Turnovers plague Kent State early in MAC play

Nick Buzzelli

After Kent State dropped its second straight MAC game and fell to 1-2 overall in league play on Jan. 10, head coach Rob Senderoff continually emphasized his team’s main relapse – turnovers – during his postgame press conference following the 74-70 overtime loss to Northern Illinois University.

But this setback hasn’t been isolated to one game in particular. After knocking off Ball State University via a 31-31 performance from the free throw line on Jan. 3, the Flashes’ productive play tapered off and the number of turnovers committed continually rose in its following three contests.

“You can’t win games with 23 turnovers, you just can’t consistently. Earlier in the season we were having four turnovers in a game, eight turnovers in a game. 21 against Ohio, 23 tonight,” Senderoff said after the NIU game. “These numbers are staggeringly bad for us to be able to win. We got to fix it.”

Although Kent State coughed up the ball an average of 13.3 times per game during its non-conference schedule, that number increased to approximately 18 in its first four league games. And the 23 turnovers committed at home against the Huskies is tied with two other MAC teams for the most in a single league game this season.

Six times this year, Kent State has had more assists than turnovers in a game – including a season-low four turnovers against Niagara University on Dec. 7 – but following the Ohio game, in which the Flashes had nearly two turnovers for every assist, the unforced errors have been adding up.

 “I feel, right now, we’re hanging our heads still from the last loss in Ohio. And we need to just leave that in the past and focus on what’s right in front of us, try to kind of create a system instead of just getting lost in the system and get the win because that’s all it comes down to,” said redshirt senior Deon Edwin, who had four assists and one turnover against Northern Illinois. “Nobody wants to cheer for losers. Everybody wants to cheer for winners.”

However, part of the reason why MAC teams have had early defensive success against Kent State can also be attributed to the familiarity these programs – that play one another once, or in some instances twice, per season – have with the players in their league. Because of this, opponents are aware of player and team weaknesses and try to exploit them.

Recently, redshirt senior Jimmy Hall, the Flashes’ leading scorer averaging 16.8 points per game, has had difficulty in the low post whenever he is double-teamed. Against Northern Illinois, Hall was doubled for a majority of his 31 minutes on the court and committed four turnovers while shooting 1-6 from the field.

In the following game, though, a 92-88 loss at Western Michigan University, Hall tallied 24 points, but committed three turnovers while only recording one assist.

“They’re converging on (Hall) and he’s got to move the ball and get it on the second one when there’s rotations because the first game in the league he had five assists, zero turnovers,” Senderoff said. “It’s tough to double him when he’s passing the ball so well but when he’s not, it’s just getting harder and harder for him. And it will continue if he doesn’t move the ball.”

Correcting his team’s turnover woes is something Senderoff said he will try to accomplish moving forward, especially with a four-game stretch at the end of the month that features games against Buffalo University, Toledo University, Northern Illinois and Central Michigan University, which is led by Marcus Keene – a Youngstown State University transfer who is the top scorer in the nation, averaging 29.3 points per game.

“It certainly seems like we’re trying to do too much individually,” he said. “That’s what I see and we got to fix that. Trust each other more. We’re turning the ball over too much, trying to do too much individually and that’s across the board.”

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