New and improved men’s basketball looks like same old Flashes in loss to CMU Chippewas

Richard Mulhall

Just when things were looking up and beginning to turn around for them, the Kent State men’s basketball team broke down and fell apart yet again.

After the Flashes (12-10, 3-6 Mid-American Conference) took a commanding 32-25 lead into halftime Wednesday night against the Central Michigan Chippewas (8-13, 1-8 MAC) at McGuirk Arena, late-game blunders and a shaky second-half performance cost them the lead and eventually the game.

Central Michigan proved to be too much for the Flashes to handle in the second half and topped Kent State 78-73 in overtime.

The Chippewas picked up their first conference victory, and the Flashes dropped to 3-6 in the conference. Kent State is now 3-7 in its last 10 league games.

“It’s frustrating for our coaching staff watching how we play at times,” Kent State Coach Rob Senderoff said about Wednesday night’s loss in the post-game press conference. “We played phenomenal against Akron. We played as hard as can be against Toledo. We played and competed at a very high level in both of those games. Our consistency of effort just isn’t there, and it’s frustrating. You just can’t explain it.”

After going scoreless in the game for the first 39 minutes of play, sophomore guard K.K. Simmons burst onto the scene and drilled two straight three-pointers to tie the game at 61, and the game eventually went into overtime.

In the extra session, the Flashes and Chippewas went back and forth, and a pair of threes from junior guards Kris Brewer and Kellon Thomas brought Kent State within one point of the lead. But in the end, however, the Flashes were forced to foul and send the Chippewas to the line.

After four made free-throw attempts and missed three-pointers from sophomore guard Derek Jackson and senior forward Darren Goodson, Central Michigan pulled away with the four-point victory.

Kent State shot an astounding 58.3 percent from the field on 14-24 shooting in the first half. The Flashes only made one free throw of four, but managed to shoot an improved 33.3 percent from beyond the arc on a 3-9 three-point shooting effort.

Sophomore guards Derek Jackson and Kris Brewer led the Flashes’ charge in the first with eight and nine points respectively, and Brewer shot 80 percent from the field.

When the second half began, the Flashes still appeared in control, but they began to struggle once the Chippewas finally settled down and got their bearings.

With 18:40 left in regulation, Kent State had built up a nine-point lead, but then blew that lead after allowing Central Michigan sophomore forward John Simons to drain three straight three-pointers.

Simons continued to pick Kent State’s defense apart and gave the Flashes a hard time all night long as he went on to score a team-leading 22 points on a staggering 6-11 three-point shooting performance.

“John Simons played a heck of a game,” Senderoff said. “He made a lot of threes. We struggle, too, with perimeter guys that shoot. Good for them. They deserve to win.”

Kent State turned the ball over nine more times in the second half compared to Central Michigan’s two turnovers.

Overall, the Flashes scored only nine points off turnovers, but the Chippewas scored 22 of their 78 points — almost 30 percent of their total points — off Kent State turnovers.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Senderoff said about the team’s inconsistency in recent weeks. “In the first half tonight, we’re flying all over the place and [the Chippewas] have nine turnovers. In the second half and overtime, they combined for just two. We had four guards on the floor for the majority of the game and had 18 turnovers. It’s hard to win games that way.”

One of the reasons Kent State’s turnover ratio was so askew was because of the pressure Central Michigan’s defense put on guards like Thomas and sophomore Devareaux Manley, whose combined turnovers accounted for seven of Kent State’s 18 total turnovers. Central Michigan played a full-court press defense throughout the game.

“For the last two days, we worked on our press offense in practice because we knew that’s what they were going to run,” Senderoff said. “We struggled against the press late in the game against Akron as well. We have to run the baseline, we have to cut, and we have to get open and flash to the ball.

“We have to do things with some urgency,” Senderoff said. “We’ll watch it on film, and I hope we get better at it because we have nine more games to play and we’re going to get pressed in just about all of them.”

The Flashes will stay in Michigan this weekend and head to Ypsilanti for a Saturday afternoon contest against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (12-10, 4-5 MAC). Tip-off is at 2 p.m.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].