After making the 2023 NCAA Tournament, the Kent State Golden Flashes are looking to return to the big dance and look to rebound from their double-overtime loss earlier in the week as they host Fresno State on Saturday.
Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (-2.5, 140.5)
Kent State lost to James Madison in their game prior 113-108 in a double-overtime thriller that involved the team blowing a five point lead in the final four seconds of regulation.
While the ending was not as desired for Kent State, the team got an encouraging performance from Chris Payton with 25 points, 17 rebounds, and three blocks as he looks to piggyback off of his big finish to the 2022-23 season.
Payton, who began his career at Pittsburgh, averaged 11.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in the final 17 games last season after notching 2.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in the first 17 games of the season.
The added post presence further fortifies a Kent State defense that was 20th in America last season in points allowed on a per possession basis and 19th in steals per possession.
As for Fresno State, the Bulldogs are fresh off of an unexpected test from non-Division I Fresno Pacific, where it was a four point game with less than 1:15 to play before the Bulldogs put the game away at the free throw line.
A season ago, Fresno State was 328th in 3-point shooting percentage and with three of their top five scorers gone from a season ago, does not return a single player that made more than 30.3% of their 3-point shots a season ago.
Though Kent State did lose some key pieces from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, four key cogs from that squad return and with the play in the post from Payton and the rest of the forwards improving seemingly by the game, Kent State will bounce back from their tough loss to James Madison with a convincing win on Saturday.
The Play: Kent State -2.5