Men’s basketball looks for redemption next season

Senior+center+Khaliq+Spicer+fights+for+position+against+University+of+Akron%E2%80%99s+sophomore+forward+Kwan+Cheatham+at+James+A.+Rhodes+Arena+on+Friday%2C+March+4%2C+2016.

Senior center Khaliq Spicer fights for position against University of Akron’s sophomore forward Kwan Cheatham at James A. Rhodes Arena on Friday, March 4, 2016.

Zac Sommer

The Kent State men’s basketball team looked like they were going to have a promising year after the Flashes finished non-conference play 9-4 and started out with a 6-1 record in the Mid-American Conference 

“I felt we had a good start to the year,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “It was a really positive way to start to the conference season.”

The season then took a turn, as freshman guard Jaylin Walker and senior guard Xavier Pollard were both injured in the same week, causing the Flashes to drop their next three games to Ohio University, Central Michigan University and Toledo University at the start of February.

“It’s impossible to know exactly what would have happened if they did play,” Senderoff said. “When Xavier got hurt, we were 15-5 and 6-1 in the league, and at the time we were in first place. We really struggled from that point on after he got hurt. Walker missed a great deal of time and (redshirt junior guard) Deon Edwin, who played – but got injured as well – recently just got surgery on his knee after the season ended.

Senderoff said that, on some level, the players injuries took a toll on the team’s performance.

“It’s disappointing it happened that way because I thought our season really had a lot of promise after how we started, but from that point on we really struggled to regain momentum,” he said.

Redshirt junior Kellon Thomas said he felt that the game against the Bobcats was a turning point for the Flashes.

“It impacted us at a mental standpoint than actually as far as our depth,” Thomas said. “When the two got hurt, we kind of focused on them and (made) sure they were okay. We tried to switch our game plan up a little bit and that just wasn’t us. It took us a little bit to find ourselves again and get back on track.” 

Kent State would finish the regular season 4-4, winning their last four home games over Northern Illinois University, Western Michigan University, rival University of Akron and Bowling Green State University on senior night.

“Beating Akron at home was probably our best win once Xavier and Walker got hurt,” Senderoff said. “Winning on senior night was a great night for our guys. Looking back at the two, I would say those were some of the better moments this season.”

The Flashes were seeded fifth heading into the M.A.C. tournament, and later saw No. 12 seed Bowling Green again at the M.A.C. Center for a play-in game.

After a slow second half, the Flashes went on to lose 70-69 to the Falcons, ending Kent State’s hopes of moving deeper into the M.A.C. tournament.

“We had just beaten them a week prior on senior night,” Senderoff said. “We played really hard against Bowling Green in the conference tournament, but we couldn’t get a shot to fall. They made every big play they needed to make in order to win that game and ultimately, it was a really disappointing loss.”

Kent State chose not to participate in any postseason tournaments after the M.A.C. tournament, as Edwin recently had knee surgery in addition to Pollard and Walker’s injuries.

The Flashes are graduating four seniors this year, including Pollard, Khaliq Spicer, Chris Ortiz and Galal Cancer. However, they will retain two-time All-MAC First Team Selection Jimmy Hall and Thomas, the team’s second leading scorer who averaged 12.3 points per game last season.

“I think it will be more of my job next year to help lead this team,” Thomas said. “People might not see how good our team was by our record and how we finished, but I definitely think this is one of the best teams we have had in a long time.”

Zac Sommer is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]