The main storyline heading into Kent State's clash with the Texas-Pan American Broncs wasn't really about any of the players. It was mainly about UTPA head coach Dan Hipsher, who coached at Akron for nine years in the mid-to-late nineties and early 2000s. Hipsher returned to head coaching last season, taking over the UTPA job.
This was Hipsher's first visit to Northeast Ohio as a head coach since being on the sidelines at Akron, and although playing at Akron would have made for a juicier narrative, this game sort of served that purpose. It was also a return for his son Andy, who played at Akron and is an assistant on the Broncs' bench.
The return back to Ohio was not pretty for the Hipshers, as the Golden Flashes sped out to a 40-25 halftime lead and went on from there, eventually winning by a final of 74-54. While it wasn't the prettiest of games, it was good for Kent State to get back on the winning track after losing earlier in the week at Kansas.
Devareaux Manley shone in the first half, fighting through supposedly a nasty sickness. Manley had fourteen in the first half, shooting 4-7 from beyond the arc. Jimmy Hall also had an outstanding first half and almost notched a double-double, scoring ten points and collecting seven rebounds. Chris Ortiz got his first career start, but picked up three early fouls and only put in two points.
Janari Joesaar, a sophomore forward from Estonia, had himself a first half. UTPA's leading scorer had nineteen points in beginning stanza, right on his average. Joesaar was 7-11 from the floor and 5-8 from beyond the arc while the rest of his team was 3-25 from the field. It's no surprise with those shooting numbers that Kent State led by fifteen at the break.
The second half was much of the same, as the Flashes just kept hitting shots and UTPA couldn't generate any offense. The Flashes focused on stopping Joesaar and did, holding him to just eight second half points. It became a laugher when Kent State pushed the lead to twenty and held it there for awhile. Leading by 27 with six minutes left, the Flashes let their foot off of the gas for the rest of the game and UTPA was able to make is a little more respectable.
Kent State did well at the free throw line, which had been a season long headache. The Flashes went 14-17 (83%) from the charity stripe, a good thing to see heading into conference play.
Hall finished with a double-double - nineteen points and ten rebounds. Manley also poured in nineteen off of the bench on 7-10 shooting. Khaliq Spicer had yet another solid outing, almost posting a double-double with seven points and nine rebounds.
Joesaar obviously led the Broncs in scoring, finishing with 27 on 10-14 shooting from the floor and going 6-9 from beyond the arc. The only other UTPA player that sniffed double digits was Shaquille Hines, who scored eight.
Unfortunately the elder Hipsher is still early in the building process at UTPA and hasn't gotten the quality of players he needs to be successful. That showed during tonight's loss, but he's a solid coach and should get his program closer to respectability.
Texas-Pan American play just their second true home game of the year five days from now against some school called Our Lady of the Lake.
Kent State opens conference play next Wednesday at home against Bowling Green. That'll be a very interesting game, as those two teams seem to be very close talent-wise. They then head to Northern Illinois, which won't be easy. I could make a case for the Golden Flashes to go 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2. It's going to be a fun MAC season everyone.