Analyzing matchups in Kent’s first round game against UCLA


LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 10: UCLA forward TJ Leaf (22) boxes out Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen (10) during the semifinal game of the Pac-12 Tournament between the UCLA Bruins and the Arizona Wildcats on Friday, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. 

Scott Lendak

Kent State men’s basketball team’s (22-13, 10-8 Mid-American Conference) season will continue this Friday when they take on UCLA (29-4, 15-3 PAC-12). While the Bruins may present some serious matchup problems for Kent State, the Flashes will look to pull off the upset by playing on some of their strengths and exposing the Bruins’ weaknesses.

How they got here

Kent State received a No. 14 seed in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament and will face off with No. 3 UCLA Friday in Sacramento.

The Flashes will be in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in school history and first time since 2008. The Bruins are favored for the 32nd time this season. As the favored team, they have a 27-4 record.

The Flashes are coming off a 70-65 victory in the MAC Championship title game against Akron. Kent State enters the tournament with a 9-1 record in its last 10 games.

The Bruins also enter the tournament with a 9-1 record in their last 10 games. They have a 6-4 record against teams in the NCAA tournament, while the Flashes haven’t faced a tournament team.


The Bruins’ backcourt consists of freshman guard Lonzo Ball and senior guard Bryce Alford. Ball, who is on track to be a top pick in the upcoming NBA draft, averages 14.6 points and 7.7 assists per game.

Alongside Ball and Alford, freshman forward TJ Leaf leads the team in scoring and averages 16.2 points per game (PPG) and 8.3 rebounds per game (RPG). Senior guard Isaac Hamilton averages 14.1 PPG, and junior center Thomas Welsh averages 10.7 PPG and 8.8 RPG. The Bruins have six double-digit scorers in the lineup.

Sophomore guard Aaron Holiday comes off the bench for Bruins averaging 12.3 points in 26 minutes per game.

Kent State counters the Bruins with Hall, a 6’8′ senior averaging 18.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG. Sophomore guard Jalen Walker — the MAC Tournament MVP — leads the way on the perimeter with 15.1 PPG.

Senior guard Deon Edwin adds 13.0 PPG and 5.6 RPG to the Flashes starting lineup. The Flashes have bench depth as 11 players average double-digit minutes per game. Sophomore point guard Jalen Avery plays 24.2 minutes per game and will set the tempo for the Flashes.

Key Matchups


The Bruins are the best scoring offensive team in the country, averaging 90.4 PPG. A key for the Flashes will be to use up the shot clock and control the tempo. Kent State can neutralize the Bruins’ offense by slowing it down and getting Hall touches in the paint. The Flashes’ defense allows 59.1 field goal attempts per game, while the Bruins attempt 65 field goals per game.


UCLA also has the highest team field goal percentage in the country. The Flashes will try to force the Bruins to make tough shots. In the final three games of the MAC Tournament, the Flashes gave up an average of 65.3 PPG. The Bruins average 86.3 PPG in away/neutral site games.


Kent State is the second best offensive rebounding team in the country at 12.9 per game. The Flashes will try to create extra possessions for themselves and not allow UCLA to get second chance points. The Bruins grab 8.6 offensive rebounds per game. They also average 28.5 defensive rebounds per game, which is the fourth best in the country.

Take Good Shots

The Bruins give up 75.3 PPG, which is 244th in the country. The Flashes are 14th in the nation in field goal attempts to go along with 75.9 PPG. The Flashes will need to improve their 42.6 field goal percentage to take advantage of the Bruins’ poor defense.

Scott Lendak is the sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]