KENT: Not even a half-hour after his team had secured its third win in as many days and fourth in a row Saturday, Kent State coach Rob Senderoff looked right into the camera just a few feet in front of him and boldly said what many supporters had undoubtedly begun to believe.
“I challenge anybody who would have thought we’d be 6-1 now,” said Senderoff of the Golden Flashes, whose only misstep this season is a two-point loss at Seton Hall on Nov. 13.
A man who routinely speaks his mind, Senderoff understands his players still have their work cut out for them when they host Youngstown State (6-1) at 7 tonight at the M.A.C. Center.
But he also knows this type of start was not expected from those who picked the Flashes to finish fourth in the Mid-American Conference.
Despite not having a bona fide, go-to offensive threat, the Flashes have won in a variety of ways and with different players stepping up at key times. They’ve won because they’ve bought into the team concept. KSU has four players averaging in double-figure scoring. Junior point guard Kris Brewer leads the Flashes at 12.4 points per game. Junior guards Dev Manley and Derek Jackson each average 11.3 points and senior forward Darren Goodson is at 10.1.
“We have a lot of guys who have the ability to help us in different ways,” Senderoff said. “I think that’s one of the beauties of this team. There’s a number of different guys who can play well if they get an opportunity and go out there and perform.”
By perform, Senderoff means doing more than just score.
“We’ve got to guard and we’ve got to rebound,” he said, echoing the statement he drills into his players’ heads every practice. “Every single one of the guys needs to guard and rebound each game. That’s our only chance. We’re not going to out-talent anyone. But we can out-hustle and out-work a lot of them.”
While the Flashes are enjoying a stretch of seven consecutive home games, the Penguins will be on the road for the fifth time in eight games. Youngstown State opened the season with three consecutive victories in as many nights and four overall in the Kennesaw State Tournament then lost on the road at UMass before rebounding to manhandle Division III programs Thiel and Westminster last week.
The Penguins are led by senior guard Kendrick Perry, a Horizon League Player of the Year candidate who averages 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Four other players also average in double figures for a Youngstown State offense that has averaged 83.6 points per game.
With Thanksgiving just a day away and most students headed home for the long holiday weekend, Senderoff is hoping the Kent community will come out and support the team.
“We’re an exciting and unselfish team that’s 6-1 playing an in-state rival that’s also 6-1,” said Senderoff, whose Flashes have won the past five games and have a 28-17 lead in the all-time series that dates back to 1929.
“Their only loss came at UMass, which is ranked 24th in the country. They also have the preseason Player of the Year in the Horizon League, the league that Cleveland State plays in. There’s no doubt a good crowd helps the home team, so we need the community to come out and give us the kind of home-court advantage we need to help keep this winning streak going.”
Both teams appear in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll this week, with KSU breaking into the rankings for the first time this season at No. 21. The Penguins are ranked 17th after entering the poll last week at No. 25.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at https://ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.