KENT: Kent State followed up its worst game of the season — a 16-point loss at home to Western Michigan — with one of its best efforts of the year Sunday at Toledo, but suffered a three-point loss to the top team in the Mid-American Conference.
“There wasn’t one aspect of the game we did well against Western Michigan and there wasn’t one aspect of the game we didn’t improve upon at Toledo,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “We played very well and competed very hard. But it’s hard to win on the road when you’re playing such a good team. They went to the foul line 37 times to our 14. We fouled too many times and that was probably the difference in the game, although they made big plays down the stretch and we didn’t. But we certainly had a chance to win it late.”
The goal is to take what worked so well against the Rockets and use it the rest of the season to begin digging out of the hole that has the Golden Flashes (11-8, 2-4 MAC) in last place in the East Division standings.
After a solid start to the season, the Flashes have won just three of their past 10 games.
In an effort to continue shaking things up in search of the right player combination, Senderoff made more lineup changes that paid immediate dividends Sunday. Senderoff brought former starters Mark Henninger (senior forward/center) and Dev Manley (junior guard) off the bench and started a combination of one senior, two juniors and two sophomores.
“We went with [guards] Kellon [Thomas], Kris Brewer and Derek Jackson and had Khaliq [Spicer] and Darren Goodson [in the frontcourt],” Senderoff said. “We’re going to continue that way because I thought it helped some of the guys coming off the bench and I thought this combination of starters began the game and the second half the right way.”
Goodson led the Flashes with 17 points and had six rebounds and four assists against the Rockets. Jackson (16 points) and Brewer (14 points, seven assists) also finished in double digits. Spicer played a solid 22 minutes and produced eight points, four rebounds and four blocked shots.
“As long as our effort remains where it was against Toledo, we’ll win a lot of games moving forward,” Senderoff said.
That hypothesis will be tested when Kent State hosts Northern Illinois (7-11, 1-5) at 7 tonight at the M.A.C. Center. Although the Huskies are tied with Ball State for last place in the MAC West Division standings, they gave the Flashes all they could handle two weeks ago. Kent State needed a Herculean effort from Brewer (25 points) down the stretch to dig out of a double-digit, second-half hole, force overtime and escape with the win.
With another point guard — Thomas — in the lineup, it takes some of the pressure off Brewer as the main distributor who often is a focal point for opposing defenses, especially one that was torched by Brewer in the previous game.
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.