As the Kent State Golden Flashes men's basketball team opens up Mid American Conference play tonight, Head Coach Rob Senderoff is pleased with his team so far.
"We're growing each game," Senderoff said Tuesday. "We have had good moments and some tough losses but right now our guys are in a good frame of mind."
Kent State (9-5) opens up its conference schedule against the Toledo Rockets (4-7) at the MACC at 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
"It's a new season starting (today) and everyone in the league is excited," Senderoff said.
Kent State takes a four-game winning streak into Wednesday's game, with their last victory over Cleveland State, 72-55, on Jan. 2.
Senderoff said he's been most impressed by his team's ability to rebound on offense and defense and how well they've kept opponents from scoring on them.
"If there's anything we've learned in playing non-conference, if we play at a high level and hold them from scoring, we can beat just about anybody," Senderoff said.
When Kent holds offenses under 42 percent field goal shooting their record is 7-1, Senderoff said. But when they let opponents make over 42 percent of their shots the Flashes' record falls to 2-4.
"We have learned we don't have a big margin for error and when we defend we're pretty good; if we don't we can be beaten by anybody," he said.
While he wants to see the defense become more consistent, Senderoff said he isn't too worried about his offense.
According to ESPN, the Golden Flashes are ranked in the Top 100 in the nation in points per-game at 71.4.
"As long as we defend well, we'll be in a lot of games because we have the ability to score," Senderoff said.
Senior forward Chis Evans and senior point guard Randall Holt are two big reasons for Kent State's offensive success.
Evans is averaging 16.8 points per game and shooting 38 percent from three-point range so far. Holt is second on the team with 13.4 points per game and shooting 82 percent from the free throw line.
But as well as they can score the players know that in any game, but especially against MAC opponents, they can't let up.
"When we have a lead, we need to push teams and not get comfortable," Evans said.
Evans said the Flashes need to fight for every point even if they're ahead late.
"We come out lackadaisical in the second half," Holt said.
Offensively that isnt' the case. In 14 games this season, Kent has scored 520 total points in the second half, compared with 443 in the first half.
On the other end, however, they have given up more points in the second half.
"We need to continue to get better as a group defensively, playing more consistently on the defensive end," Senderoff said.
As Kent starts its MAC schedule, especially at home, it will need to step up on the defensive end.
Senderoff said the first four home games will be very important for their season. The Flashes will host Toledo, Akron, Ohio and Eastern Michigan in the next three weeks.
Toledo was picked to win the MAC West and Akron to win the MAC East. Ohio made the Sweet 16 last season and Eastern Michigan won the MAC West last year.
Senderoff is especially concerned with Akron and Ohio, two of Kent's fiercest rivals.
"Those teams have been dominant," he said. "Their records may not indicate it, but they're beating teams with a large margin of victory."
"Our number one goal is to win the conference and get to the tournament," Holt said.
In order to do that the team will need to get hot at the right time.
"You want to try to get better and be peaking toward the end of the season," Senderoff said. "For better or worse, to play in the tournament in our league, it comes down to the final three and four days. You want to play your best basketball and have your guys ready for the MAC Tournament."
But Senderoff said he and his team don't feel any added pressure to bring home a title, considering both the football and baseball teams are coming off of dream seasons.
In the spring the baseball team won the MAC and fought its way to the College World Series. The football team won the MAC East, barely losing the MAC Championship game and made its first bowl game in 40 years.
"I don't feel any pressure at all when thinking about those other sports," he said. "We won 20 games for the 14th time in 15 years. It's great for our school and athletics that they did as well as they did, but i don't think our kids feel the pressure. I certainly don't."