With the MAC tournament just a week away, the Kent State men’s basketball team will continue to vie for a first-round home game as it gets set to host the Miami Redhawks Tuesday inside the M.A.C. Center.
The stakes will be high on Senior Night with only one game left to decide seeding in the conference tournament and the two teams tied for the fourth spot in the MAC East.
The Flashes (16-13, 7-9 Mid-American Conference) are coming off a statement-sending 75-61-road victory over Ohio University this past Saturday. The win was the team’s largest margin of victory since Dec. 1, when the Flashes, who had not even started conference play yet at the time, trumped Kennesaw State 68-51 at home.
In Saturday’s matchup in Athens, Kent State racked up points against Ohio early on in the contest and maintained its lead for most of the game.
Junior guards Devareaux Manley, who scored 17 points, Kris Brewer and Derek Jackson combined for 28, leading the Flashes in the scoring department on a combined 9-of-13 shooting effort from beyond the arc.
Kent State also shot 10-11 from the foul line and crashed the boards well enough to own a 42-29 shooting advantage over the Bobcats.
“I’m proud of the way we played and proud of the way we bounced back after two tough games [against Buffalo and Bowling Green],” said Rob Senderoff, men;s head basketball coach of Saturday’s win.
Now, despite Kent State’s recent success against good teams like Ohio and Akron, it is no secret that the Flashes have had their fair share of problems in the MAC this season — Kent State lost five league games in a row Jan. 18-29 — but their win against a 19-10 Bobcats team this past weekend may be just what the skeptic ordered.
Senderoff said a win against Ohio just before Senior Night will definitely serve as a confidence booster before Tuesday’s game against a hungry Miami team.
As the MAC tournament looms over the heads of 12 teams all contending to claim the coveted, post-season prize that is the MAC Championship, Kent State must win its game against Miami this Tuesday in order to put themselves in a prime position to play at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, which is the location of this year’s MAC tournament.
Senderoff said he and his team know how important Tuesday night’s game is against Miami. If the Flashes can find a way to sweep Miami this week, there is a viable chance they will play them again at home for the first round of the MAC tournament.
“Each game is important obviously as we head down the stretch of the season,” Senderoff said. “We need to win games to get home games in the conference tournament, so each game is important tomorrow.”
The last time Kent State played Miami, the Flashes won on the road 75-63. In that game, Kent State’s offense was firing on all cylinders, and Brewer was the main reason for it.
He was lights out from three-point range, draining all seven of his attempted three-pointers en route to a career-tying 28-point performance.
Brewer has since moved back into the starting lineup and will most likely start Tuesday night.
Senderoff said his team will have to take care of the basketball, alluding to Miami’s ability to put a lot of pressure on Kent State’s offense via the full court press.
“We have to make sure our transition defense is good,” Senderoff said. “That was one area we struggled with against them last game, and then we have to rebound the ball on both ends. We out-rebounded them last time, and we’re going to have to do that again.”
Miami is coming off a rough 78-55 loss to Buffalo Saturday afternoon and will look to respond with a win against the Flashes to spoil their Senior Night just as Kent State spoiled Ohio’s Senior Night.
“We beat them last time at home, and now they’re gonna try to come here and beat us at our house, and we can’t let that happen,” said senior forward Darren Goodson. “We gotta come ready to play like it’s any other game.”
Tuesday’s tipoff is at 7 p.m.
Tuesday night’s game is Senior Night for the Flashes, and senior forwards Darren Goodson and Mark Henniger will be recognized in a Senior Night ceremony before the start of the contest.
Goodson, an educational studies major, transferred to Kent State his junior year after playing two seasons at Pensacola State College in Florida. The Cincinnati native averages 9.3 points per game this season and ranks second on the team in rebounds with 3.9 boards per game.
Henniger, a business major, has been part of the Kent State men’s basketball program for four years now, said he is excited more than anything to play in final game in the M.A.C. Center in a blue and yellow-clad jersey emblazoned with the Golden Flash logo.
“I’m looking forward to [Tuesday’s Senior Night game],” Henniger said. “Last regular season home game, I gotta leave it all out there. I’ll be sad when it’s over, but I’m not thinking about that right now.”
A native of Massillon, Henniger averages 7.3 points per game and leads the team in rebounding with 5.1 rebounds per game this season.
Henniger returned to his starting role against Bowling Green Feb. 26 and will get the nod at starting forward again Tuesday night against the Redhawks. Senderoff said Senior Night will not only be a special night for Henniger, but also for his supportive family as well.
“Mark’s been here four years, and we recruited him when he was a high school junior, so he’s been part of the program a long time, so it’s great to see him finish the year the way he is,” Senderoff said, “and tomorrow will be a special night for him and his family who has supported him four years. They’re at every home game.”
Contact Richard Mulhall at [email protected]