Cross-divisional play in the Mid-American Conference couldn’t have come at a better time for Kent State.
Neither could finding an opponent like Northern Illinois.
After finding it rough going in their first pass though the MAC East Division, the Golden Flashes (12-6, 2-3) ought to be relieved to begin play against the league’s weaker West Division, playing the worst team in the conference in the Huskies (2-15, 1-4) at 7 tonight at the M.A.C. Center.
Kent State would like to take this opportunity to snap a two-game losing streak after second-half collapses in road loses at Ohio and the University of Akron last week dropped the Flashes to fourth place in the East.
With the team’s confidence also taking a beating, KSU coach Rob Senderoff is already thinking ahead as to how the team needs to approach the remainder of the schedule if the Golden Flashes want any chance at winning the MAC regular-season championship for the third consecutive time.
“[Sure], every game is a must-win if you are trying to win the league,” he said after Saturday’s loss. “But we have to worry about Northern Illinois and worry about putting our best foot forward against them. When that game ends, then we’ll concern ourselves with who we play Saturday [at Toledo], and play the best we can against them.”
In other words, patience is needed.
“We can’t look at the big picture right now,” Senderoff said. “It’s easy to say, but not easy to do. But if you start thinking ‘uh-oh, we’ve got to win them all’, then we may lose one because [we’re] thinking ahead to the next [opponent]. So you just have to win the next game. And for us in particular, we definitely have to win the next game.”
Kent State has to for two reasons: First, even with its recent struggles, the senior-laden Flashes are the much more-experienced team. The rebuilding Huskies feature eight freshmen and a first-year coach in Mark Montgomery, who spent the past 10 years as an assistant coach at Michigan State.
Secondly, the Flashes can’t afford to fall back any further in the standings. First-place UA already holds a two-game lead on Kent State. Meanwhile, Buffalo and Ohio are tied for second place in the East and have each already beaten KSU once.
•?Two bright spots in the Flashes’ 84-75 loss to UA were the offense of Randal Holt and defense of Justin Manns.
Holt scored a career-high 27 points against the Zips, along with three assists and four steals. His 14 first-half points (including three 3-pointers) helped the Flashes take a 42-34 lead into halftime.
The outburst from the junior guard from Cleveland were the most points scored by a Kent State player since former point guard Al Fisher scored 27 against Morehead State in 2009.
The 6-foot-11 senior center Manns, who was reinserted into the lineup against UA, had one of the best defensive games of his career in limiting Zips center Zeke Marshall, a 7-footer, to seven points.
•?Despite Justin Greene scoring just 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting Saturday with Marshall guarding him, the Flashes’ senior forward recorded his 500th career field goal in the game, becoming only the eighth player in KSU history to reach the milestone.
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