The Mustangs stepped it up defensively and dominated the second half Friday night against Class AAA Gordon Central, cruising to an 87-40 non-region win.
Last year, Kennesaw Mountain finished with a 5-21 record, but most of last year’s team is back on the floor and they appear to be more mature than a year ago.
“The attitude is better,” coach Jesse Bonner said. “We’re practicing harder and the team is playing more to my personality. We’re getting after it more and are a little more tougher.”
Kennesaw Mountain (6-5) got after it Friday by playing full-court pressure for much of the game and forcing 26 Gordon Central turnovers, including 16 in the second half. The Mustangs also held the Warriors to just four points inside the paint, with half of their second-half points coming from beyond the arc.
Stellar defensive play in the second half allowed Kennesaw State to score more points in transition. While Gordon Central struggled inside, the Mustangs shot 65 percent (13-for-20) from inside the paint.
Ten of 14 Mustangs scored, with four reaching double figures, led by Miles Inman’s 17 points off the bench. Marco Inman was 6-for-6 from the field in the first half and finished with 13 points, Andrew Jimenez added 12 and Nigel Hayes finished with 10.
While Kennesaw Mountain had success inside the paint in the second half, it also did some damage behind the 3-point line, setting the tone for the game. The Mustangs had six 3s by halftime and finished the game with 10.
The first quarter was relatively close between the teams, with Kennesaw Mountain only ahead by eight at 21-13. But once the Mustangs tightened up defensively, they started taking control and ended up holding Gordon Central to just nine points in each of the second, third and fourth quarters.
“I thought the defensive intensity picked up in the second quarter, and more so in the second half,” Bonner said. “We usually start out slow, but we played better in the second quarter and carried it over to the third.”
Kennesaw Mountain outscored Gordon Central 30-9 in the fourth quarter and put the game out of reach early in the frame on a three-point play by Miles Inman and a 3-pointer from the right wing by Aaron Barris.
Kennesaw Mountain 47, Gordon Central 43: With the score knotted at 41-all with less than 2 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, the Lady Mustangs embarked on a quick 6-0 run and made it stick.
Even though Kennesaw Mountain couldn’t hit its free throws down the stretch, its defense held Gordon Central to one field goal.
Rachel Irby finished with 14 points to lead Kennesaw Mountain (2-9). Amber Hutchins and Sarah Zimmerman both finished with nine, and Jaylah Carr added six.