KENT: Coming off a three-game losing skid, a break in the Golden Flashes’ schedule and a winless opponent might have come at the right time as Kent State easily defeated Saint Francis 77-48 Thursday night at the M.A.C. Center.
Kent State fell to 5-5 after losses to Princeton, Bucknell and Xavier before an 11-day rest allowed KSU to refocus heading into a game against a reeling Saint Francis that hadn’t won a game this year.
The Golden Flashes made it look easy as they opened the game on a 23-1 run before relaxing and cruising for most of the night. The important part was just getting a victory.
“We needed a win,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “It had been a long time in terms of dates because we had 11 days off, we had lost three games, it felt like an eternity before had we had a good feeling.”
Senderoff used the extended practice time to refocus the Golden Flashes back to a strong defensive effort and to get the ball moving offensively. Both points of emphasis were put into action Thursday night as the Red Flash (0-10) scored only one point in the first 10:28 of play and the Golden Flashes had assists on 15 of their 23 field goals. KSU also only turned the ball over seven times, making it one of the best assist-to-turnover ratio games of the season.
“What happens when you stop trying to make individual plays? Your turnovers go down,” Senderoff said. “One [of the things we worked on] was sharing the basketball, trying to score off assisted baskets. We did a great job of that.”
Forward Chris Evans led the Flashes with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and three steals. Two of the steals and five points came as KSU built its 23-1 lead early. Evans scored the first basket after battling for an offensive rebound.
“We had lost three games in a row so we wanted to come out with a lot of energy and intensity,” he said. “Coach really instilled in us all week that we wanted to get back to our defensive principles. The defensive intensity and pressure that we showed tonight definitely won the game for us.”
Guard Kris Brewer made his way into the starting lineup for the first time in six games and took advantage of his opportunity. He hit all three of his shots from the field and 5-of-6 at the free-throw line for 13 points and five assists and only one turnover.
The Golden Flashes have a tough challenge on Saturday in Arkansas State. Senderoff is wondering if Brewer can come up with two strong performances in a row.
“For him, the challenge is ‘OK, what are you doing to do Saturday?’ ” Senderoff said, “Are you going to give us a doughnut or are you going to play again and string games together? That’s the challenge for Kris.”
Forward Darren Goodson didn’t do much on the stat sheet (two points, three assists), but moved the ball well inside the paint.
“The big thing I told Darren was that I don’t want you trying to be a scorer,” Senderoff said. “I want you to try to facilitate. He’s actually a very good passer and he showed that tonight. We have scorers — Chris Evans is a scorer by nature, Randal [Holt] is a scorer by nature — so we need other guys in there that are able to pass and find good shots.”
Holt, however, has been struggling as of late. After shooting 2-of-17 from the floor and 1-of-10 from 3-point range against Xavier, Holt finished 3-of-14, including 2-of-10 from 3-point range, and had eight points Thursday night. Senderoff says that Holt just needs to be left alone — the shots will come.
“Randal doesn’t need me to tell him to keep shooting, he’s going to keep shooting,” he said.
“But when he hears me say it, it may mess him up a little bit and I probably messed him up. You miss a couple and I’m yelling to keep shooting … that gets you thinking. I gotta leave him alone.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.