Flashes basketball prepares for Temple University Owls in nationally televised game

Nick Shook

Head men’s basketball coach Rob Senderoff was pleased with his team’s performance in Friday’s season-opening victory.

Now, the coach wants to see whether it was a fluke, or a sign of more things to come.

Fresh off an upset win over Drexel, Kent State returns to the court to host another school from Philadelphia, Pa., at noon in the M.A.C. Center. The Flashes will take on the Temple Owls in an unusual early start as part of ESPN’s fifth annual 24-hour College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

Kent State overcame an eight-point deficit Friday night to force overtime and defeat Drexel, a team picked by many as a preseason favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association. It was the second straight season-opening win for Kent State under Senderoff; the Flashes opened the 2011-12 season with a 70-60 road victory at West Virginia.

After viewing the game’s film, Senderoff was impressed by the activity of junior forward Mark Henniger, who finished with two points and a career-high eight rebounds. While the statistics may not show it, Henniger made a major impact on the outcome of the game, Senderoff said.

“[Henniger] covered up for so many defensive things throughout the game,” Senderoff said. “Every ball screen, and every hand off, he was in the right position. He took a charge. I think he dove on the floor six times.”

But after one impressive performance, Henniger’s play in the next game is even more important to the head coach.

“He’s going to need to continue to do that,” Senderoff said. “That’s a formula for him to be successful, it’s a formula for us to be successful, and he did a very good job.”

Forward Chris Evans, who averaged 21 minutes per game in 2011-12, is adjusting to his new role within the team after serving as its sixth man off the bench last season. The senior captain garnered Mid-American Conference East division Player of the Week honors after scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds in 31 minutes of action against Drexel.

Randal Holt scored 17 points, 15 of which coming in the second half and overtime, in 39 minutes of action. Holt missed much of preseason practice and was playing in his first real game action since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee during the off-season. The effect of the time away showed on Saturday.

“He was sore, his whole body, I think, was tired two days ago,” Senderoff said during Monday’s press conference. “He was much better [Sunday]. Two days ago, I thought he got hit by a Mack truck. Yesterday, he was back to being normal.”

Senderoff will likely limit Holt’s minutes today and in the near future, unless the team absolutely needs him on the floor like it did Friday night.

“I’m going to make a very, very conscious effort to sit him more, especially in the first half of these next couple games,” Senderoff said.

Senderoff noted that Temple’s playing style is different than that of Drexel, but kept the focus on his players.

“Drexel is a great defensive team and always has been, but they play differently, they’re not out pressuring the ball all too much,” Senderoff said. “They’re big and physical, but their big guys don’t have the skill of Temple’s guys. Temple is deeper.”

Temple returns eight letter winners from last season’s Atlantic 10 regular season championship team, including senior guard Khlaif Wyatt, the A-10’s top returning scorer and a preseason first team all-conference selection.

The unusually early start didn’t change the Flashes’ routine, with the only difference coming in the scheduling of a pre-game practice. The team completed its shoot around on Monday night, as opposed to its usual early afternoon time.

“We practice every day at 12,” Senderoff said. “For us, that’s our normal time.”

Senderoff did take time to voice his desire for a large turnout at the M.A.C. Center today for the nationally televised game.

“We don’t get a chance to be on ESPN a ton,” Senderoff said. “I think it would be great if both end zones [bleachers] with the students were packed, and the community came and supported the team. I think it would send a message about what Kent State, our university, is about.”

No matter the size of the crowd or the number of minutes played by each player, the goal of Senderoff and his team is simple over the next few games.

“For our team and for everyone, the challenge is, is it an accident, is it a coincidence or is it a habit?” Senderoff said. “We’ve got to start forming habits of ‘I can trust that you’re going to play this way every day and every game.’ [Today] is another opportunity for us to see.”

Notes:

-Kent State is 2-0 in ESPN 24-hour College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon games (won at West Virginia, 70-60, at 10 a.m. in 2011 and defeated visiting Robert Morris, 62-59, at 8 a.m. in 2010).

-Today’s game will be the fourth meeting between Temple and Kent State. The Owls lead the all-time series 2-1, including a 73-58 victory in Philadelphia in the last meeting.

-The last time Temple traveled to the M.A.C. Center in November 2006, Kent State emerged victorious, 63-54.

-Kent State has won 86 percent of its home games (172-28) at the M.A.C. Center over the last 15 years.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].