No. 9 seed Flashes head to Oxford for first round of men’s MAC Tournament

Richie Mulhall

After a close four-point loss Friday to Akron in its regular season finale, the Kent State men’s basketball team will now pack its bags and travel to Oxford to face Miami in the first round of the MAC Tournament.

The Flashes (16-15, 7-11 MAC) had to win their last game of the season and needed either Miami or Northern Illinois to lose its last game in order to clinch a first-round home game; however, the Zips dashed the Flashes’ hopes of hosting a first-round game when they narrowly defeated them 58-54 inside a capacity-packed Johnson A. Rhodes Arena Friday night.

Although the Flashes were fighting for a first-round home game, Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said his team has played well on the road and will be up to the challenge of playing in Oxford again Monday.

The Flashes won a few key league games on the road this season, including victories over Ohio and Miami.

“I think we’ve played pretty well on the road against a lot of teams and Miami was one of them, so we’ll have to play well there tomorrow night, too,” Senderoff said.

After the tough road loss against its bitter rival, Kent State will now be on the road for its first-round game. The No. 9 seeded Flashes will be  pitted against No. 8 seed Miami.

Kent State went head-to-head with the Redhawks twice during the regular season, and each time these two conference foes faced off, the away team won by 12.

“Each time we played on the other person’s floors, the road team was up big and won by 12 points, so we have to do a good job defensively,” Senderoff told TV2.

Kent State last played the Redhawks just two games ago (Tuesday, March 4) at home and lost 73-61. In that game, the Flashes “just didn’t show up,” in the words of Senderoff.

The team had grown too complacent after its previous 75-61 victory over the Ohio Bobcats on the road and looked sloppy throughout the entire game.

The Flashes shot 41.5 percent and only knocked down 25 percent of their attempted three-pointers.

On the other side of the ball, the Redhawks were lights out from three-point range, shooting 7-of-11 from downtown.

“On the year, they’re the least efficient three-point shooting team in the league, so we’ll have to do a good job in transition, we’ll have to take care of the basketball, we’ll have rebound well,” Senderoff said. “We’ll have to compete very hard to win down there.”

In order to move on to the second round of the tournament, the Flashes will need a solid performance from everyone, especially junior guard Kris Brewer, who has had an up-and-down season.

Brewer’s first performance against the Redhawks on Feb. 19 at Millet Hall was his breakout game of the season, in which he utterly stunned Miami with a career-high 28 points.

He was perfect from beyond the arc, dropping all seven of his three-pointers and only missing two shots all night from the field.

In the Flashes’ second meeting with the Redhawks, Brewer’s performance was a polar opposite from his first one.

He only scored two points on a one-for-six shooting effort in that contest.

If Brewer can come firing out of the gates Monday and get himself going early on like he did in Oxford just a few months ago, the Flashes will have a good shot at making it to the Quicken Loans Arena this Wednesday for the second round of the MAC Tournament.

There are eight MAC teams vying for a higher spot in the tournament, and if Kent State wins Monday, they will face the winner of the Ohio/Ball State game Wednesday night in Cleveland.

“Our job is to try to get ourselves to Cleveland, and we need to win on Monday,” Senderoff said.

Monday night’s tipoff for the MAC Tournament opening game is at 7 p.m. inside Millet Hall.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].