KSU basketball: Golden Flashes trying to rebound against MAC’s best

By Ryan Lewis
Beacon Journal sports writer

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KENT: A season that started on a high note has begun to spiral in the wrong direction, and the prospects of quickly turning it around don’t appear likely for the Kent State basketball team.

After beginning the season 8-2, the Golden Flashes (11-7, 2-3) have dropped three of their past five games, including Thursday night’s 75-59 home loss to Western Michigan that dropped them into last place in the Mid-American Conference East. As struggles worsen and frustrations mount, the Flashes travel to face league-leading Toledo (16-2, 4-1) at 6 tonight.

“It is [hard to get out of this rut]. But nobody feels sorry for us,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “We have to figure out a way to play ourselves out of it.”

The turnaround will have to start on offense. Since KSU’s torrid start to the season, the Flashes are shooting just 38 percent from the floor and are scoring 12 fewer points per game (77.9 to 65.9).

Senderoff has seen players pressing too much on offense. Not everyone has to be a hero every possession.

“Right now, we’re playing frustrated on the offensive end,” he said. “We’re taking too many contested shots. We need to make sure we’re trying to create shots for each other. Sometimes it’s over-penetration, sometimes we’re just trying to do too much.”

Toledo hasn’t had much trouble on the offensive end. The Rockets lead the MAC with 83.3 points per game, well ahead of second-place Central Michigan (74.7 points). Five players enter the game averaging more than 10 points a game. Three (6-foot-4 senior guard Rian Pearson, 6-foot-4 junior guard/forward Justin Drummond and 5-foot-10 junior point guard Julius Brown) are averaging at least 14 points a game.

“They’ve got a phenomenal starting five,” Senderoff said. “All of them are capable of big games. They’ve been great on the glass. They have a point guard [Brown] who does a great job of getting guys involved and knowing when to take over. They’re playing at a very high level.”

The Rockets have the highest average margin of victory in the MAC (9.8 points per game) but still are last in scoring defense (73.5 points). To narrow the gap, the Flashes must rely on an opportunistic defense and find points in transition. Despite its recent poor play, Kent State ranks third in the conference in turnover margin (plus-3.06). Toledo, of course, is first with a plus-3.56 margin.

“We’re playing a team in Toledo that does a great job of taking care of the basketball, so we’re going to have to do a real good job defensively to have a chance to beat them,” Senderoff said. “Creating turnovers, that would be one thing we’ve done well so far.”

Most likely, it’s a must win against Toledo today if the Golden Flashes want to stop the frustration with a victory over the MAC’s best.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.

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