Late-season struggles continue as Eastern Michigan Eagles shell slumping Flashes 70-53

Richie Mulhall

There’s a first time for everything —unfortunately for the Kent State men’s basketball team, some firsts aren’t as sweet as others.

The Eastern Michigan men’s basketball team had not beaten the Flashes (12-11, 3-7 MAC) since February of 1998, and the Eagles possessed a 17-game losing streak to Kent State  —that is, until Saturday night’s game.

After the Flashes fell behind by 10 points in the first half of their road game against Eastern Michigan Saturday night, they continued to struggle the rest of the evening.

There were long periods of time in both halves during which the Flashes were unable to score, allowing the Eagles to pour on the points and defeat Kent State 70-53.

In the post-game press conference, Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff voiced his team’s frustration —and his own personal dissatisfaction—with the ongoing struggles that continue to doom the Flashes night after night.

“We’re just not playing well right now,” Senderoff said. “It’s frustrating—confidence, playing together, competing hard—all those things just aren’t clicking for this team, and it’s obviously disappointing.”

It was a close game between the two MAC adversaries until the Flashes failed to score during a seven-minute stretch in the first half. The Eagles took a 35-25 lead into the break.

For the first time this season, sophomore guard and leading scorer Kris Brewer, who averages 11.7 points per game, did not get the nod at the starting point guard position.

Senderoff said he hoped to get Brewer out of his current slump by bringing his energy off the bench.

The plan did not work out the way Senderoff intended.

Brewer played perhaps his worst game of the season, shooting 1-10 from the field and 0-7 from three-point range in 23 minutes of work. In the first half, Brewer scored his first and only two points off of a jumper with 26 seconds left to play in the half. He did not score another point the rest of the night.

“Kris Brewer has been struggling and struggled again tonight,” Senderoff said. “I wanted to shake things up to get him out of his funk. I’m also trying to make sure to get some guys experience that need to get experience. And I’m trying to reward some of the guys that practice hard everyday and will compete hard.”

After trailing by 10 points at the conclusion of the first half, the Flashes perked up to start the second half with a 7-0 run that whittled away the Eagles lead down to three.

“We defended better coming out of halftime and were able to get out in transition,” Senderoff said.

Kent State’s early second-half surge, though, proved short-lived.

“When we were able to get it down to three, they responded with back-to-back transition baskets,” Senderoff said. “Our transition defense is not good right now.”

The Eagles took their lead right back and rebuilt their double-digit advantage after the Flashes only scored two points over a four-minute period.

Kent State tried to keep shooting the three-ball in the second half in an attempt to trim down the lead, but the team was not hitting anything.

Granted, the Eagles contested a number of the Flashes attempted threes, but that does not excuse the exasperating number missed wide-open three-pointers Senderoff witnessed.

“I’ll give them credit for contesting some of our perimeter shots, but when you have wide open ones, you have to make them and we didn’t do that tonight,” he said.

By the end of the game, the three-point column in Kent State’s stat book looked pretty ugly.

The Flashes shot 15.4 percent from beyond the arc on a 4-of-26 three-point shooting outing. Even when it became clear that three-pointer just was not falling Saturday night, the Flashes kept trying despite the unproductive results.

“We’re a team that has shot a lot of threes over the course of the season,” Senderoff said. “When we’re making them, we have a chance to win. And on nights like tonight when we shoot 4-for-26, we aren’t going to beat many teams.”

In addition to the Flashes’ three-point shooting woes, Kent State’s inside presence appeared weak at times, and the Eagles exacerbated Kent State’s efforts to work the ball inside.

Eastern Michigan outscored Kent State 30-18 in points in the paint.

“We want to get the ball inside, but their length bothered us,” he said. “They had eight blocks tonight. We have to do a better job of finishing when we get it inside.”

After a rough go of it on the road during the past couple of games, the Flashes will return home to the M.A.C. Center to host the Bowling Green Falcons on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].