By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Kent State men's basketball fans will quickly grow to love and respect Derek Jackson's game.
Those who entered the M.A.C. Center for Friday night's season opener knowing little about their new starting shooting guard learned that Jackson can flat-out play on both ends of the floor during the Golden Flashes' 84-48 dismantling of Division III Ohio Northern.
Jackson finished with a game-high 18 points in just 22 minutes on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor, and made four steals -- three of which he converted into baskets on the other end.
Kent State coach Rob Senderoff has been praising Jackson's defense since the Cleveland native joined the program as a transfer from Central Michigan last April, and he showed that -- and then some -- in the opener.
"I touted him in terms of what he can do on the defensive end of the floor, then we went into the (closed scrimmage against Robert Morris last week) and the guy that he guarded torched us," said Senderoff. "The kid was a good player and he scored. All week I've been telling Derek that (Ohio Northern senior guard) Branden Rushton had tape of the scrimmage and couldn't wait to play against him."
Senderoff was joking of course, but Jackson's defense on Rushton was no joke as he was held to just six points on 3-of-9 shooting from the floor.
"Derek's a good defensive player. We'll have him on the other team's best perimeter player just about every game we play this year," said Senderoff. "He did a nice job tonight."
Jackson spent the first two years of his college career with the Chippewas. He made 89 3-pointers in those two seasons, and averaged 11.5 points and 1.8 steals per contest as a sophomore.
Jackson was recruited by Kent State, but committed to CMU as a sophomore at Benedictine High School since an assistant on his staff was the brother of then-Chippewas coach Ernie Zeigler. Jackson left the program after Zeigler was fired following his sixth season in 2012.
Jackson did not play basketball at any school last year, but kept his grades in shape by enrolling for a semester at Cuyahoga Community College. He officially joined Kent State's program last April.
"I took a year off and kind of weighed my options," said Jackson. "I talked to Kent State and they still wanted me. I'm happy to be here. It seemed like five years (since I last played), but I'm happy to be back."
Ironically, Jackson takes over at shooting guard for former Flashes star Randal Holt, also a Cleveland native, who played a key role in bringing Jackson to Kent State.
While Jackson's stellar all-around play stole the show, Senderoff was quick to praise veterans Kris Brewer and Darren Goodson even though they struggled somewhat on the offensive end.
Brewer finished with seven points, four steals and two assists with four turnovers, missing all three of his 3-point attempts, but the 6-foot-3 point guard snared a game-high eight rebounds. Goodson wound up with 11 points and six boards on 4-of-9 shooting from the floor.
"I was proud of how (Jackson) played, but there were other guys (who also played well)," said Senderoff. "Two guys in particular, Darren Goodson and Kris Brewer, the first loose ball for both of them they both dove on the floor to get -- Darren got the first one, Kris Brewer got the second. That's leadership that I need them to bring. You're gonna look at their stat line and say they didn't have a bunch of points, but they set the tone for our team by doing the things that we really preached and wanted them to do."
Brewer and Goodson were among the eight different players who scored a bucket as the Flashes jumped out to a 16-10 lead, and Jackson was No. 8. His steal and dunk later made it 22-12, and a jumper by sophomore point guard Kellon Thomas upped the advantage to 26-12 as the Polar Bears suffered through a 5:25 scoreless stretch.
With the first-half clock winding down, Brewer fed Thomas (9 points, 3 assists) for the Flashes' first 3-pointer of the night after six straight misses, making it 41-20 at the break.
The lead reached 30 when sophomore forward Khaliq Spicer swatted a shot at one end, then threw down a dunk at the other for a 51-21 spread.
The Flashes were 1-of-14 from 3-point land before K.K. Simmons and Jackson each hit from long-range as the lead ballooned to over 30.
Nine players finished with six points or more for Kent State, including returnees Mark Henniger (6 points, 4 rebounds), Chris Ortiz (6 points, 3 rebounds) and Spicer (6 points, 6 boards), along with newcomers Devin Carter (7 points, 5 rebounds) and Marquiez Lawrence (6 points, 5 boards).
"We had a lot of guys that showed some things here and there," said Senderoff. "I thought we competed, we tried to play the right way. We have to do those things every single game."
The Flashes will now have two days to prepare for a nationally televised game at perennial power Temple on Monday, followed by a visit to Seton Hall on Wednesday.
TABB SITS OUT
Senior forward Melvin Tabb was not in uniform, as he served a one-game suspension according to Senderoff.
"In September there were a couple of academic things that I had asked Melvin to do that he didn't take care of, so I told him at that time that he wasn't going to play in the first game," said Senderoff. "Nothing major, he's fine academically. It was more like sending a message. He'll be back on Monday, and I told him he will not be penalized moving forward. Since that point he's done everything we need him to do."
NOTHING TO LOSE, LITERALLY
While the game was an official one for Kent State, it's considered a scrimmage for Ohio Northern. Division III teams are not allowed to play official games yet.
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