The Kent State basketball team finally shook off its offensive slump in a come-from-behind victory over Ball State that ended a three-game losing streak Saturday at the M.A.C. Center.
The Golden Flashes opened their Mid-American Conference schedule by shooting a season-low 28.3 percent in a 59-53 loss to visiting Ohio. Three days later, KSU rebounded, shooting a blistering 64.3 percent in the second half against the Cardinals. The Flashes were led by a career-high 23 points from senior forward Darren Goodson.
A rejuvenated KSU (10-5, 1-1 MAC) hopes to keep it going during a two-game road trip that begins tonight at Northern Illinois (7-7, 1-1) and continues Saturday at Buffalo (8-4, 2-0).
The Flashes erased an early 13-point deficit against Ball State, but coach Rob Senderoff is not allowing them to bask in the glow of a much-needed victory.
KSU took its customary day off Sunday before getting back into the film room to dissect its latest performance.
“I showed a couple clips [pertaining] to things we need to improve on offensively,” Senderoff said. “Then I showed a transition defense clip or two where we need to get better.”
He then allowed the players to enjoy themselves a bit by including “a couple of effort clips of guys defensive rebounding in traffic and others where we made some rotation steals.”
But that was as close as Senderoff let the Flashes get to complacency. As far as Senderoff is concerned, a home victory isn’t to be celebrated as much as it’s simply to be expected. Now, it’s time for the Flashes to move on and find that kind of vibe again.
“It’s very similar to when we lose, we’ve just got to get ourselves ready for the next game,” Senderoff said. “Now, the focus has to be on getting a road win at Northern.”
During the program’s glory years of the early 2000s the Flashes rarely lost on their home court. So don’t expect Senderoff to get excited about a home victory over a three-win team from the MAC West.
“I’m sorry, but I’m not going to get too [excited] about us winning a game at home,” said Senderoff, who was an assistant to former KSU coach Jim Christian when the Flashes made their run to the Elite Eight in 2002.
Truth be told, Senderoff, a native New Yorker, doesn’t get very excited about much. It’s simply not in his nature.
However, a win tonight against a defensive-minded Northern Illinois team that ranks second in the MAC in points allowed (64.0) would at least temporarily keep him upbeat.
The Flashes recently went through a rough stretch during which they lost four of five (including three at home) and they have only one player ranked among the league’s top scorers (junior point guard Kris Brewer at 11.9 points per game), but they still rank third in the MAC in scoring (74.3).
“When you look at our offensive numbers compared to anyone else’s, the only one that’s much better than us is Toledo — and they’re the top team in the league,” Senderoff said. “So, we went through a tough stretch. I sort of feel like that was more the aberration than us playing so well in the second half [Saturday].”
Northern Illinois is without freshman leading scorer Dontel Highsmith, who tore his ACL in a 99-63 loss at Iowa State on Dec. 31, and the Huskies rank near the bottom nationally in several offensive categories, including scoring (329th), field-goal percentage (335th) and 3-pointers per game (338th). Without an offensive standout to key on, KSU’s focus tonight will be on limiting NIU as a team.
“We’ll have to play well and be efficient on offense because they do a good job of controlling the tempo,” Senderoff said. “We’re going to have to take good shots, get to the free-throw line and do a good job on the defensive glass because they’re a great offensive rebounding team.”
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.