KENT: Two of the Golden Flashes’ regular contributors were aided by standout performances from two players not normally in the spotlight, and Kent State downed Arkansas State 73-69 Saturday night at the M.A.C. Center.
Kent State (7-5) received stellar performances from leading scorers Randal Holt (19 points, 6-18 shooting) and Chris Evans (16 points, 6-8 shooting) but overtook the Red Wolves (6-5) in large part thanks to freshman point guard Kellon Thomas and reserve forward Mark Henniger, who each came off the bench and had a big night.
Thomas entered the game in the second half — after a tough start, KSU led for most of the night — when Kris Brewer turned the ball over one too many times and committed his fourth foul. The Red Wolves drew within one at 61-60 with five minutes remaining.
It was Thomas who then sank a 3-pointer from the corner on the next possession and a couple of plays later, it was Thomas who drove through Arkansas State’s defense to the hoop for a layup to give the Golden Flashes a seven point lead, 69-62 with 3:45 left in the game.
“He stepped up,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “We needed him to. Kris Brewer was a little shaky with the basketball a couple times. … I didn’t expect to play Kellon necessarily the whole end of the game. I was planning on putting Kris Brewer back in, but Kellon played so well out there and he made a number of big plays.”
Thomas finished the night with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
“Coach always says we all have the green light, but Kris Brewer had four fouls, so coach Sendy called my name and I just stepped up and did what the team needed,” Thomas said. “I feel like I was just playing within the offense, just doing what the team needed.”
Henniger played extended minutes Saturday in lieu of starter Melvin Tabb, who was sick. Senderoff said Tabb hadn’t eaten in two days and couldn’t participate in walk-through or practice, and joked that they were hoping to get a Michael Jordan-like flu game performance. Tabb tried to play but lasted only seven minutes.
Henniger at one point was defending Kendrick Washington, who has a 59-pound advantage on him. Henniger ended up with seven points, seven rebounds and two steals, and he held his own against Arkansas State’s big men.
“I’ve had a lot of cases of that so far in the season, being outweighed by a lot, but I just try to use my strengths against them — if they’re bigger than me, then I try to use my strengths against them, try to get as low as I can, use my length.”
Leading by two points with 38.1 seconds left and the ball, Arkansas State tried to get a steal while Kent State ran down the clock but couldn’t pry the ball loose. Chris Evans was fouled with 6.1 seconds left and hit both free throws to put the game out of reach.
Coach Senderoff related Arkansas State to a Mid-American Conference team with its style of play and talented players at the guard position (Arkansas State guard Ed Townsel scored a game-high 24 points and Cameron Golden added 15), making this a quality measuring-stick heading into conference play. But Senderoff also saw some things primarily related to youth that need to be addressed.
“We’re far from a finished product,” he said. “We have a lot of youth and a lot of inexperience. Even during the course of the game, that sometimes shows. That’s why I think we can learn from this film. … In the second half, we turned the ball over a lot [10 turnovers]. There some opportunities there where we’re up five and they missed a shot and got an offensive rebound and some things we can learn from the game.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.