Kent State routs Division III Hiram

Hiram+kneeling

Hiram kneeling

Nick Buzzelli

As Rob Senderoff walked to the post-game media press conference in room 298 of the Kent State M.A.C. Center Friday night, he told freshman guard Mitch Peterson that the game of basketball has a way of humbling a player the minute they start to think they’re really good.

Even though his team had just routed Division III opponent Hiram College, 111-55, Senderoff had to remind his players to stay modest about the 56-point victory.

Because, in his mind, if his team becomes arrogant about its play on the court, things won’t go its way.

“For us, we really got to try to know what helped us be successful, but really not focus on, ‘Okay, we won by X number of points,’” said Senderoff, who is in his ninth season as head coach. “We got to stay humble and focused and know that we have a tough road ahead and a lot of games ahead of us.”

Five Kent State (3-0) players scored in double-figures, including redshirt senior Jimmy Hall — the game’s leading scorer with 22 — and the team out-rebounded the Terriers, 58-32, en route to its highest margin of victory since 1998.

“We always want to get off to a good start. It’s part of our plan before the game to hit (the opponent) hard in the beginning and everything after that will play out. And it did for us tonight,” said Peterson, who recorded 12 points and three steals in his third collegiate game.

“Coach just told us to be solid the whole game, just stick to our principles. And that’s what we did,” Peterson added. “We focused on rebounding this game. We knew we had an advantage, and we took advantage of that, and it showed.”

The Flashes began the game on a 28-5 run during the first nine minutes of play and never let up, shooting 48.1 percent from the floor while limiting Hiram to only 28 points in the paint.

Despite the fact that Kent State and Hiram — which are separated by 19 miles — played twice per season from 1932-43 as part of their affiliation with the Ohio Athletic Conference, the two schools were able to renew the series thanks to the Gulf Coast Showcase. This allows participating teams to schedule one Division III opponent before beginning tournament play.

So when Senderoff needed a Division III team to play, he knew who to turn to.

“The coach (Chris Kibler) is a friend and he comes to some of our elite camps to watch prospects and his assistant coach (Cory Grimes) was a graduate assistant here. And they’re local,” Senderoff said. “A lot of those kids, they all dream of playing at a Division I school. They get an opportunity to do that and Kyle Deckerd gets to say when he’s 40 that he scored 11 points against Kent State.”

While he was impressed with what he saw on the stat sheet, Senderoff said there’s still areas of his team’s game that need to be addressed before taking on South Dakota, Northeastern and either Houston or George Mason over Thanksgiving break.

“We still have a lot of room for improvement, though, and tonight may not be the best day to talk about all the room for improvement because of the score,” Senderoff said. “But there’s a lot of room for improvement and we’ve got to continue to get better.”

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