By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
While members of the Kent State men's basketball program spent a difficult Saturday attempting to recover from Friday's heartbreaking loss to rival Akron in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament, their initial postseason opponent was revealed.
The Golden Flashes (20-13) will host Fairfield (19-15) of the Metro Atlantic Conference in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament on Tuesday at the M.A.C. Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Kent State and Fairfield met in the 2011 NIT, as current senior guard Randal Holt scored 22 points to lead the Flashes past the Stags 72-68 in a second-round matchup in Bridgeport, Conn.
Junior forward Mark Henniger was the only other current KSU player who saw action in that game, while current head coach Rob Senderoff was associate head coach under Geno Ford during that 2010-11 season.
"I know a couple of their players, because a couple of their guys were on that team we played in the NIT a couple years ago," said Senderoff, referring to senior guard Derek Needham and junior forward Maurice Barrow. "I don't know their coach (Sydney Johnson) personally, but I watched his teams play when he was at Princeton and then at Fairfield. They're a really, really good defensive team, the best defensive team in their league. They've got some good guards, a lot of athleticism on the perimeter. I'll watch more film on them starting (today). I kind of needed today to just unwind and reflect a little bit on the game and our season so far."
In Friday's MAC Tournament semifinal, Holt had two good looks from 3-point range in the closing seconds, but could not convert and Kent State wound up falling 62-59 to the top-seeded Zips.
Obviously, the Flashes were dejected afterward -- especially Holt, who started on the last three Kent State teams that have all been knocked out of the MAC Tournament by Akron. But Senderoff is confident that his team, which started the MAC season 2-5 before winning seven of its last nine league games, will be able to bounce back once again.
"I talked (Friday) night with Randal and (senior forward Chris Evans). It's hard not to be disappointed that you worked so hard to try to get to the NCAA Tournament and you're not going," said Senderoff. "But our kids have been incredibly resilient over the course of the season, and I think you'll see that shine through Tuesday night with a hard-fought effort by our group."
After reaching 20 wins for the 14th time in the past 15 season, despite returning just one starter and two of their top eight scorers from a year ago, the Flashes ponied up $35,000 to host the first-round CIT game. A grateful Senderoff hopes fans will come out to support the team on Tuesday.
"I understand it's not the NCAA Tournament, but I hope these kids get the fan support I feel they deserve," he said. "We have a great program, but part of keeping the program great is the fan support. That's an important part of having a good program. People coming to the CIT game on Tuesday would really show our players and everyone just how passionate our fans are toward our program here at Kent."