Second half run carries KSU past Central Arkansas

Dec. 31—KENNESAW — Kennesaw State opened the second half on a 29-6 run to pull away for a 82-66 over Central Arkansas on Saturday in the ASUN Conference opener at the KSU Convocation Center.

After a cold-shooting first half, the Owls shot 59.4% from the floor over the final 20 minutes, which included making seven of their nine 3-pointers. The victory allowed Kennesaw State to start 1-0 in the conference for the second straight season, improve to 9-5 on the season and extend its record home winning streak to seven.

The Owls led 33-31 heading into the locker room, but coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said there was no big halftime speech that fixed things, it was just letting the players be easy on themselves and catch their breath.

"I didn't really say much," Abdur-Rahim said. "I just told them to give themselves some grace. We were doing everything we needed to. We just weren't making shots we normally make. It was just some Christmas rust for not playing a game in over a week. Then, I said to play every possession to get better."

For the first 9 minutes of the second half, Kennesaw State played its best basketball of the season.

Demond Robinson, who had a career-high 21 points, scored the Owls' first basket of the second half. On the next trip down the floor, Kasen Jennings made a 3, which was followed by another by Brandon Stroud, who had 12 points and seven rebounds, to push the lead to 41-33 and force a Central Arkansas timeout.

A pair of layups by Terrell Burden, who finished with eight points, and one by Stroud gave the Owls a 17-point advantage just 3:50 into the second half.

Kennesaw State continued to extend the lead, and when Simeon Cottles made a pair of free throws with 11:04 to play, the Owls had its biggest lead of the game at 62-37.

Central Arkansas (5-9, 0-1) was able to cut the lead in half and pull within 12 with 5:44 to play, but the Owls answered with a closing spurt that included Chris Youngblood scoring nine of his 14 points. He also had a team-high eight rebounds.

The Owls outplayed the Bears in nearly every aspect in the first half, but the Bears were able to keep it close. Central Arkansas may have had the lead if it was not for the play of Robinson, who took a message he got from Abdur-Rahim after the Owls' 69-55 loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 to heart.

"I challenged Demond," Abdur-Rahim said. "I told him, for us to be successful, he needed to establish himself in the post. That doesn't mean shoot every time he gets the ball, but be in the right spot. In the first half today, he gave us the spark we needed."

Robinson scored 11 of Kennesaw State's first 18 points and finished with 13 at the half, setting the stage for the big second-half run that put the game away.

"That's conference play," Robinson said. "We just have to be ready. We're going to give this conference a run for its money."

Spencer Rodgers added 10 points for Kennesaw State, while Camren Hunter led Central Arkansas with 14 points and six rebounds.

The Owls will return to the floor Monday to host Eastern Kentucky in ASUN play. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.