Men’s basketball travels to Western Carolina before 10-day break


Junior guard Randal Holt carries the ball towards the hoop on Saturday, Nov. 19 against Alcorn State. The Flashes beat the Braves 77-58. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Nick Shook

Kent State has experienced an impressive start to the 2011-2012 season, including a 2-0 start on the road. The Flashes continue their six-game, nearly month-long road trip Saturday at Western Carolina.

Kent State’s recent game at James Madison was the Flashes’ fourth straight win, and second 20-point victory in their last three games. Five Flashes scored in double-figures as Kent State erased a three-point halftime deficit to defeat the Dukes, 71-51. Kent State coach Rob Senderoff was encouraged by his team’s performance on the road in Virginia.

“We obviously did a great job defensively,” Senderoff said. “They’re a team that averaged 75 points a game coming into the game and they only scored 51. We turned them over 19 times, they shot 36 percent, and in the second half we did a great job on the glass. Overall, to beat anybody by 20 is great. To win on the road by 20 is really, really difficult to do.”

Chris Evans scored 17 points off the bench to lead Kent State’s offensive efforts, and Senderoff hopes Evans’ effort level will translate throughout the rest of the team.

“He’s been playing pretty well all year, so I’m happy with his energy and in the second half in particular, he played really aggressively and went to the basket strong,” Senderoff said. “… as a team, we were just unselfish, and really only cared about winning, which is a good formula for us. When that’s how we play, I think we play at our best.”

Although Kent State started the season with a 6-1 record, there are still weaknesses that the coaching staff has begun to address. The Flashes have struggled with keeping possession of the ball and had 23 turnovers against James Madison Tuesday.

Kent State’s next five games

Saturday Dec. 10 at Western Carolina 2 p.m.

Tuesday Dec. 20 vs. Saint Peter’s* 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday Dec. 21 vs. Texas-Arlington* 7:30 p.m.

Thursday Dec. 22 at Utah State* 10:05 p.m.

Thursday Dec. 29 at Arkansas State 7:35 p.m.

*Athletes In Action Basketball Classic, sponsored by Gossner Foods (Logan, Utah) 5:30 MST

“We worked on it today in practice, it’s certainly an area of concern for us,” Senderoff said. “ … I do think that we have a mature enough group that they understand that we cannot consistently win and turn the ball over 20-plus times a game. We should be much closer to 10 to 15 turnovers a night, and I think if we do that, it’s a formula for success for us.”

After a quick stay in Kent, the Flashes return to the road to face Western Carolina Saturday in Cullowhee, N.C. In the two teams’ last meeting in February 2010, Kent State came away with a two-point victory. However, the 2011-12 Western Carolina team is different than that of years past.

“They play really hard,” Senderoff said. “They’re a scrappy, tough, hard-nosed team. In a lot of ways I think they’re similar to us. They play four guards for a lot of the time, which sometimes poses a challenge to us when we have Justin Manns and Justin Greene in there, so there’s the matchup problem, there’s the travel issue … There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but you know, it’s our last game prior to finals … so I expect our kids to come out and play with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm.”

Flashes’ senior guard Michael Porrini began his collegiate career at Western Carolina as a Catamount before leaving midway through his freshman year. Porrini will return to Cullowhee Saturday for the first time since he left.

“I’m sure he’s excited to play there, and it’s obviously a unique situation because it’s not often that you get a chance to play against the school that you started at,” Senderoff said. “Mike’s had a long journey to Kent, but I would expect him to play well and whatever emotions he has going through his mind, I expect him to keep those in check and be able to play and perform the way he’s capable of.”

Following Saturday’s game, the Flashes will return home for a 10-day break in which the student-athletes will take care of their student responsibilities during finals week. Following finals, Kent State will travel to Logan, Utah for a three-day tournament versus Saint Peter’s, Texas-Arlington and Utah State, respectively. Senderoff embraced the preseason tournament and its long-term benefits.

“That will give us a chance to play three games in three days, which in March, you need to do that in this league to play in the NCAA tournament, so it’ll be a good test for us,” Senderoff said.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected] and @Shookie_Cookie.