Roberts return not enough, Kent State falls to Akron in final regular season game

Kent State sophomore Anthony Roberts [15] drives to the basket for a layup against Akron at James A. Rhodes Arena on Friday, Mar. 6, 2020. Kent State lost 79-76.

The ball bounced into Antonio “Booman” Williams’ hands and he turned up the court, racing against the clock.

With only 3.7 seconds left in Kent State men’s basketball’s matchup with the University of Akron, Williams streaked down the floor and shot a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.

The shot fell wide left, and this time there would be no miracle tip-in to lift the Flashes over their rivals.

Kent State fell 76-79 in its rematch final regular season game to finish 19-12, 9-9 Mid-American Conference.

Though the Flashes had lost to their rival, Senderoff said he couldn’t be more relaxed.

“Loose as a goose man,” he said. “I have never cared less about a loss in my nine years of coaching.”

Senderoff emphasized after his team’s win over Bowling Green on Tuesday that his sights were turned fully to the MAC Tournament, and he repeated that sentiment tonight.

A major boon for Kent State heading into tournament season is the return of sophomore guard Anthony Roberts.

Roberts missed the previous two games after injuring his groin in warmups before the Flashes’ matchup with Ohio University.

Roberts returned tonight and came out hot in the second half to lead the team with 17 points.

“We started out great [in the second half],” Senderoff said. “I am glad that Anthony played well, and hopefully that can help him propel for the MAC Tournament.”

This focus on the tournament was evident in the limited minutes played by some of Kent State’s stars.

Senior guards Troy Simons and Williams played markedly fewer minutes than they usually do.

Simons played 27 minutes and Williams played 33, when both have been routinely staying in for entire games late in the season.

Both players still produced on reduced minutes, with Simons scoring 16 on 3-4 shooting from 3, and Williams scoring 11 and getting four rebounds.

Senderoff has tried to limit the minutes of junior forward Danny Pippen all season, as Pippen has had surgery on both knees, and he put a hard cap on that tonight.

“I had made a commitment to not play Danny for 30 minutes,” he said. “I got close, I was counting them because I was like ‘dang, man I need him to get in.’”

Despite the restriction of the starters, Kent State was in the game every step of the way, and down the stretch it was fouls that made the difference.

In a statistic that is very familiar to the Flashes, Akron outshot them at the line 25 to 12, more than enough to lift the Zips.

“That is the difference in the game,” Senderoff said. “Let me be clear, I am not questioning [the calls]. Those are three of the best officials we’ll have all year. What can you do?”

Senderoff said he is confident that the team is coming together late in the season, and the outlook for the tournament is good.

But as games become elimination, the laid-back demeanor Senderoff displayed will be put to the test, and he is the first to admit it is unlikely to last.

“I won’t be relaxed on Monday,” he said with a smile. “But I’ll try.”

Owen MacMillan is an assigning editor. Contact him at [email protected].