Rob Senderoff isn’t known to praise his team unnecessarily.
But even the dry-humored Kent State men’s basketball coach couldn’t help gushing a little Tuesday, a day after his Golden Flashes knocked off host Temple 81-77 in a nationally televised Tip-Off Marathon game on ESPN.
“We were down 10 early and could have gotten blown out,” Senderoff said. “But we fought back, got the lead, then gave it back at halftime. Then we’re down by eight points with eight minutes to go on the road and we finished the game on a 22-10 run.”
After traveling from Philadelphia to New Jersey and before practicing at Seton Hall in the afternoon in preparation for the Flashes’ (2-0) game tonight against the host Pirates (1-0), KSU’s coaching staff put together video clips from the previous night’s inspiring victory.
The highlight of the package was all the hustle plays that Senderoff said were the difference.
“In the clips I showed the guys, Mark Henniger is diving on the floor for a loose ball and K.K. [Simmons] dove for a loose ball that was 12 feet away from him,” Senderoff said. “The guy from Temple just thought he could just pick it up and go … for us to have success, that’s how we’re going to have to play.”
Senderoff refers to nonchalance as playing all “Cool Daddy.” But that is not the way the Flashes can go about business this season if they want to continue to enjoy the kind of success they had Monday.
“If we want to win, we have to hustle night in and night out,” Senderoff said. “We’re not going to out talent anybody. There’s not going to be a team we’re going to play that you’re going to say, ‘boy, Kent State is so much more talented than them.’ ”
That’s certainly the case against Seton Hall of the Big East, which, like Temple, is bigger and likely stronger at each position than the Flashes.
“I think the win helped give some guys confidence in what we’re doing,” Senderoff said. “Hopefully, it also gives them some confidence in their own abilities.”
Two players who got a confidence boost against the Owls are junior guard Dev Manley and sophomore guard Kellon Thomas.
After missing seven of the eight shots he took in the season opener against Ohio Northern, Manley rebounded with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range. In the first road start of his career, Manley also made four free throws in the closing minutes to help seal the win.
“Dev is such a good shooter, but he hadn’t been shooting well in scrimmages or that first game,” Senderoff said. “But he’d been shooting the ball well in practice and when that first one went in [Monday], he needed that. It was an underneath out of bounds and he got open. He knocked down a 3 and I think it helped him relax a bit. After that, he played incredibly well.”
After Temple began the second half by building on its lead, Thomas came off the bench to spell struggling point guard Kris Brewer. Thomas, who is coming back from offseason surgery, kept KSU in the game with a handful of key baskets en route to finishing with 11 points.
“Kris struggled for a stretch of the game but Kellon played really well,” Senderoff said.
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.