Flashes looking to return to winning ways



Tim Dorst

Kent State snapped a four-game losing streak with a victory over Eastern Michigan Saturday at the M.A.C. Center, a much-needed conference win to keep pace with the rest of the Mid-American Conference. Now the Flashes are hoping to build further on that win as they hit the road against another MAC opponent.

The Flashes (12-10, 3-5 MAC) will take on West Division-leading Western Michigan at 7 p.m. Wednesday at University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The Broncos (16-7, 6-2 MAC) are currently on a six-game winning streak, with their last win coming from a decisive 71-60 victory over Buffalo on Saturday.

If Kent State is going to come away with a win against the top-tier Broncos, Flashes coach Rob Senderoff said his team will have to go into the game with the same energy it brought against EMU this past weekend.

“We’ve got to bring that every game, no matter who we play,” Senderoff said. “That’s going to be important for us. We all have to bring it every game. It takes our whole group to be successful.”

Kent State responded to a tough loss to Northern Illinois on Jan. 30 by coming out against Eastern Michigan with a renewed energy. The Flashes shot a higher percentage from the field against the Eagles then they had in recent weeks and did a better job moving the ball and finding better shots.

Senior guard Randal Holt scored 17 points and helped the Flashes close out the victory with his outstanding shooting performance. Holt said the team will have to stay mentally focused throughout Wednesday’s game and go beyond just playing hard.

“When we lost those four games, it hasn’t been because we aren’t playing hard,” Holt said. “We’re out there playing as hard as we can and giving it our all every game. We just haven’t played very well lately.”

Against a team like the Broncos, Holt knows that the Flashes will need to play as hard and as well as they have all season.

“We know we have to go up to Western Michigan and play a hard-fought, grind-it-out game,” Holt said. “We need to value every possession, just play each play like it’s the last and come away from that game with the victory.”

The Flashes rank third in the MAC in scoring with an average of 69.5 points per game, with the University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich. close behind at a 67 points-per-game average. Western Michigan has an edge in terms of rebounding, as the team’s 38.5 rebounds per game ties them with Akron for the conference lead.

Defensive rebounding is an aspect of the game that Senderoff said his team will have to address and improve, and he is looking to senior forward Chris Evans to be the initiator in that part of the game.

“We have to do a better job with that,” Senderoff said. “Chris played well against Eastern and did a lot of good things, but he had been our leading defensive rebounder and he’s got to do that for us to have any chance.”

Evans scored 15 points against the Eagles Saturday, but grabbed only four rebounds, three short of his season average. Senderoff added that Evans and freshman forward Khaliq Spicer both have the ability to grab rebounds directly off the rim.

“But [Evans] plays a lot more than Khaliq,” Senderoff said. “So he’s going to have to grab more defensive rebounds for us moving forward.”

Spicer came off the bench against Eastern Michigan and grabbed three defensive rebounds in 13 minutes of playing time.

The Flashes will also have to focus on limiting turnovers against Western Michigan.

Junior forward Darren Goodson said he thinks the team became complacent with the basketball in the latter portion of Saturday’s win.

“It felt like, against Eastern, we got a little comfortable at times, and they started taking the ball from us,” Goodson said. “We can’t have that. We were on a four-game losing streak, and nobody felt sorry for us. So we shouldn’t feel sorry for [any] one.”

While Kent State managed to get back on the winning side, Senderoff doesn’t feel the Flashes have gotten to the level of play they are capable of or the level at which they’ll need to be come tournament time.

“There’s a slim margin for this team from being very good and being very average,” Senderoff said. “We’re three possessions away from being 6-2 right now. It’s just a fine line. You got to make big plays when the game’s on the line. That’s the difference between winning and losing. Hopefully, moving forward we’ll make those kinds of plays because I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of close games coming up.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].