KENT: Eastern Michigan freshman James Thompson has been the star in just about every game he’s played this season. He’s established himself as one of the premier players in the conference.
But Kent State senior Khaliq Spicer stole his spotlight on Tuesday night, putting together his best game in weeks and powering the Golden Flashes to a 73-58 victory at the M.A.C. Center.
Spicer had perhaps his best game of the season, scoring 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking five shots.
“Yes, it is,” Spicer said when asked if this was as good as he’s felt all year. “[Assistant coach DeAndre Haynes] kept telling me how hard the freshman plays and he was good. I took that as a challenge.”
Eight of Spicer’s points came on a flurry of thunderous dunks, one of which had such force that he spun around under the basket and landed on his backside. The blocks were of similar nature, most of them being spiked into the front court or into the stands.
It was a statement game for Spicer, whose play had dipped in recent weeks. Every play Spicer made was made with authority. And in the process, he overshadowed Thompson.
“He’s playing great and that’s what you need to do when you’re a senior,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “Certainly, I think he’s impacted us defensively as much as anything with blocked shots and affecting shots at the rim. It’s a big reason why our defense has gotten better, is his activity and how he’s played.”
As Spicer and Thompson went back and forth, the Flashes incrementally pulled away from EMU in the second half. At the six-minute mark, they put the game away.
Leading 54-47 with 5:30 left, Thompson and Jimmy Hall were called for double technicals, which also happened to be Thompson’s fourth foul.
Chris Ortiz then blocked an attempted layup, which led to another EMU technical on the bench.
On the following possession, Ortiz caught a pass along the baseline, drew contact and Thompson’s fifth foul and got a layup to fall for a three-point play that also knocked EMU’s top player out of the game. One trip down the floor later, Spicer threw down another dunk to put KSU ahead 60-47 and the game out of reach.
“All week coaches told us we had to be the aggressors,” said Ortiz, who scored 12 points and had five rebounds. “It was a freshman coming into our gym, so I’m just taking it to him.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RyanLewisABJ