Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 1/24/12
There is some good news about the Golden Flashes, but it has nothing to do with how they are playing. Kent State's next two games are against Toledo and Northern Illinois, the two worst teams in the Mid-American Conference. That's the lone positive for the Golden Flashes, who have not only lost their last two games, but have done so in embarrassing fashion. The biggest week of the season to date sent shockwaves through the program that has won the last two regular-season MAC titles. An 87-65 loss at Ohio on Jan. 18 was followed by an 84-75 defeat at rival Akron on Jan. 21. The two losses not only dropped Kent State to 2-3 in the league, but they also raised questions about the team's physical and mental toughness. After playing well in the first half of both games, the Golden Flashes went to pieces in the final 20 minutes and were run out of both gyms. This disturbing trend has left first-year coach Rob Senderoff looking for answers. "The problem for us in the last couple of games is that once the momentum shifts away from us, we've had a tough time fighting through it and making a run back," he said in the Kent-Ravenna Record Courier. Toughness in every area of the game has been a staple for Kent State over the years. That trait is missing at the moment, and Senderoff isn't sure where it's gone or if it will return. "I'm concerned about our mental toughness on the road in particular," he said in the Record Courier. "At home, we fall behind and we gut through and find a way to win. But now on the road, it has been two straight games when teams go on a run in the second half, and we haven't been able to respond the way we need to respond, the way Kent State teams have responded (in the past)." Kent State trailed Ohio 41-40 early in the second half but allowed a 21-0 run that effectively ended the game. The Golden Flashes trailed by 30 at one point. The Akron game followed a similar pattern. Kent State led 42-34 at halftime and was still ahead 55-46 with 13:21 to play. Akron scored 12 straight points in just over two minutes to take the lead. The Golden Flashes trailed 60-59 with 9:07 remaining, but a 14-2 run by the Zips put Kent State behind by 13 points with 5:24 left, and the game was all but over. Senderoff is unhappy that his team seemingly rolled over after taking a punch in both games. "That's what concerns me," he said in the Record Courier. "Where is the response by us?" NOTES, QUOTESDefense hits a lull --Kent State had allowed an average of 86 points in its last three games through Jan. 22. The Golden Flashes gave up 87 in both a win over Bowling Green and a loss to Ohio. Kent State allowed 84 points in the Jan. 21 loss to Akron. The defense in the second half was particularly abysmal. The Golden Flashes had allowed 60, 46 and 60 points after halftime in the past three games. --Solid play in the backcourt was a major reason for Kent State's success last season. That certainly wasn't the case against Akron. Guards Carlton Guyton and Michael Porrini shot a combined 6-for-25. Guyton was 3-for-14 from the field and scored nine points, while Porrini was 3-for-11 and ended up with seven points. Porrini had five assists but also committed four turnovers. --Senior center Justin Manns made his first start Jan. 21 since sitting out a three-game suspension in late December for a violation of team rules. He scored six points in 24 minutes at Akron, but he had only two rebounds and no blocked shots. Manns came off the bench in six consecutive games following the suspension. BY THE NUMBERS: 15 -- Coach Rob Senderoff used only three bench players against Akron, and they combined for 15 points. The Zips' bench, meanwhile, accounted for 41 points. QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have to step on people's throats. We can't have eight- and 10-point leads and be controlling the game the whole game and then just give the game away. That's all heart. That has nothing to do with the coaches. That's all on us." -- F Justin Greene, in the Kent-Ravenna Record Courier, on the Golden Flashes' collapses in the past two games through Jan. 22. STRATEGY AND PERSONNELTHIS WEEK'S GAMES:--vs. Northern Illinois, Jan. 25KEY MATCHUPS: The Huskies are the right opponent at the right time for the Golden Flashes. Northern Illinois is 2-15 overall and 1-4 in the Mid-American Conference. The Huskies struggle in all areas of the game, and this is the perfect opportunity for Kent State to regain some confidence. --at Toledo, Jan. 28KEY MATCHUPS: The Rockets are a struggling team. Toledo is the most inexperienced squad in the conference, but it had played better at home than on the road. The Golden Flashes will have to be wary of an upset bid. FUTURES MARKET: When Geno Ford bolted the program to take the head coaching job at Bradley, Kent State's players had only one choice for his replacement. They requested Rob Senderoff, a long-time assistant with the program, be promoted to the head coaching job. Some even threatened to transfer if he wasn't moved up. The Golden Flashes started the season on a high note, but they hadn't displayed much effort in the second half of their last two games through Jan. 22. Senderoff needs to get his message across to his team soon. PLAYER NOTES --Junior G Randal Holt was one of the few bright spots for Kent State in the loss to Akron. He scored 27 points, hitting nine of 14 from the field, in 38 minutes. --Senior F Justin Greene continued to struggle offensively against Akron. He scored 11 points and missed eight of his 13 shots. Greene managed to put up only 10 points against Ohio after scoring a season-high 23 points in each of the previous two games. --Sophomore F Mark Henniger didn't play against Akron after being in the starting lineup the previous six games.
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