With the end of the regular college basketball season rapidly approaching, the Kent State men’s basketball team seemed to be in top form on the road Wednesday night against the Miami Redhawks (9-15, 5-8 Mid-American Conference).
After weeks and weeks of frustration shooting the three-ball, the Flashes (15-11, 6-7 MAC) proved that they are still indeed alive and well from three-point range when they want to be.
Three-point shooting was in full swing as the team shot a mind-blowing 57.7 percent from outside the perimeter on a 15-of-26 three-point-shooting effort.
“I just think we’re playing better of late, and we’re doing the little things that help you win games,” Kent State Coach Rob Senderoff said. “Last night we shot the ball well, but more importantly, I think we’re doing more of the little things that help you win games.”
Overall, the Flashes did the “little things” well Wednesday night, but it was sophomore guard Kris Brewer who came through in a big way for the Flashes.
Brewer, who lost his starting position a few weeks ago after a three-game stretch in which he only connected on three of his last 22 long-range shots, was the leading contributor to the Flashes’ long-ball success.
He knocked down all seven of his three-pointers en route to a career-tying 28-point scoring night that helped Kent State topple the Redhawks 75-63.
Brewer was on fire, only missing two shots from the field. He attempted 11 total shots against Miami.
Brewer said he was in the gym before and after practice all week before the game with assistant coach DeAndre Haynes to prepare for the Miami game. All the late-night and early-morning practices paid off in the end.
“Sometimes I was here at one, two o’clock in the morning,” Brewer said of his work ethic this past week. “I just knew I had to contribute well to help the team win.”
Junior guard Devareaux Manley’s touch from beyond the arc also added fuel to the Flashes’ fire Wednesday night. He drew on Brewer’s performance and stepped up from off the bench to drain five three-pointers for 15 points.
Brewer’s improved play, especially in the three-point department, gave other players like Manley the confidence to improve their three-point shooting as well.
“We’ve been practicing in the gym,.Everybody’s contributing hitting threes and we’re feeding off each other,” Brewer said. “When Dev sees me hitting a lot of threes, I guess that gives him to do it, and when I see him hitting threes, it gives me confidence, so it’s a big confidence boost.”
In the first half, the Bulls kept the game close and interesting and were only down by six points going into the break. The second half, though, was all Kent State.
The Flashes broke open the game and even claimed a 22-point lead with 10:55 to go. The Bulls tried to surge later on in the half, but it was too little too late.
“At the end of the day, we out-rebounded them, which is the first time in forever that we’ve done that,” Senderoff said. “We also had more offensive rebounds than them. So we did a good job on the glass.”
n the MAC East, only Kent State and Buffalo (15-8, 9-4 MAC) are 4-2 since the start of February. Now fans will finally get a chance to see these two recently hot teams battle it out for February supremacy in the MAC.
Kent State will host Buffalo inside the M.A.C. Center this Saturday at noon.
The Bulls are coming off a fresh 96-90 win against Akron at home Wednesday night. The Zips were leading the division until their loss to Buffalo earlier this week.
As of late, Buffalo has been the total package and team to beat in the M.A.C.’s East Division. Senderoff said Buffalo is probably playing better than anyone in the East Division right now, so the Flashes must bring their A-game Saturday afternoon in order to keep their winning ways alive and extend their three-game win streak to four.
“They rebound very well, they guard the three well, and they shoot the three well,” Senderoff said of the East Division powerhouse. “We’re at home and I think we’re playing with some confidence, so we’re gonna have to play well and everybody’s gonna have to help us out in some way, shape or form to win on Saturday. We’re gonna need a total team effort.”
One of the Flashes’ keys to success this weekend will be to find a way to shut down senior forward Javon McCrea.
McCrea, who virtually leads the MAC in five statistical categories, is arguably the best player in the MAC this season. He leads the league in rebounding, he is second in the league in scoring and field goal percentage and is third in the league in offensive rebounding and blocks.
“McCrea is one of the most dominating big men to ever play in this league,” Senderoff said. “Buffalo has a lot of nice players around him, so they’re a good team and tough team to beat.”
Earlier this season, the Flashes lost to Buffalo 71-60 Jan. 18 on the road. In that game, Kent State only shot 27.3 from three-point range and only connected on six of its 13 free -throw attempts.
In order to prevent another blotch in the loss column and keep history from repeating itself Saturday, the Flashes will have to perform better than they did in their last outing against the divisional foe.
“We got to be more in tune to what we have to do to prepare for this game,” Brewer said. “They beat us at their house, so we gotta come in ready to win.”
Contact Richard Mulhall at [email protected]