Tonight is the night to party past midnight to celebrate a new year, but the Kent State basketball team hasn’t had time to concern itself with such festivities.
Since Saturday’s 78-70 loss to visiting Cleveland State, the Golden Flashes have been hard at work preparing for a noon game today at Princeton.
The Flashes consider the Tigers among the toughest opponents they will face this season.
“They’re so hard to prepare for because they’re so unique,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “There’s not a bunch of teams or even two or three teams in the [Mid-American Conference] that play a similar style. Nobody plays like Princeton.
“They’re going to shoot 35 threes a game. They only shoot 3-pointers or layups, they don’t shoot any mid-range jumpers. Their [centers] shoot threes. Their two-guard is their best post player. They have different guys who can handle the ball. It’s just a Princeton thing to play that way. It’s been Princeton forever. I was an assistant in the Ivy League 15 years ago and they played like that then. The only difference now is that now they play a little faster.”
It doesn’t help Kent State’s cause that it hasn’t fared well against good 3-point shooting teams this season. The Flashes’ three losses all have come against teams that shot better than 33 percent from behind the arc.
On Nov. 13, Seton Hall was 8-for-20 from 3-point range in a 78-76 win over KSU. Following a six-game winning streak, Bucknell make 9-of-20 3-pointers in a 66-59 win over KSU on Dec. 4. Saturday, Cleveland State made 7-of-14 from behind the 3-point line.
Kent State managed to squeak by USC Upstate 79-78 on Nov. 22, despite the Spartans making 11-of-20 from 3-point range. Princeton is shooting .395 from beyond the arc this season and has been better than 33 percent in eight of 11 games, and the Tigers are 7-1 in those games.
“They’re second in the country in 3-pointers made and they don’t turn the ball over,” said Senderoff, whose Flashes lost to Princeton 62-50 last season, the only other time the teams have faced each other. “We haven’t seen anything like the way Princeton plays and we won’t again the rest of the season.”
“They beat Penn State [in overtime] at Penn State, beat Rutgers and lost to Butler by just three — and we all know how good Butler is. They’re just a good, disciplined team with an RPI in the top 100.”
It shouldn’t be hard for Senderoff to get the Flashes (9-3) to focus on defense against Princeton (9-2), considering a lack of defensive intensity led to KSU dropping its second consecutive home game in front of the best crowd at the M.A.C. Center this season.
“We’re going to have to put a lot of pressure on the ball and stay in help [defense] because Princeton is going to shoot threes and back-door layups,” Senderoff said. “But even though they’re good shooters, we can’t get too hooked up with a guy where the layups are easy. It’s what they do, so we can’t get down when it happens. We just have to move on to the next play and try to limit their effectiveness.”
The Flashes still have Saturday’s demoralizing loss in mind, but the Tigers haven’t played in 10 days. Princeton’s last game could still also serve as a wake-up call. The Tigers committed a season-high 17 turnovers and allowed the most points in three seasons in a 93-79 loss to Portland that snapped an eight-game winning streak.
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.