KENT: If things don’t change soon at the center position for Kent State, the coaching staff just might have to throw up the white flag and go without one.
Out of sheer desperation, coach Rob Senderoff might have to resort to using four-guard, one forward lineups if the options in the post don’t begin to produce more for the struggling Golden Flashes (12-11, 3-6 Mid-American Conference).
“It’s been a struggle all year at the five [center],” Senderoff said. “It’s not just that we’re not scoring from that position, the opposing teams’ post players are scoring too much. So, it’s as much a problem for us on the defensive end as it is on the offensive end. We’ve got to do a better job inside because going with four guards is not something I want to do at all. But I’m not going to lie, I’ve been thinking about it.”
KSU’s coaching staff has tried every motivational ploy and practice drill in their bag of tricks in an effort to spark 6-foot-9 juniors Melvin Tabb and Mark Henniger (Jackson High School) to play better.
In Wednesday’s 82-76 loss at Western Michigan, the West Division-leading Broncos trailed by eight points with just over seven minutes to play. But foul trouble and a lack of any inside presence eventually doomed the Flashes to another loss — their fifth in the past six games.
Four KSU starters scored in double-figures — Chris Evans (19), Randal Holt (18), Darren Goodson (17) and Kris Brewer (15) — but the Flashes got just a combined three points and five rebounds out of Tabb and Henniger in 35 minutes of play.
“If we could play four-on-four, we’d have a pretty good team right now,” Senderoff said. “When we were playing well, Mark was playing great and that’s one of the big reasons we were doing so good. I don’t know what’s happened since. I don’t know if he’s hit a wall, or what. I just don’t have an answer for it.”
Going into tonight’s game against visiting Central Michigan (9-13, 2-7), Henniger is averaging 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Another option — 6-foot-9 Khaliq Spicer — has experienced the kind of ups and downs one would expect out of a freshman. He played just four minutes Wednesday, despite Tabb and Henniger’s struggles, and averages 1.0 points and 1.0 rebounds.
“Khaliq’s getting some minutes here and there, but we need him to play better when he plays, too,” Senderoff said.
Tabb, who is averaging 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds, appears to have the physical skills to become a good center, but he has been limited in too many games by foul trouble and is still finding his footing in the Flashes’ offense after transferring from junior college.
Before this rebuilding year, the post was a given spot of production with Justin Greene manning the inside for the Flashes for the past four seasons. But without Greene, the position has become Kent State’s black hole.
“It’s not like we’re not in games and we’re overmatched and not competing,” Senderoff said of his young team that returned just one starter from last season’s senior-laden team. “But even the games we’ve played really hard and really well and competed at a high level, you have to be able to make some plays at the end of close games or get some stops to win it.
“We just haven’t done that in league play enough and that’s the difference for us between being 3-6 and 6-3 in the MAC. If we could get just a little production out of the post, it would help a whole lot.”
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://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.