Flashes look to turn things around in second look at Northern Illinois

Richie Mulhall

After a tough, heartbreaking loss to the first-place Toledo Rockets Sunday night, the Kent State men’s basketball team (11-7, 2-4 MAC) will look to regroup this week as they get set to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies (7-11, 1-5 MAC) for the second time this season.

The Flashes lost much of the fire they started the season with and hope to rekindle some of it starting with a home matchup against their cross-border rival.

Kent State will also look to get some redemption on its home court after losing 75-59 in its last home stand against Western Michigan (11-7, 4-2 MAC) Thursday, Jan. 23.

In that game, the Flashes shot a mere 32.3 percent from the field and an even worse 24.1 percent from three-point range.

Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff acknowledged that his team did not play well at all last Thursday against the Broncos and said he expects his team to fight hard for the win they so desperately need right now after three straight losses to Buffalo, Western Michigan and most recently, Toledo.

“We did not play well at all last time at home,” Senderoff said. “It was really disappointing in a lot of aspects, but I think our guys will come out with a lot of fire on Wednesday. That’s my hope.”

The Flashes certainly brought a lot of firepower to their game against the Rockets Sunday, as they held their own against the number one team in the MAC’s West division.

The team shot better than it has in three games, shooting 48.4 percent from the field and dropping seven threes in a 35 percent three-point shooting effort.

“We made a more conscious effort to make sure we were scoring off assisted baskets, which we did a great job of with 17 team assists,” Senderoff said. “We really were looking to make plays for each other.”

Toledo leads the MAC in field goal percentage (.483) and ranks second among conference teams in three-point field goal percentage (.355), but in Sunday’s game, Kent State stepped up its defense and held Toledo’s powerhouse offense to 45.6 percent shooting and only 20 percent from beyond the arc. 

“We certainly competed at a really high level,” Senderoff said.  “They’re the best team in the league, and we went toe-to-toe with them and had an opportunity to win.”

Senderoff said he thought the team played well, but it would be foul trouble that would ultimately cost the Flashes in the end.

The battle-tested Kent State squad secured a commanding 63-57 lead with nine minutes to play but also committed a number of erroneous, detrimental fouls that doomed the team down the stretch.

Toledo’s repeated trips to the line resulted in a 27-9 disparity of points from the free throw line.  The Rockets took a total of 39 trips to the line, while the Flashes only saw 14 looks at the hoop from the foul line.

“There was a big discrepancy [from the free throw line] and that I think certainly played into the outcome,” Senderoff said.  “It’s hard to recover from that on the road.”

Now that the Flashes are back home to host the Huskies, Senderoff said the team has been watching film of the first time Kent State played Northern Illinois this season. In that game on Thursday, Jan.15, the Flashes came from behind and topped the Huskies in an overtime thriller inside the NIU Convocation Center. 

Junior guard Devareaux Manley nailed the clutch, game-saving three-point shot that pushed the turnaround game into overtime.

In overtime, Kent State ran away with game and defeated Northern Illinois 73-64 in its first MAC road game of the season.

Senderoff said he hopes the Flashes can repeat their success against the Huskies in terms of winning, but in the same token said his team needs to tweak a couple of things in order to execute better on both sides of the ball this time around.

“I thought we competed very hard and I thought the guys made the most of their opportunities,” Senderoff said of the Flashes’ last game against Toledo.  “We just have to build on that in terms of effort and try to get better moving forward.”

Both the Flashes and Huskies are hoping to snap their current losing streaks – Kent State has dropped three straight, and Northern Illinois is on a four-game skid, suffering its most recent 75-67 loss to the Buffalo Bulls this past Saturday at home.

Wednesday’s M.A.C. Center action will begin at 7 p.m.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].