The Kent State men’s basketball team went 1-1 on last week’s road trip to Northern Illinois and Buffalo, eking out an overtime victory against the Huskies before losing by 11 points to the Bulls three days later.
Although not pleased with the split, coach Rob Senderoff gave the Golden Flashes an extra day off in preparation for tonight’s game against visiting Western Michigan. That meant the Flashes took their usual day away from the court Sunday, and then welcomed a second day of rest Monday.
It wasn’t because the Flashes (11-6, 2-2 in Mid-American Conference) deserved the rest, it was more out of necessity.
“We’ve been going at this for a while now,” Senderoff said. “These guys have been here since June, and we just don’t get much time off.”
Senderoff saw how much effort it took for the Flashes to battle back from a 13-point deficit just to force overtime. So he planned the extra rest even before watching the Flashes waste a solid first-half effort in Buffalo by faltering down the stretch.
“While I wasn’t necessarily happy with the way we played [against Buffalo], I wasn’t going to change what I’d told them,” Senderoff said. “The guys just seemed to really need a mental and physical break. We played really hard and competed in the first half, but we just ran out of gas and looked really tired in the second half. It was obvious that our energy level just wasn’t where it was in the first half.”
Facing a crucial four-game stretch that begins tonight against the Broncos (9-7, 2-2), the Flashes can’t afford to fall victim to fatigue any longer.
After tonight’s game (7 p.m. tipoff) against the Broncos, the Flashes will hit the road for a game against Toledo (15-2). Then they will return home for a rematch against Northern Illinois before hosting rival Akron (11-6, 3-1) in a televised game Feb. 1.
“We’re fortunate that we’re only one game out of the league division lead right now,” Senderoff said, referring to the three-way tie atop the MAC East between Ohio, Akron and Buffalo. “But that can change quickly if we don’t play well over this crucial four-game stretch, which includes three of those games at home.
“But in this league this year, whether a team’s home or on the road, the favorite or the underdog, if you don’t play well, you’re going to lose. Consider that Western Michigan beat Toledo, and they were up by 20 in the game with four minutes to go. Northern Illinois beat host Bowling Green and BG scored 37 points in the game. Then BG went and beat Western Michigan at Western Michigan, when they were up 15. Ohio beat us at home, then Akron went and beat Ohio at Ohio.”
Like the Flashes, the Broncos are looking to rebound following a 69-62 loss to Bowling Green on Sunday. KSU is 8-3 at home this season and has scored seven points and allowed nearly two fewer points per game at the M.A.C. Center than on the road. In addition, WMU is just 1-5 on the road this year, its lone road victory coming in overtime against Miami.
But as Senderoff pointed out, even the most telling statistics can quickly prove meaningless in conference games this season.
“It all comes down to the fact that you have to play well, and right now our confidence level is not where it needs to be,” Senderoff said. “Not everybody, but a number of guys.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. 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.