About an hour before Kent State took the floor Sunday afternoon to face visiting Saint Peter’s in the first game off a seven-game home stand, Golden Flashes coach Rob Senderoff singled out a trio of players by name during pre-game comments on the radio regarding who he felt needed to step up.
Two of the three – senior center Mark Henniger and senior forward Melvin Tabb – must have been listening.
Together, the pair helped lead Kent State to victory over Saint Peters Sunday afternoon at the M.A.C. Center, the Flashes downing the pesky Paecocks 75-58 to go 3-1 on season with their only loss being two-point defeat at Seton Hall.
Kent State did it with a strong second half by its bigs, as Henniger led three Flashes in double-figure scoring with a game-high 13 points and Tabb chipped in nine. The pair also combined for nine rebounds to help KSU win the rebound battle 35-24.
“The third guy I talked about (sophomore guard K.K. Simmons) I also thought had productive minutes,” Senderoff said. “He only played four minutes at seton Hall and didn’t play very well. But (Sunday), he provided a big spark for us – even if not things you’re going to see in the stats. He had (two rebounds) and two assists of our 15 in 14 minutes. That’s a great job.”
Despite being KSU’s starting center in each of the first four games, Henniger entered Sunday averaging 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds and was coming off a performance at Seton Hall in which he was mired in foul trouble for a majority of the close game that marks the Flashes only loss so far.
“It’s something I’ve been working on, trying to get stronger in the weight room so I can play more effectively down low and be more of a scorer,” said Henniger, a product from nearby Massillon Jackson High School.
Meanwhile, Tabb had contributed just 2.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in limited and mostly nonproductive time off the bench.
“Both Mark and Mel have gotten into a lot of foul trouble in games, but I really believe in all the guys on our roster,” Senderoff said. “I like our depth. So, I’m going to play a lot of guys until guys either make me not play them or other guys take such command of the position in terms of how well they play that I just have to play those guys more.
Senior forward Darren Goodson helped the Flashes keep pace in the first half, where he scored 10 of his 12 points as KSU withstood a barrage of six 3-pointers by Saint Peter’s that gave it an early seven-point lead.
“Last year we had Randal (Holt) and Chris Evans and I was coming out of Junior College where I was used to being the scorer,” said Goodson, who also chipped in five assists and two steals in 29 minutes. “So I had to find another way to feel like I was involved with the team and helping us win. Or, when we lost, I felt like I didn’t do enough.”
Junior point guard Kris Brewer capped the Flashes first-half comeback Sunday with an elbow jumper just inside the seven-minute mark. Brewer’s basket tied the game 23-all and helped jump start a 9-0 run that gave KSU an advantage it would never relinquish, including a 33-29 halftime lead.
The Flashes gave the Peacocks a taste of their own medicine to start the second half when Derek Jackson and Dev Manley knocked down three early 3-pointers before Henniger and Tabb teamed up on the floor to lead a mini run that resulted in a Flashes a 10-point advanatge.
“The second half, especially, I thought we played really well offensively and defensively,” Senderoff said. “We had a lot of guys contribute today.”