Avery’s point guard play helps lift Flashes out of slump


Sophomore Jalen Avery makes a three point shot against Toledo University on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

Nick Buzzelli

After his team dropped its second game in a row via an overtime loss to Northern Illinois University on Tuesday, Jan. 10, Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff had a decision to make. His team, which was averaging 18.8 turnovers over its previous five games prior to Saturday’s, had difficulty taking care of the basketball.

Sensing that a reconfiguration at the point guard position was needed, Senderoff opted to start senior Desmond Ridenour in place of junior Kevin Zabo over the next two games. Though the turnovers decreased slightly, Ridenour – who had limited experience running the point – was not getting back in time to defend fast break opportunities the other way.

Senderoff continuously watched film and self-analyzed the situation, which led him to one conclusion: While Rideonour could give him a few minutes here and there at the point, he realized he needed sophomore Jalen Avery to be the main facilitator of offense.

“Having (Ridenour) play 30 minutes a game at that positon may not be the best thing for us right now with our high turnovers,” Senderoff, who’s in his sixth season as head coach, said. “The one thing Jalen Avery does not do is turn it over. And when he’s on the court, it appears that our team doesn’t turn it over.”

In front of a sold out crowd against Toledo Saturday night, Avery – who made his eighth start of the season – notched three assists while the Flashes only committed eight turnovers, their lowest total in nine games.

Despite the fact that a majority of the offensive production was led by redshirt seniors Jimmy Hall and Deon Edwin, who combined for 50 of Kent State’s 85 points, the win was attributed to a total team effort in which Kent State received a significant amount of minutes from its entire starting lineup, including 32 from Avery and 26 and 14, respectively, from freshmen Mitch Peterson and Danny Pippen.

“It’s good to see. We try to work hard in practice and you just got to come into the game and give 100 percent,” said Hall, whose 27 points propelled him past Kyrem Massey for 10th place on the program’s all-time scoring list. “We talk about that all the time and they just came out with unbelievable effort, as they should every game.”

Edwin agreed.

“It’s a team sport. It can’t just be me and (Hall) or (Jaylin Walker) out there trying to carry the team,” said Edwin, who recorded a career-high 23 points. “We need everybody and I hope the guys in the locker room see that we need everybody to just step up and play.”

Though Senderoff appreciated Avery’s scoring, the statistic that stood out in his mind the most following the win was his rebounding from the point guard position.

“He made two three’s, which is great. But to me, the four defensive rebounds, that’s huge for a point guard to be able to defensive rebound … Those are toughness plays when you have your point guards stick their nose in there and get them,” he said. “We need everybody. But Jalen was great tonight. In my opinion, the best game that he’s played here at Kent.”

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].