Since watching former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman help the New England Patriots overcome a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI in Houston last month, the Golden Flashes’ men’s basketball team has adopted a new mantra.
Kent State coach Rob Senderoff has urged his players to “write their own story,” which is exactly what they have done in getting four wins over a six-day span to win the Mid-American Conference Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years.
“Prior to our game against Akron where we snapped their 30-game home winning streak, we watched a video on the Super Bowl,” Senderoff said. “During that video, after halftime when the New England Patriots were down 17, 18 points, Julian Edelman, who was a Kent State graduate, you hear him talking to Tom Brady saying, ‘We're going to come back and win this and it's going to be a hell of a story.’
“That's all he says, ‘It's going to be a hell of a story.’ We have sort of kept that. This is going to be our story. From that point on, we have won nine out of 10. Like I said, at halftime in eight of those 10 games, we defended like crazy, made timely plays when we needed to and we've shown tremendous toughness and resiliency as a group.”
The Kent State Golden Flashes were dismissed by many critics heading into the Mid-American Conference Tournament after dropping the regular-season finale against the Akron Zips and falling to the No. 6 seed, where it required an additional game over a six-day span.
But the Golden Flashes (22-13) did not pay any attention to the critics, and instead focused on the task at hand, which pushed them through an overtime game against Central Michigan Monday, and then, to wins over the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, capped off by a 70-65 win over Akron in the MAC Championship Game at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland last Saturday.
“Coaching this team, you know, it's really special, because these guys all have tremendous stories to tell,” Senderoff said. “Jimmy Hall, you mentioned him. Jaylin Walker, who was up here, didn't have any scholarship offers coming out of high school, and as a freshman, he broke his foot. At the beginning of his sophomore year, he broke his foot, and then, he goes and has 30 points in the conference championship game.”
When the tournament draw was announced last Sunday, the Golden Flashes earned a 14-seed in the South Region will take on the No. 3 seed, the UCLA Bruins, in first-round action at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California, tonight.
“Everybody who makes the NCAA Tournament is a really good team, and everybody who makes the NCAA Tournament is playing with confidence,” Senderoff said. “Our guys certainly are. We have a belief in what we are doing.
“You don't have to beat UCLA seven times or four times out of seven. You just have to beat them Friday night at 7:00. We're going to play with confidence. There are certainly some things we need to do really well to have a chance to win; but, again, our guys are playing loose. Really happy to be here and excited about the opportunity that lies ahead of us.”
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