Basketball continues winning, learning over break


Kent State sophomore forward Marquiez Lawrence goes up for a basket during the MAC opener game against Bowling Green on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. The Flashes lost the game 64-66.

Jimmy Miller

A new year can signify a clean slate for college students, but the men’s basketball team doesn’t need one as it carries a winning record, and perhaps more notably, experience, into 2015.

“We’ve tried to maintain competing at a high level and at the same time trying to get guys experience that will help them here in (Mid-American Conference) play,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “I think January will be a very telling month to see if we will continue to improve or if we’ve leveled off.”

Kent State (10-5, 1-1 MAC) entered conference play Wednesday versus Bowling Green, and although the team dropped a heartbreaker to the Falcons, 66-64, the Flashes still reflected positively on their work over winter break.

Their latest matchup came on the road Saturday at Northern Illinois and resulted in Kent’s first conference win in a narrow 67-65 ballgame.

Senderoff said prior to the game, the Flashes needed to have a short memory in order to move forward in the conference.

“The goal here is to just not let (a loss) snowball into two, three games,” Senderoff said. “You look at the plays you can control and hope that your guys learn that…you can’t take a possession off.”

The Flashes entered winter break fresh off a victory over Kennesaw State, and have since posted a 5-3 record, including a victory over 2014 NCAA tournament third-rounder North Dakota State. Behind redshirt sophomore forward Jimmy Hall’s offensive leadership, who averages 14.9 points a game, the Flashes offense has outscored opponents 526-505 since break began.

Senderoff readily admits winning over break was nice but said one of the greatest experiences came Dec. 30 in what resulted in a 16 point loss.

The Flashes traveled to the University of Kansas, and at game time, the Jayhawks were ranked 13th in the nation. The Flashes had an advantage at several points throughout the first half, but Senderoff said his squad ultimately ran out of gas.

“Kansas is one of the bluebloods of college basketball,” Senderoff said. “We were in the game, well within striking distance until about the seven minute mark. We competed very, very well out there.”

While statisticians may mark the loss as Kent State’s worst of the season, Senderoff said the team left Allen Fieldhouse—a venue that seats 9,973 more than the M.A.C. Center — feeling confident that they could hang around with one of the best in the business.

“I thought that game helped our kids’ confidence, knowing that (Kansas) has three or four future (National Basketball Association) players on their team and knowing that we can compete in that type of environment,” Senderoff said. 

The experience may come in handy at critical times for the Flashes, as the MAC appears to be eager to make some noise around the country this season.

Other teams, such as the University at Buffalo or the University of Toledo, squared off with perennial March contenders over break as well. The Bulls took on the undefeated University of Kentucky, while the Rockets competed with Duke University.

Eastern Michigan, another MAC team, even managed to edge Michigan University 45-42, a team the Eagles had only beaten two times before despite the annual matchup with its in-state rival.

“The league is very good from top-to-bottom,” Senderoff said. “There are no nights you cannot play at a high level.”

The Flashes seek to continue what they built during winter break Wednesday night at the MAC Center, vying for a win over Eastern Michigan.

“We certainly missed not having the students there over break,” Senderoff said. “I know our kids are excited to have everybody back here cheering them on.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].