DeKALB, Ill. – Leading by just two points at halftime, the Kent State University men's basketball team exploded for a 21-4 run to start the second half and went on to win its third straight game, 68-49, at Northern Illinois University Saturday afternoon (Jan. 27). The three-game streak is a season-high for KSU.
Senior guard Omni Smith, playing about an hour from his hometown of Chicago, led four Golden Flashes (12-8, 5-2 MAC) in double figures with 17 points, including 12 in the second half, as Kent State posted its largest road win since a 20-point victory at the University of Detroit-Mercy Dec. 30, 2003 by outscoring the Huskies (4-14, 1-6 MAC) 30-11 in the first 12 minutes after halftime.
With both teams struggling from the perimeter, neither led by more than six points in the first half. KSU's biggest lead- six points- came with 6:13 left while Northern Illinois led by no more than four and didn't lead at all after the 15 minute mark. After a 6-0 Kent State run that put the Flashes up four , Mike McKinney's jumper with nine seconds to go made it a 30-28 game at the break. McKinney led all scorers with 19 points, but had just two in the final 20 minutes.
The Flashes came out to start the second half by attacking the hoop and creating turnovers with pressure defense. Smith scored the first five points of the half- all on free throws after driving the lane- pushed the advantage to seven points. After Zach Pancratz hit two free throws Kent State scored the next 14 points with seven points coming from junior forward Mike Scott and another five from Smith. The Flashes extended the lead to as many as 24 points in the final two minutes.
In addition to Smith, sophomore post Julian Sullinger scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds, playing down low against 6-11 James Hughes. Scott scored 11 points and freshman guard Rodriquez Sherman added 10.
Kent State shot 52.2% (12-of-23) in the second half and 47.1% (24-of-51) for the game. The Flashes forced NIU into 23 turnovers and held the Huskies to just 34.7% (17-of-49) from the field, including six-of-24 (25%) in the second half.
Sullinger had a career-high five steals on defense while freshman guard Chris Singletary, also a Chicago-native, scored seven points and handed out a career-high six assists.
McKinney was the only Northern Illinois playerr in double figures. Hughes added eight points for NIU, which lost for the sixth straight time and the 13th time in 14 games.