KENT: Kent State basketball coach Rob Senderoff readily admitted there’s not a whole lot he and his coaching staff can take from Friday’s 84-48 season-opening blowout over Ohio Northern into their next game.
That will happen when a young team with many new players goes from facing a Division III squad to squaring off against one of the more tradition-rich programs in college basketball.
But that’s the swing in talent level Kent State (1-0) will face tonight beginning at 7 p.m. at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
“The only thing I can take [out of Friday’s win] is that we’re going to have to play this hard at Temple,” Senderoff said. “But that’s what we have to do every night. Not every night are we going to hold our opponent to 29 percent shooting, but I thought we competed.
“I thought we hit the floor, I thought we blocked out and tried to play the right way. We have to do those things every single game, but obviously, the better you play, they’re going to make things harder for you. But depth has often been one of our strengths, and I hope it continues to be.”
Despite the fact that Temple (1-0) was picked in the preseason to finish in the middle of the pack (fifth of the 10 teams) in the inaugural American Athletic Conference and return only two starters from last season’s team that went 24-11, don’t be fooled.
The Owls have made six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, last year dropping out of contention only after a close loss to top-seeded Indiana in the third round. This season, Temple’s roster features one Northeast Ohio product in freshman forward Mark Williams, 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, from Cleveland’s Montrose Christian.
The Owls opened the season with a 78-73 victory over Penn on Saturday, with four starters finishing in double figures. Senior guard Dalton Pepper led the way offensively with 19 points, junior guard Will Cummings followed with 18 and junior forward Lee Anthony and sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey each chipped in 12 points apiece.
For Kent State, picked to finish fourth in the Mid-American Conference in the preseason, newcomer Derek Jackson led two Flashes in double-figure scoring with 18 points. The redshirt junior, a transfer from Central Michigan, said a big reason why he chose to transfer to Kent State is the Flashes’ up-tempo offensive style of play.
“It’s more of an up-and-down pace, getting the ball out running,” he said. “At my old school, we kind of slowed it down.”
The new addition to KSU’s offense is already being appreciated by Jackson’s teammates.
“It’s great to have Derek with us,” sophomore guard Kellon Thomas said. “He brings a lot of energy to our team. I feel like he’s a big piece of what we were missing. He creates a lot of mismatches for the other team. He guards the best offensive player on the other team and hits wide-open shots.”
Against Ohio Northern, Senderoff purposely and quickly began pouring through his bench to figure out combinations of players he would like to use on the floor after the starting five of Jackson, guards Kris Brewer and Dev Manley and forwards Darren Goodson and Mark Henniger.
“I think I had 11 guys check into the game in the first half,” Senderoff said. “Some of that’s stuff I need to figure out and some of that’s based on performance. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to play 11 guys in each half [moving forward].”
That’s likely going to be the case against Temple, where the Flashes will need to ride the starters for a lot of minutes and hope a couple bench players can step up and contribute big.
“After playing [Ohio Northern], we know the next stage is much bigger,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be on ESPN at prime time. But I feel like everybody is gong to rise up to the expectations.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.