes lost some of the defensive intensity that had helped them build the first-half offensive surge, the Cardinals responded with a run.
Holt, Evans lead way
Ball State got within a point midway through the second half before the Flashes calmly regrouped with the aid of senior guards Chris Evans and Randal Holt. Within minutes, they had pushed the advantage back to double digits to close out the game and effectively end the scare.
“When it got tight, there were a lot of chances for us to not get over the hump and let them get back in the game,” Senderoff said.
“But our kids hung together and gutted out a win.”
Despite rare non-starts, Holt led Kent State with 16 points, followed by 14 points from Evans as the two players helped KSU’s bench outscore BSU’s 45-9.
“In the first half, we sort of got on a little bit of a roll where we got stops and got out in transition,” Senderoff said.
“In the second half, it was a matter of gutting it out, scrapping to get a couple of loose balls and Chris Evans and Randal Holt hitting some big shots — that’s the difference in the game.”
Ball State junior forward Majok Majok led the Cardinals with 13 points, while fellow junior forward Chris Bond added 10 points.
Kent State did a good job limiting Cardinals’ leading scorer and defending MAC West Division Player of the Week Jesse Berry (13.8 points per game) to seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.
Next up for the Flashes is a road trip to Buffalo (5-10, 0-1) on Wednesday night.
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