Flashes lethargic in home loss to Eastern Michigan

Junior center Adonis De La Rosa reaches for a loose ball during Kent State’s 71-67 loss to Eastern Michigan on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The loss was the Flashes’ first conference loss at the M.A.C. Center.

Cameron Hoover

Coach Rob Senderoff said one play perfectly summed up Kent State’s (12-12, 6-5 Mid-American Conference) 71-67 home loss to Eastern Michigan (14-10, 5-6 MAC).

The score was 58-57 in favor of the Eagles, and Eastern Michigan point guard Paul Jackson dribbled the ball to the half court line. James Thompson IV set a screen for Jackson, who dribbled to the elbow before jumping and throwing an errant pass.

Kent State junior guard Jaylin Walker tipped the ball into the air, and three Flashes and two Eagles wrestled for possession. The ball eventually landed in the hands of Eastern Michigan’s Tim Bond, who dribbled past the Kent State defense and found Jordan Nobles wide open in the corner.

Nobles nailed the three-pointer, his second of the game, and Kent State’s energy deflated.

“This is the guts of the game,” Senderoff said. “You’ve got to come up with that ball. That’s not the only one we didn’t come up with, but that’s the one I remember the most… If we come up with that ball, we could’ve scored in transition and maybe won the game.”

Walker made two three-pointers from just inside the half-court line in the final minute to keep it interesting, but Nobles’ dagger ended up being the knockout punch in a lethargic performance from Kent State.

Senderoff said that while that particular play stuck out to him, there were “six or seven others” he could’ve pointed out. And while he conceded the Flashes’ offensive struggles may have impacted the team’s hustle and defensive effort, Senderoff was still disappointed.

“That’s not how good teams operate,” he said. “Good teams don’t let their offense affect their defense.”

Senderoff said the Flashes’ 19 turnovers, which he referred to as a “ridiculous amount,” also helped lead to the team’s first conference loss at the M.A.C. Center.

“That’s not a good formula for us to be successful,” he said. “19 turnovers — that’s too many.”

Eastern Michigan scored 48 points in the paint compared to 20 from the Flashes, 22 points off turnovers compared to Kent State’s 11 and 14 fast break points. The Flashes didn’t get a single point in transition.

Senderoff said it’s expected that teams won’t gel during every second of the season, but that his team’s lack of togetherness, competitive spirit and cohesion reminded him of a nonconference game.

“I thought we were past that at this point in the year, but obviously we’re not,” Senderoff said. “We’re home. We should have more energy, coming off a loss… It’s almost like we beat Buffalo a couple weeks ago, and that’s enough. It’s not what a good team does. That’s the bottom line.”

“If we want to be a good team, we have to play every game like it’s a huge, huge game with the importance of winning ahead of anything else. We just didn’t do that.”

Walker led the Flashes with 24 points on 8-for-16 shooting, including 6-for-13 from beyond the arc. Danny Pippen added 13 points, all in the second half, and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Freshman forward BJ Duling scored 11 points, his most in a conference game this season.

Adonis De La Rosa pulled down 13 rebounds despite only scoring five points. Kevin Zabo also struggled, shooting 1-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range for two points.

Jackson led the Eagles with 17 points, and Minnie added 15. Thompson IV, who entered the game first in the MAC in shooting percentage (68 percent) and second in the country in rebounding (12.2 per game) scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Kent State returns to action in another road test against Ball State (15-9, 6-5 MAC) at 9 p.m. Friday at Worthen Arena. The Flashes beat the Cardinals, 88-80, in overtime the last time the two teams met Jan. 23.

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]