Kent State halts three-game skid with rout of winless St. Francis

By Allen moff | staff writer Published:

By Allen Moff | Staff Writer

Thursday night's matchup between the Golden Flashes and the Red Flash was over in, well … a flash.

Kent State held winless St. Francis (Pa.) without a field goal for over 10 minutes to start the contest while racing to a 23-1 lead, and coasted to a 77-48 victory at the M.A.C. Center following an 11-day break between games.

The Golden Flashes (6-5) snapped a three-game losing streak by holding the Red Flash (0-10) to 33 percent shooting from the field and forcing 18 turnovers while committing just seven miscues of their own. Kent State also finished with 15 assists on 23 made baskets.

"There have been two things that we really worked on over the last 11 days," said KSU coach Rob Senderoff. "One of them is sharing the basketball, trying to score off assisted baskets. We did a great job of that -- 15 assists on 23 baskets, our assist-to-turnover ratio was great. When you stop trying to make individual plays, your turnovers go down.

"The other thing we worked on was halfcourt defense, transition defense, just defense as a package."

Kent State played well defensively in its last outing, a 62-55 setback at perennial national power Xavier, and that effort was not lost over the break. St. Francis missed its first 10 field-goal attempts and committed six turnovers while falling behind 23-1 with 9:52 to play in the first half.

"Coach (Senderoff) instilled in us all week that we wanted to get back to our defensive principals, just having each other's back on rotations," said senior guard Chris Evans. "Our defensive intensity definitely won the game for us. It set the tone for the game."

The Flashes led 34-18 at the half and pushed it as high as 35 points on three separate occasions in the second half.

Evans was able to shake out of a recent shooting slump. He posted game-highs of 17 points and nine rebounds on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, and hit 2-of-4 shots from 3-point range. He entered the contest having made just 12-of-46 field goals (26 percent) during the three-game losing streak.

However, fellow senior Randal Holt's shooting struggles continued. Holt, the team's lone returning starter, had shot 6-of-31 from the floor (19 percent) over the previous three games, and added to those woes by shooting 3-of-14 from the field and 2-of-10 from 3-point land for eight points. He's now shooting 9-of-45 from the field (20 percent) over his last four games, and is 3-of-20 on 3-pointers in his last two outings.

"Randal's made so many baskets here," said Senderoff. "The last thing I want to do -- and I may have done it, I said, 'hey Randal, keep shooting.' Randal doesn't need me telling him that. When he hears me say it, it may mess him up a little bit. Sometimes that gets him thinking. I've just gotta leave him alone.

"I know on Saturday night (KSU's next game) if we need a big shot, there's nobody I'd rather have shoot it in the last 10 years I've been here than Randal."

Sophomore guard Kris Brewer returned to the starting lineup after a six-game absence and piled up 13 points and a game-high five assists, hitting all three of his field goals -- including a pair of 3-pointers.

"He played a really good floor game, and he also played well defensively," said Senderoff "I told Kris before the game that I thought (St. Francis junior) Umar Shannon would be our best guard, and I'm sure he didn't like hearing that. I'm glad he responded the right way. I thought he played the best game of his career."

Eleven players dented the scoring column for Kent State. Bryson Pope produced nine points and four boards off the bench, and Mark Henniger added eight points and a pair of blocked shots.

Earl Brown led the Red Flash with 17 points off the bench, while Shannon added 12.

The Flashes will return to action on Saturday at home against Arkansas State (6-4).

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