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After watching Kris Brewer emerge from a horrific shooting slump by draining 11-of-12 3-pointers in the past two contests, what was the most noticeable difference in the Kent State junior point guard's game according coach Rob Senderoff?
Defense of course.
"He is making a lot of plays on the defensive end now -- small things like blocking out guards, digging the ball out of the post," said Senderoff. "Instead of focusing on his offense he's focusing on the little things that help our team play better, and because of that I think he's playing better."
Brewer hit just 1-of-19 3-pointers and 11-of-50 field goals over a brutal five-game stretch before busting out in the last two games. The same shots he's made were the same looks Brewer had been missing.
"I can clip just about all of them together and you're going to see the same shots," said Senderoff. "There's a lot of mental stuff that goes into this game. When you focus on the things that aren't scoring, on the little things, when those things are your focus it's amazing how all of a sudden you make shots."
Little changes have made a huge difference during the Flashes' potential season-salvaging three-game winning streak.
Kent State (15-11, 6-7 MAC) is 3-1 since starting sophomores Kellon Thomas, Khaliq Spicer and Chris Ortiz together, bringing former starting guards Brewer and fellow junior Devareaux Manley off the bench along with senior forward Mark Henniger. This switch provides Senderoff the luxury of giving his young players an early run, knowing he has three veterans to bring off the bench no matter what happens.
Senderoff has also shortened his rotation to eight men, as senior forward Melvin Tabb and sophomore guard K.K. Simmons have not played the past two games.
"We're getting back a little bit of late to our formula that's been successful for us, which is getting a lot of contributions from just about everybody who steps on the floor. I've said since November, for our team that's important," said Senderoff. "Shortening the bench has helped, playing the sophomores has helped. I think our guys are comfortable now, they're playing with confidence now. We're playing a little bit better now as a group of late."
The sophomore trio in particular has increased production considerably.
"Those guys are doing things that help you win that don't always show up in the box score," said Senderoff. "That's how you win games. We just need to continue to do it. That's really what it comes down to."
Kent State has a chance to reach .500 in MAC play after a 3-7 start, but will face a stern test from Buffalo on Saturday at the M.A.C. Center. The Bulls (15-8, 9-4) are fresh off a 96-90 victory over Akron that vaulted them into a tie for first place in the MAC East Division.
"Each game is a new game," said Senderoff. "I don't want to read too much into (the winning streak) because you never know what will happen on Saturday. We're playing a really good team."
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