By Allen Moff | Staff writer
Whether or not it's time to push the panic button is debatable, but there's certainly ample cause for concern about the 2013-14 Kent State men's basketball team.
The Golden Flashes were hammered at home by Western Michigan on Thursday, falling 75-59 on a night when their shooting was colder than the frigid temperatures outside the M.A.C. Center. They shot an abysmal 32 percent from the field (21-of-65), 24 percent from 3-point range (7-of-29) and 56 percent from the free-throw line (10-of-18).
The Flashes (2-3 MAC) are now 11-7 after starting the season 8-1. The same program that's won 200 games at the M.A.C. Center over the last 15 seasons -- a winning percentage of 83.3 -- is now 8-4 at home this year, dropping four out of its last five at its own house. The Broncos (10-7, 3-2) hadn't won in Kent since 1996.
Kent State has shot under 41 percent from the field in eight of the last 10 games, and is shooting 64 percent from the line in its past eight contests.
You get the picture.
"This is a tough, tough loss for us," said third-year KSU coach Rob Senderoff. "Right now as a group our confidence is certainly not where it was a month ago. We're just not playing very well. Not showing enough fight. I'm not saying we didn't try, but we've gotta play better. Can't let one mistake snowball into three."
After making a couple early shots, the Flashes quickly went cold. They trailed just 10-8 despite hitting just two of their first 12 field goals, but that deficit rose as their shots continued to clank.
In what pretty much sums up the night, Kent State was called for a technical foul because freshman Marquiez Lawrence's name was not entered in the official scorebook. The error was discovered after he missed a free throw. Lawrence did not play in the last game due to an eye injury, and apparently the names were copied from the last game and no one discovered Lawrence was missing until it was too late.
Brown hit one of the two technical free throws for the scorebook error, then Lawrence made his second charity toss to make it 14-11.
"That's an error on our staff's part," said Senderoff. "If we'd have lost by one I would have been upset."
Kent State fell behind by eight, but cut it to 22-18 after a Derek Jackson 3-pointer. But a 9-2 run extended the Broncos' lead to 31-20, then a 3-pointer to close the half by Kellen McCormick gave WMU a 34-24 halftime lead.
The Flashes' first-half offensive numbers were brutal: 9-of-34 field goals (26.5 percent), 2-of-13 3-pointers (15.4 percent) and 4-of-10 free throws (40 percent). They scored just three points off seven Broncos turnovers, and Western Michigan won the bench scoring battle 19-5.
Kent State senior forward Darren Goodson -- starting for the first time in five games -- tried to keep his team close, scoring eight points on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor. The rest of the team was 5-of-26 from the field (19.2 percent).
"The second things go south, we've gotta fight through them and we're struggling to do that," said Senderoff. "I've got a lot of guys struggling right now, a lot of guys not seeing the ball go through the basket when they shoot, and because of that they're letting one play become a frustration to the next play. It's snowballing."
Despite the overall ugliness, Kent State trailed by just 10. And when junior point guard Kris Brewer hit a 3-pointer to open the second half, you wondered if that just may be the shot that triggered another second-half resurgence - the Flashes trailed Ball State in their last home game 39-32, but came back to win 86-74.
At this point, as poorly as it had played, the Kent State was down just 34-27. The Broncos scored the next 16 points to blow the game wide open, getting several great looks in transition while the Flashes continued to miss layups and wide-open 3s. A lob dunk by 6-foot-11 senior center Shayne Whittington gave Western Michigan a 50-27 lead as the M.A.C. Center crowd of 2,993 unleashed a collective gasp.
"I felt good, felt like OK, here we go again. We're gonna get back in this thing," said Senderoff, reflecting on his thoughts after Brewer hit the 3. "We then had a steal and Goodson missed an open 3, I thought was a good look, then we fouled (David) Brown and he had an and-one. You could see it was deflating to our team when that happened."
After Brewer's make, Kent State missed its next eight shots before Goodson scored in the paint -- lowering its field-goal percentage to 23.8.
The Flashes did continue to fight, and cut the deficit to 14 four times, but they could get no closer.
Kent State entered the game hoping to use pressure defense to force turnovers and score in transition, but generated little offense from this pressure until the game was out of hand. The Flashes also thought they had an advantage in depth, but their subs were outscored 25-23 -- and once again the count was far worse until the game was effectively put away.
Freshman forward Tucker Haymond led a solid effort from the Broncos' reserves, scoring 16 points after entering the game averaging 4.6. He also grabbed six rebounds, helping Western Michigan dominate the boards 42-32 -- including 32-15 on the defensive end.
Kent State actually grabbed more offensive than defensive rebounds (17-15), but those boards produced just eight second-chance points.
Whittington scored a game-high 18 points for WMU, while Brown -- the MAC's leading scorer at 18.9 points per game -- finished with 17.
Goodson and Brewer led the Flashes with 10 points each, while sophomore forward Khaliq Spicer added eight points and seven rebounds.
The Flashes must figure out a way to bounce back, and quickly, as a trip to 16-2 Toledo looms on Sunday.
"We're gonna look at everything," said Senderoff. "I've gotta look at the lineup, I've gotta look at who I'm playing, all that stuff. I've gotta get guys out there that are gonna compete and do the things that are needed for us to win. Right now we don't have enough guys doing that. We've got a game Sunday, we've got 13 league games left, and we've gotta play. Guys have gotta get up off the mat. No one's feeling sorry for us."
n Senderoff has several players mired in shooting slumps all at once, and talked about some of them afterward.
Brewer averages a team-high 12.5 points, but is shooting just 40.9 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from 3.
"Right now there's just too much being put on him," said Senderoff. "He's gotta run the team, he's gotta make big shots. And there's been games that he's done it. But there's just too much on him."
Senior forward Mark Henniger went scoreless on Thursday, and is averaging 3.3 points in his last four games.
"Mark has really struggled since league play has started," said Senderoff. "He was phenomenal in the non-league, a big reason why we started out so well. He was shooting 70 percent from the field, he was getting fouled. We need him to play better; he's a senior. He's sort of indicative of them all right now. There's a lot of them that were playing so well early, and right now you go through the past five or so games and say he's not producing the way he was. Darren (Goodson) has struggled at times. Derek (Jackson), K.K. (Simmons) ... I can go down through just about all of them."
n Lawrence gave the Flashes a spark once again. After failing to see the court in nine of the previous 10 games, Lawrence saw action at Northern Illinois on Jan. 15 and played well during a brief stint before suffering an eye injury that forced him out of last Saturday's loss at Buffalo.
He returned to action and played 11 active minutes against the Broncos, producing three points and three rebounds.
"Energy, energy," said Senderoff, when asked about inserting Lawrence. "The one thing about Marquiez is he's not scared and he competes. He screws up about everything you can possibly screw up, but he's playing incredibly hard."
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