KENT: 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.
Temperatures in Northeast Ohio were back to normal for January, but the Kent State basketball team remained in a deep freeze throughout much of Wednesday’s Mid-American Conference opener against Ohio at the M.A.C. Center.
The Golden Flashes shot a season-low 28.3 percent (17-of-60) for the game and the result was a disappointing 59-53 loss, the third in a row for KSU (9-5, 0-1 MAC).
“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. We gave up too many transition baskets.”
With defense from both teams stealing the spotlight early in the game, Kent State’s offense started slowly, scoring just 19 first-half points on 8-for-30 (26.7 percent) shooting. But the Flashes 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. In the end, the Flashes just barely increased their shooting efficiency in the second half at 9-for-30 for 30 percent.
“[Ohio’s] a good defensive team,” Senderoff said. “They’re big and athletic … they’ve been a good defensive team all year.”
Trailing 26-19 at halftime, the Flashes regrouped and took a 38-36 lead on a 3-pointer by Dev Manley, capping an 8-2 run with a bang. Manley, who led the Flashes with 13 points, nailed another 3-pointer after Darren Goodson split two free throws, but the Flashes’ four-point lead was short-lived.
Bobcats senior forward Travis Wilkins got hot from long range as well, sandwiching two 3-pointers around a trip to the foul line for the Bobcats (11-3, 1-0). An alley-oop dunk off a steal by Maurice Ndour gave the Bobcats a 51-46 lead with 3:45 to go and they never gave it up.
“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 standout basketball player Clark Kellogg, led all scorers with 19 points, but was also active in every phase of the game, 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,” Ohio coach Jim Christian said. “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.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.