Junior guard Sincere Carry tied his career high with 32 points, and Kent State’s defense stifled rival Akron during Friday night’s 67-55 victory at the M.A.C. Center.
The Golden Flashes (8-8, 3-3 Mid-American Conference) held a Zips team that had won seven of its last eight games to its lowest point total since late November, on 35 percent shooting from the field and a 4-of-24 effort from 3-point range.
Carry made his first matchup against Akron (9-5, 2-2) a memorable one, shooting 11-of-17 from the floor and 6-of-10 from 3-point range. He scored 19 points in the final 9:14, when Kent State outscored Akron 23-13 to pull away.
The Flashes were coming off a disappointing two-point loss to Northern Illinois (4-8, 1-1) that left them 4-4 at home this season.
“We were desperate, and we played that way. No let up,” said KSU head coach Rob Senderoff. “The energy from our team was fantastic, the energy in the building was fantastic. This was probably our best defensive effort of the season for 40 minutes.”
Flashes senior forward Tervell Beck scored nine of his 11 points in the first half and grabbed five rebounds, grad student guard Andrew Garcia posted seven points and six boards, and junior guard Malique Jacobs added six points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“Last year they got us twice. We needed this one,” said Beck. “We’re trying to show everybody you can’t leave us out (of the Mid-American Conference race).”
Here are three points and some tip-ins from Friday night’s contest.
Career night for Carry
Carry’s best offensive performance since joining the Flashes program was also his most efficient one. He took 17 shots, none of which were out of the flow, and hit 11 of them. Six of Carry's makes were from 3-point range in just 10 tries.
Carry had not shot over 40 percent from 3 in his last six games, and was shooting just 21 percent from deep in MAC play before Friday.
“I’m just letting the game come to me,” said Carry, a transfer from Duquesne in year one with the Flashes. “I might have to force some shots here or there, but I’m not trying to play like that. I was getting my teammates involved. They were doing a good job of playing inside-out and finishing around the rim, and that opened up the 3 for me. (Akron was) playing me on the drive, so I had a lot of (open 3s) and my teammates started to find me. Easy for me, just catch and shoot or make a play.”
Carry had played 40 minutes in Kent State’s previous seven games. He sat out 1:25 midway through the first half on Friday, and while he was out Castaneda hit a pair of 3-pointers.
“I don’t think he needs the physical break. I think he needs the mental break,” Senderoff said. “He played really well at the end of the game tonight, was really strong, so maybe I should have done that earlier (this season). I definitely have to get him out in the first half every game moving forward so he can be strong late in the game. That’s what we need.”
Carry also spearheaded Kent State’s defensive effort by shadowing Akron junior guard Bryan Trimble, who shot 2-of-12 from the field and 1-of-9 from 3 for five points. Trimble entered the contest averaging 11.5 points per game, and had just scored 19 against Ball State on Tuesday.
“We did a very good job of chasing Trimble. We really put an emphasis on trying not to let him get good looks. That was Sincere guarding him almost the entire time,” said Senderoff.
Kent State has now played its best two defensive games of the season against the top two teams that have visited the M.A.C. Center. The Flashes held Toledo (12-4, 4-1) to 63 points and won by three on Jan. 1, then shackled a red-hot Zips squad that had scored well over 80 points in recent victories over Buffalo and Ball State.
Junior guard Xavier Castaneda scored 21 points for the Zips, but had 11 in the first 8:30 of the game after burying three 3-pointers. He had 15 points at halftime, but didn’t score in the second half until he canned two free throws with 10:06 to play. The South Florida transfer wound up shooting just 1-of-3 from the field in the second half while being shadowed by junior Malique Jacobs.
“Malique did a great job defensively, as he’s done all year,” said Senderoff. “He did a great job of keeping (Castaneda) in front and making it tough for him.”
The Zips have also been strong inside this season, but Kent State outscored them 30-22 in the paint. Aside from Castaneda, sophomore forward Enrique Freeman (13 points, 7 rebounds) was the only other Akron player to score in double figures.
“We were all in sync (defensively),” said Carry. “I heard five guys talking on the defensive end. We were switching some screens, we talked it out. Somebody was always protecting the paint. Good to see us execute. Once we figure it out and we can play like this consistently, no team can beat us in the MAC.”
Santiago’s return ignites supporting cast
Sophomore guard Giovanni Santiago was back in action for the Flashes on Friday after missing the past two games due to a lower leg injury he suffered after stepping on the foot of Ball State head coach James Whitford during a Jan. 4 victory in Muncie. He typically starts but came off the bench on Friday, checking in less than four minutes into the contest.
Santiago’s stat line won’t blow you away. He actually went scoreless in 28 minutes, missing a pair of 3-pointers, but posted three assists, three steals and two rebounds with just one turnover.
“Having Gio back definitely helped us,” said Senderoff. “He didn’t play great tonight, but he always makes a lot of winning plays. He knows what we are trying to do out there, and really helps facilitate things for us. I kept asking him if he needed a break, but he felt good.”
The Flashes are 0-3 this season when Santiago doesn’t play. He was part of a surprise bench group that outscored Akron’s reserves 21-4.
Senderoff shook up his starting lineup, inserting redshirt freshman VonCameron Davis and freshman Akeem Odusipe at forward, and both players provided solid minutes to start the game and in spurts throughout the contest. Davis finished with five points and three rebounds in 19 minutes, while Odusipe scored two points and grabbed three boards in eight minutes.
“Von played very well and really helped us energy-wise. Akeem, same deal. I thought he was great tonight,” said Senderoff.
Kent State entered the contest shooting a MAC-low 36.6% from the field and 20.7% from 3-point range during conference play. The Flashes didn’t exactly scorch the Zips, but hit 46% of their field goals (25-of-54) and 41 percent of their 3s (9-of-22). They opened the contest by connecting on four of their first eight 3s, which gave them a direly needed confidence boost. … Akron was playing its first MAC road game of the season. … Kent State now holds an 80-79 series lead over Akron.
Next: The Flashes will visit Eastern Michigan (7-7, 2-1) on Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Takeaways from Kent State's victory over Akron on Friday