The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Fiery halftime speech propels Kent State to win at West Virginia

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Rob Senderoff has listened to more than his share of fiery halftime speeches in his 16 years as an assistant, so it's no surprise Kent State's new head coach didn't waste his opportunity to deliver his first one.

With his team trailing West Virginia by five points and getting bludgeoned 27-12 on the glass, Senderoff tore into his players, imploring them to box out, to get tougher and to launch a counterattack. ESPN cameras were there to capture the best snippets of the speech.

"They have six freshmen," Senderoff bellowed. "They will crumble under the pressure. They will crumble under the pressure. There's no question about it."

It's rare for a coach to be that candid about an opponent when he knows cameras are rolling, but Senderoff certainly looked prescient afterward. A mere 10 minutes into the second half, Kent State had not only erased its five-point deficit but built a 10-point lead on its way to a comfortable 70-60 road victory.

The Golden Flashes matched West Virginia on the glass in the second half and clamped down defensively, limiting the Mountaineers to 36.7 percent shooting for the game including 2 of 16 on three-point attempts. That was enough to propel Kent State to its first true road win over a BCS opponent since 1970.

The win for Kent State was an upset perhaps in name only.

The Golden Flashes return the bulk of a team that has won the past two regular season MAC championships and advanced to the NIT quarterfinals last season. On the other hand, the Mountaineers play a bevy of inexperienced guys to complement veteran trio Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli.

Last week, Akron validated its preseason hype as a MAC title contender by toppling Mississippi State in its season opener in Starkville. Now Kent State has a victory of its own that's at least that impressive.

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