Men’s basketball coach talks strategy for season improvements

Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff reacts as Jimmy Hall makes a basket during the first half of the MAC Tournament game against the University of Akron on Thursday, March 12, 2015, in Quicken Loans Arena. The Flashes fell to the Zips, 53-51.

Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff reacts as Jimmy Hall makes a basket during the first half of the MAC Tournament game against the University of Akron on Thursday, March 12, 2015, in Quicken Loans Arena. The Flashes fell to the Zips, 53-51.

Stephen Means II

Kent State’s record early this season is a mirror image of its play on the court as far as head coach Rob Senderoff is concerned. After five games, the team is 3-2 and has shown flashes of just how good they can be, while also showing that there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“We’ve done a great job rebounding, and we’ve done a great job taking care of the basketball,” Senderoff said. “We still need to be better defensively in the half court and do a better job getting guys off the three-point line.”

The three-point line proved to be deadly for Kent State in its loss to Pittsburgh (4-1) last Saturday. The Panthers shot 10-of-16 from three in a 85-76 win.

Two players this season have been selected as Mid-American Conference Player of the week in senior Chris Ortiz and junior Jimmy Hall. Only once was a player selected for this honor during the 2014-15 season and that came during the final week of the season.

“It’s good for these guys to get some recognition,” Senderoff said.

Following a standout performance in the season opener against Youngstown State University, 12 points and 16 rebounds, Ortiz was moved to the role of sixth man in place of freshman Jaylin Walker.

“I thought that after our Marist (1-3) game, I didn’t think he’d play quite as hard as he had been playing on the first two games,” Senderoff said. “Chris is going to play, and whether he starts or he doesn’t start, he’s going to play a lot and needs to play well for us to win.”

This isn’t the first time Senderoff has changed his lineup in order to bring an experienced senior in with the second unit. Last season he decided to take then-senior Kris Brewer off the bench, which led to him being named MAC Sixth Man of the Year.

Overall, both Senderoff and Hall agree that although the team still has a lot to work on, they have found things the team can continue to build on, as well.

“I think there’s room for growth,” Senderoff said. “I think that these four games coming up are really similar to what we are going to see in the MAC. B-minus or a C-plus is what I’d give us.”

Hall echoed the comments of his coach prior to Thursday afternoon’s practice.

“I would probably give both myself and the team a seven right now,” said Hall, who is averaging 17 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

The Flashes will play against Cleveland State (2-5) on Saturday in a game that Senderoff believes will be a tough contest.

“It’s really going to test us in a number of ways,” Senderoff said. “When you play Pitt, Marist and Youngstown State, those teams don’t really turn teams over. Cleveland State is one of the best teams in the country at turning teams over and creating steals Our ability to have poise is going to be tested differently than any game we’ve played so far.”

The Vikings are coming into the game averaging eight steals per game with freshman guard Rob Edward leading the way with 2.3 steals per game. 

Tip-off is at 3 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Contact Stephen Means at sme[email protected].