While offense carried Toledo and Ohio to first round wins earlier in the day, it was defense that allowed Kent State to put Northern Illinois away early and secure a 76–57 MAC tournament quarterfinal victory on Thursday evening in Cleveland, Ohio. The Golden Flashes proved to be the more physical team and were efficient enough on offense to give themselves separation.
The Huskies were limited to just 11 points after 16:30 of game time as the Golden Flashes built a 17-point lead to keep NIU at bay. Northern Illinois finished the half with just 18 points on 22 percent shooting. No Huskie player finished with more than four made field goals. The Huskies’ main scorer in recent games, David Coit, went just 3-of-11 from the field in 34 minutes off the bench.
The story of the day was more than just an off-night from Northern Illinois. Kent State dominated the game physically, doing a good job forcing turnovers as the starting five combined for nine steals. Cleveland native Miryne Thomas accounted for three of them while logging a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
All-MAC first teamer Sincere Carry dropped just 13 points on inefficient shooting, but tallied six assists and was picked up by his fellow Golden Flashes. Guard Malique Jacobs scored 19 while center Cli’Ron Hornbeak added a season-high 16 points in just 19 minutes.
It was a tough year for Northern Illinois, who lost their top scorer Keshawn Williams to an ACL tear on January 7. Second-year head coach Rashon Burno will hope for a healthier, rejuvenated squad going into next season.
Kent State continues the trend of success from teams in the state of Ohio in the MAC Tournament, as the Ohio MAC members are currently 3-0 in Cleveland thus far. The Flashes await the winner of the Buffalo/Akron quarterfinal game at the conclusion of Thursday night’s action. KSU and the Buffalo/Akron winner will play one another tomorrow afternoon in a semifinal game for a chance to advance to the MAC Championship Game.