OPINION: After 2 games, men’s basketball is on track to bring March Madness back to Kent

Dante Centofanti Sports writer

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is early. Just two weeks into this unique college basketball season and our Golden Flashes have already had two of their four scheduled games cancelled against Alcorn State and Purdue Fort Wayne. Kent State had its expected 90-41 victory against NAIA Point Park in an empty M.A.C. Center. We saw transfers like Michael Nuga and Justyn Hamilton for the first time. Next, the Flashes lost 71-64 in overtime Friday night against one of the great powers in college basketball in recent years, the Virginia Cavaliers. Both transfers were among the best players on the floor. Nuga, a Portland State transfer, dropped 20 points with six rebounds. Temple transfer Hamilton had 12 points with five rebounds. 

This is just two games, and coach Rob Senderoff stressed that Saturday afternoon as his team was on the bus returning from Charlottesville.

“I don’t want to read too much into one game,” he said. “The key for good teams is to do that night in and night out.”

In his tenth year as one of the premier coaches in the mid-major realm of Division I college basketball, Senderoff has one of his better teams. Despite a blow of Anthony Roberts transferring to St. Bonaventure this past off-season, the Flashes were able to make valuable additions on the other end of the transfer portal. If the team can get the type of production from Hamilton and Nuga it got last Friday night at John Paul Jones Arena, they could very well be on track to head back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.

Another new face who made key plays was Malique Jacobs. The transfer from Indian Hills CC and native of Wilmington, North Carolina (the hometown of Michael Jordan) made a key play with 10 seconds left in the second half. He dove for a loose ball out of bounds and deflected it off a Virginia defender giving the Flashes the ball back with 5.2 seconds left. That play put Danny Pippen in position to hit the game tying three as time expired. 

“Big-time extra play by him,” Senderoff said. “Those are the type of things  (Jacobs) brings to the team. He gave us an extra chance to tie it.”

The No. 15 Cavaliers are off to a rough start. After suffering a loss to San Francisco in the HomeLight Classic Tournament in Connecticut, the ‘Hoos are not looking anything like the 2019 National Champions so far. Virginia coach Tony Bennett told the Washington Post that there were many times in the game Kent State was fortunate to have things go their way.

“They exploited some things at times,” Bennett said. “They hit a couple tough or fortunate shots that were kind of back breakers, and could have been the difference.”

Senderoff stressed that his team was not influenced by San Francisco’s win at all in terms of the game plan going into Friday, and Senderoff recognized Tony Bennett’s success in the sport.

“We try to play the way Kent State plays,” Senderoff said. “Whether Virginia beat San Francisco by 50 or lost, we play our game coming in. This was a great game, and they (Virginia) have a great program. Tony Bennett will be a hall of fame coach. We felt we should have won but they made the big plays at the end.”

The Flashes are on the road in Motown Tuesday to play Horizon League opponent Detroit Mercy. Tip off is at 7 p.m. at Calihan Hall.

Dante Centofanti is a sports writer. Contact him at [email protected]


Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.