Kenny Kaminski tends to bring his best against Kent State.
And in The Convo on Friday night, Kaminski had 23 points, 14 of which came in the first half, that pushed Ohio past Kent State 85-67.
He had 33 points in two games last year against the Golden Flashes.
Ohio (10-3, 2-0 in Mid-American Conference) is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2013 and has defeated Kent State in back-to-back games — dating back to last year’s win in The Convo — for the first time since February of 2013.
Kaminski had a little help on Friday night too: Ohio’s No. 1 conference-ranked defense.
“Some of those guys like to poke the bear,” Kaminski said of Kent State. “Some of those guys like to talk a little bit and I don’t respond well to that, but I really just have faith in my teammates. Tony (Campbell) was setting me great screens, I was getting pretty open and Jaaron (Simmons) is an animal right now.”
Kent State (9-5, 1-1 MAC) came into Friday’s game promising high-tempo offense. It’s scored 100 points three times this season, the first time it’s done so in 50-plus years. It was coming off a 100-90 win over Ball State.
It didn’t deliver.
Ohio held All-MAC forward Jimmy Hall (who averages 17 points and 11 rebounds a game) to just 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven turnovers. As a unit, the Bobcats held their opposition to just 28 points in the paint and 37 percent shooting.
Friday was an aggressive, defensive showing for an Ohio team that has cruised in their first two conference games this season.
“I think they sorta got in our heads to be perfectly honest with you,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said of Ohio’s defense. “They were the more physical, more aggressive team.”
Along with Kaminski’s corner sharpshooting and the Bobcats stout defensive pressure, Campbell and Jordan Dartis had notable performances Friday night.
Campbell garnered 18 points off inside layups and scoops. He also posterized Kent State’s Danny Pippen with six minutes to go in regulation. Pippen would later foul out after shoving Campbell at the baseline and picking up a technical foul. Campbell also fouled out.
Jordan Dartis, meanwhile, provided an outside presence in yet another game. He had 13 points on 5-9 shooting and 1-of-4 3-point shooting. Dartis now has a 3-pointer in 10-consecutive games.
“We’ve been playing very, very good defensively all year,” Campbell said after the game. “Yeah, we got three losses on our record, but defense was there, we just couldn’t close offensively some of those games.
Team defense and Kaminski’s shooting set the pace in the first half. Ohio held Kent State scoreless for seven minutes-straight at one point, utilizing a 21-3 run to jump out to a 45-28 lead at halftime.
Kent State’s 28 points in the first half was its third-lowest output this season. Ohio’s 45 was its third-highest this season.
After hitting six field goals in a row to start the game, Kent State cooled off because of miscommunication, Ohio’s physicality and 21 turnovers, according to Senderoff. Ohio also stole the ball a season-high 15 times.
“If your aspirations were to get to 2-0 in MAC play and that’s what you’re gunning for in life, that’s not enough,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “Again, this group has a deeper hunger than just one game.”