Streaky Flashes look to stay hot, push winning streak to three against Miami

Sophomore guard Kellon Thomas defends the ball from Central Michigans Braylon Rayson  Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. The Flashes won the game 83-75.

Sophomore guard Kellon Thomas defends the ball from Central Michigan’s Braylon Rayson  Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. The Flashes won the game 83-75.

Richard Mulhall

After winning two straight games at home and concluding Mid-American Conference cross-divisional play against Bowling Green and Central Michigan, the Kent State men’s basketball team will take a one-game road trip to Oxford on Wednesday to face The University of Miami Redhawks (9-14, 5-7 MAC) for the first time this season.

The Flashes (14-11, 5-7 MAC) recently avenged their previous loss to Central Michigan (8-16, 1-11 MAC) and are coming off an 83-75 victory over the Chippewas at home inside the M.A.C. Center.

Kent State was back to its old shooting ways of earlier this season Saturday night against Central Michigan when the team put up a near season-high 83 points on a 63.3 percent shooting effort. Things were also clicking beyond the perimeter, too, as the Flashes connected on nine of their 19 long-range shots, posting a 47.4 field goal percentage from beyond the arc.

Sophomore forward Chris Ortiz and sophomore guard Kellon Thomas both had career nights Saturday when they scored 17 points and led their team to its third straight home.

Thomas said the team is feeling it again and regaining the “swagger” it had in November when the Flashes kicked off the 2013-2014 season with an East Division-leading 8-1 record.

“I think we just need to continue doing what we’re doing, keep doing the little things, and the good things will happen for us just like making shots,” Thomas said. “We’re just trying to find ourselves like we were at the beginning of the season and just trying to keep it going.”

Kent State was the only East-Division team that won both of its games this past week, something head coach Rob Senderoff emphasized after practice Monday night.

“It’s good to be winning games regardless whether it’s one in a row, two in a row, three in a row, whatever it is,” Senderoff said. “Miami’s got a pretty good team, they started out the league pretty well, and we’re gonna have to play well on the road.”

The Flashes have not done so well on the road as of late — dropping their last four games since conference play began — but they hope to turn things around this week in Miami and play like it’s just another home game.

“We just have to try to remain focused, just play like we’re at home and stick together,” Ortiz said about playing on the road. “That’s the main thing, just stick together when things get tough like we do [at home].”

The Redhawks are currently tied with the Flashes in the MAC’s East Division standings but have dropped their last four games, with their most recent loss coming at the hands of Western Michigan.

In order to defeat a team like Miami — a struggling team hungry for a win this Saturday — the Flashes must continue to do the “little things” well and do a good job in the same areas in which they did well against the Chippewas this past weekend, such as minimizing opponents’ points off turnovers, seizing rebounds on both sides of the ball and handling defensive pressure appropriately, Senderoff said.

“This is going to be pretty similar to the last game,” Thomas said. “[Miami] likes to press and create turnovers, and they don’t really have a big presence in the middle, so we have to attack them and take care of the ball, and the same results that happened last game should

happen again.”

This Saturday, Miami’s press may prove to be a thorn in the Flashes’ side, so Senderoff said his team will have to bring the same press break they brought to the Central Michigan game.

“Our press break is gonna have to be the way it was against Central Michigan,” Senderoff said. “We only had one turnover against the press, and when we play with three or four guards like we do at almost all times, you gotta take care of the basketball and do the little things to make sure that you handle the pressure.”

One marquee player the Flashes will have to watch out for this Wednesday is redshirt senior forward Will Felder, whom Senderoff dubbed an “All-Conference-level player.”

Felder averages 14.3 points per game and ranks 10th among leading scorers in the MAC.

Since Ortiz will be starting this Wednesday after his standout performance Saturday night, he might have the opportunity to guard and match up with Felder.

He said he is not sure if he’ll put up the same numbers he did against Central Michigan night in and night out but will do his best to ensure a close head-to-head battle with a high-scoring player of Welder’s caliber.

“I’m not gonna say I’m gonna score 17 points every night — that’s not really my role on the team — but if it happens, it happens,” Ortiz said.  “I’m capable and as long as I keep making the effort plays, I’m sure the scoring is going

to be there.”

Wednesday’s tipoff is 7 p.m. inside Millet Hall at The University of Miami’s campus.

Contact Richard Mulhall at [email protected].