MAC MBB TMNT Quarterfinals: Golden Flashes lock down Huskies, set up ‘wagon wheel’ rematch against Zips

Tyler Kavalecz, Sports Reporter, Falcon Media Sports Network

Kent State men’s basketball, attempting to avenge their championship game loss last year and put a bow on a season where they tied their program record for most regular season wins, defeated Northern Illinois in the first round of this year’s MAC Tournament, 76- 57.  

The second-seeded Golden Flashes avenged a regular season loss against the seventh-seeded Huskies on Jan. 24, eliminating Northern Illinois in their first MAC Tournament appearance since 2019.  

The first half was a defensive battle, as NIU started just 2-15 from the field. The Huskies also committed seven personal fouls in just seven and a half minutes.  

KSU led 16-5 midway through the first half as both teams struggled shooting the ball. Redshirt senior Miryne Thomas hit the game’s first three-pointer with 8:38 left to go in the first half, ending a stretch of 11 combined missed three-pointers by both teams.  

The Golden Flashes ended the first half leading by 13, 31-18.   

In the first 20 minutes of the game, Northern Illinois shot just 6-27 from the field and 2-13 from three-point range, while committing 11 fouls and turning the ball over 10 times. On the other side, Kent State shot 12-28 from the field and 2-12 from three-point range, turned the ball over eight times and led in rebounds, 24-16.   

Kent State’s defense continued to lock down the Huskies in the second half, leading to a 19-point victory for the Golden Flashes.  

Northern Illinois shot just 36.7% from the field and 6 for 18 from three-point range, while Kent State shot 46.8% from the field and just 6 for 25 from beyond the arc. KSU outrebounded NIU 43-29 and scored 28 points off Northern Illinois’ 17 turnovers, while Northern Illinois scored just eight points off Kent State’s 12 turnovers.  

For the Golden Flashes, Malique Jacobs, the MAC defensive player of the year, scored a game-high 19 points on 8-14 shooting, adding four rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks. Thomas had a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds, while last year’s MAC player of the year, Sincere Carry, scored 13 points, with five rebounds and six assists.  

For the Huskies, sophomore guard Zarique Nutter scored a team-high 13 points while adding four rebounds. Junior forward Harvin Ibarguen scored eight points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds, while senior guard Kaleb Thornton scored seven points, dished out six assists and finished with four steals.  

The Golden Flashes relied on their defense in the winning effort. 

“The conference tournament is a different animal than the regular season. Really excited that we were able to get this win,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said. “We defended at a really high level tonight for almost the entire game. Really proud of these guys because we had a game plan on what we were trying to do, and these1 guys were really locked in.”  

Kent State will face Akron in the semifinals in a rematch of last year’s MAC Tournament championship game tonight at 7:30 p.m.