Kent State saw its season come to an end in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 with a 71–60 loss to Indiana that started Friday night and ended early Saturday morning in Albany. The Golden Flashes brought defensive energy but struggled mightily on offense and failed to hang with the Hoosiers down the stretch.
Rob Senderoff’s squad had trouble on offense from the jump as they struggled to shoot the ball and found themselves defended well by Indiana’s bigs. Just minutes into the game, All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis already had two blocks for the Hoosiers.
Kent State’s top scoring threats Sincere Carry and Malique Jacobs started off very cold in the first half. Carry had trouble finding open looks both in the paint and from deep. His one highlight of the half was an impressive turnaround three after he briefly lost his dribble with the shot clock about to expire. Freshman Jalen Sullinger made some nice moves on offense driving to the paint but couldn’t get the ball to fall his way as he finished 0-of-6 from the field in the first half. Overall, the Golden Flashes shot a dismal 26.3 percent in the opening period.
Despite the early scoring problems, the Golden Flashes remained within striking distance early on with good interior defense. Double-teams and triple-teams swarmed to Jackson-Davis forcing him into tough looks or passes in the opening possessions. Kent State big men Cli’Ron Hornbeak, Miryne Thomas and Chris Payton disrupted Indiana inside early.
Kent State also set the tone on the boards early, grabbing offensive rebounds — it had 10 in the first half and a total of 19 — which gave them more opportunities on what was a tough shooting night the whole way. After an Indiana run to close the half, the Golden Flashes found themselves down eight at the break.
The second half presented an opportunity for the Golden Flashes to get things going but they couldn’t establish a rhythm despite some nice plays. After Indiana opened up a double digit lead over the first ten minutes of the period, Sullinger nailed back-to-back threes to get his team back within eight.
Jackson-Davis immediately responded and silenced Kent State with back-to-back dunks and a layup to give Indiana a 62–50 lead. While the Golden Flashes kept him in check early, Jackson-Davis showed why he is one of the best players in the nation with a number of un-defendable moves late. He finished with a game-high 24 points to go along with 11 rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
Despite the late deficit, the boys from Northeast Ohio never gave up and created some chances on offense with some good defensive plays. Still, the ball wouldn’t fall their way. A Von’Cameron Davis steal, a Chris Payton missed layup and Jackson-Davis dunk on the other end with four minutes to go, summed up the game.
Kent State just didn’t play its best basketball Friday night, which would mean the end of its season against a good team like Indiana. Sincere Carry, despite a few impressive plays, ultimately had one of his worst games of the season, going 5-of-18 from the field as he saw his illustrious college career come to an end. Malique Jacobs finished with a game-high seven assists but also shot poorly, going 3-11.
The Golden Flashes will finish the season 28–8, the highest win total of Rob Senderoff’s tenure in Kent. The squad will likely look very different next season as Carry, Jacobs, Thomas and Payton are all seniors.