KENT: Longtime coaching buddies Rob Senderoff and Jim Christian touch base with each other on a daily basis, either by phone or text.
But there are times each year when they don’t talk, the days leading up to when their respective teams will play each other.
“We talk all the time, but [this week], we won’t talk again until Thursday,” said Kent State’s Senderoff, the best man at Christian’s wedding and a former assistant under him when Christian coached at KSU. “I spoke with him before [Ohio’s] game Saturday, then afterwards I texted him when I heard one of his kids got hurt. Of course he didn’t tell me the extent of the injury, nor would I have expected him to.
“So, it’ll be quiet between us until Thursday, then we’ll talk about the game. Win or lose, we’ll talk about things these guys did well or did poorly, and vice versa. Then we’ll move on and I’ll watch the rest of his games and we’ll talk every day until we’re getting ready to play again.”
It is the pattern the two have established during their 20-year friendship. The Golden Flashes will host Christian’s Bobcats at 7 tonight in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams at the M.A.C. Center.
“They beat us twice last year — both in close games,” Senderoff said. “They have probably the best newcomer in Maurice Ndour … .He’s a phenomenal player. And Nick Kellogg is having a great senior year.
“They have a lot of guys, similar to us, who are stepping into bigger roles this year than what they had last year because of who they played behind. Their guys are taking advantage of it and they’ve had a great non-conference [run].”
Ndour, a 6-foot-9 native of Senegal, led Ohio (10-3) with a career-high 24 points Saturday as the Bobcats rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to win 79-70 at UNC-Asheville.
Ndour also added 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. A junior college transfer, Ndour leads the Bobcats at 14.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
Kellogg, the son of former Ohio State standout Clark Kellogg, complimented Ndour’s big game by matching his career high with 23 points. Kellogg was named the MAC East Player of the Week on Monday, averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games last week. He is averaging 14.7 points and also ranks in the top five in the MAC in 3-point shooting (.462) and 3-pointers made per game (2.3).
“He’s having a great senior year,” Senderoff said of Kellogg. “He’s been part of a lot of winning there and he’s stepped up this year. His game’s changed a little bit. He used to just be a shooter. Now, he’s putting the ball on the floor and he’s creating.”
Guarding Kellogg will fall to KSU junior guard Derek Jackson, the Flashes’ top defender. A transfer from Central Michigan, Jackson averages 11.5 points, has shot 43 percent from the 3-point line and leads KSU with 24 steals.
“Sometimes I come out aggressive right from the start and other times, I kind of let the game come to me,” Jackson said. “But in conference play, I need to be more consistent on the offensive end.”
Ohio’s last victory didn’t come without a significant loss. Senior guard/forward Ricardo Johnson fractured his leg in two places in the first half and is likely out for the remainder of the season.
Johnson used his personal twitter account Monday afternoon to confirm the news, announcing he’s scheduled to have surgery Thursday.
“[Johnson] and T.J. Hall both played a lot last year, so I think T.J. Hall will probably have to pick up some of the slack if [Johnson] is out for an extended period of time, which it looks like will be the case,” Senderoff said. “It probably hurts their depth just a little bit. But they have a number of guys coming off the bench who are playing well.”
Like the Flashes (9-4), the Bobcats have good depth. Ohio gets an average of 19.7 points off the bench each game.
“For us to win consistently, we need our reserves to play better than the other team’s bench each night,” Senderoff said. “We need everyone to play with a chip on their shoulder — whether they start or come off the bench — because our margin of victory isn’t very large.”
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.