Flashes snap four-game skid with rout of Toledo

Thousands of Kent State students, family and local residents turn out for the first home game of the spring semester on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Renovations and new branding were unveiled for the women and men’s basketball programs, as well as the M.A.C. Center. 

Nick Buzzelli

From here on out, Rob Senderoff wants to take it one game at a time. The Kent State head coach isn’t looking ahead to the two upcoming contests near the end of the season against rival Akron, the Mid-American Conference’s first place team, nor is he concerned about climbing back into the MAC’s East Division race.

This week, following Tuesday’s 13-point loss to Buffalo, Senderoff echoed that sentiment to his 15 players, reminding them to just worry about the task at hand and not what lies ahead.

In this case, it meant focusing on stopping Toledo, which owns the league’s second highest scoring offense.

And Saturday, the Golden Flashes (10-9, 2-4) did just that, limiting UT to 36.7 percent from the field and holding its leading scorer, Jonathan Williams, to 15 points on a 3-12 performance from the field as they snapped their four-game losing streak with an 85-61 rout of the Rockets (10-9, 3-3) at the M.A.C. Center.

“The thing we told our guys, you can’t do anything about where we were. Everyone asks, ‘Do you think you can get back in the race?’ We’re not even thinking about that,” Senderoff said after the win. “We just got to think about one game and try to win our next game.”

Redshirt seniors Jimmy Hall and Deon Edwin combined for 50 of the Flashes’ 85 points in 32 and 35 minutes, respectively and led Kent State on a 13-6 run early in the second half that helped put the game out of reach.

While both teams matched one another shot-for-shot during the initial stages of the game,  the Flashes took the lead for good via an Edwin three pointer at the 11:01 mark of the first frame.

An 11-3 Kent State run five minutes later widened the gap to 10 and sophomore Adonis De La Rosa’s fade away jumper at the buzzer put the Flashes ahead, 38-24, heading into the locker room.

Kent State led by as many as 25 midway through the second and out-rebounded the Rockets, 18-7, during the final 20 minutes of play to seal the win heading into a rematch with Northern Illinois Tuesday night.

“These past five games have hopefully just been a wakeup call for us to see that we have to come out here and play with unbelievable toughness and do what we do …” said Hall, who cracked the Top-10 in scoring in program history with his 27 points on 12-20 from the floor. “We just think of it as a clean slate. We’re 1-0 now and we’re not going to think about those past games. We’re just going to keep on winning.”

After committing a total of 70 turnovers during the losing streak, an average of 17.5 per game, Kent State limited its unforced errors and had more assists than turnovers for the seventh time this season.  

Edwin, with a career-high 23 points, attributed the win to the fact that his team corrected the simple mistakes that plagued the team early in conference play.  

“The last couple games, we had too (many) turnovers, wasn’t rebounding the ball like we’re used to, just stuff we had to correct,” he said. “We corrected that tonight.”

Prior to tip-off, Kent State President Beverly Warren unveiled a new fan experience, which included new signage, a two minute hype video that was shown on a drop down curtain from the overhead scoreboard and officially naming the student section as the “MACC Maniacs.”

The enthusiasm surrounding the surprise announcement brought in a sellout crowd, the first since Kent State knocked off Akron, 85-76, last season.

“With all the incredible fans, we had to do our part,” Senderoff said. “It (the atmosphere) was great to see.”

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