Men’s Basketball begins final quest of conference title Thursday

Junior guard Darren Goodson (right) and sophomore guard Kris Brewer (left) share a moment in the locker room after a 68-64 victory over Akron on Friday, March 8 at James A. Rhodes Arena. Goodson led the Flashes with 19 points and 8 rebounds, helping snap a five-game losing streak to the Zips. Photo by Shane Flanigan.

Tim Dorst

Kent State’s journey toward a conference championship and an NCAA tournament spot will begin 6:30 Thursday in third round of the 2013 First Energy Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

The Flashes (19-12, 9-7 MAC), who earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament, received byes for the first two rounds and will take on Buffalo. The Flashes won both of their games against the Bulls.

Head coach Rob Senderoff said not much will change in the way the Flashes practice and prepare for their first tournament game.

“The only difference is usually, right now, we’re in prep mode at all times,” Senderoff said. “We’re not going to be able to be in prep mode, so we’re going to work on ourselves and try to get our execution a little better. We’ll take a lot of shots and make sure that our conditioning is where it needs to be.”

The Flashes finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak, including a 68-64 road victory over the Akron Zips last Friday. If the Flashes win their third-round game, they will match up against Akron for the third time this season in the semifinals Friday.

Junior forward Darren Goodson said, while the win over Akron was big for the team, the players will need to refocus as they get ready for the most important games of the season thus far.

“Everyone is 0-0 now,” Goodson said. “We got the win, now it’s over with. It’s time to get back to what we do and get ready for Thursday.”

Last season, the Flashes defeated Western Michigan 76-72 to advance to the semifinals of the MAC Tournament, where they lost to the Zips 78-74.

Winning the tournament and bringing home a MAC Championship is important to senior guard Randal Holt, as the team has yet to win a tournament championship in the four years he has been on the team. Holt said a tournament victory would be big not only because of the conference title at stake, but also because of a spot in the NCAA tournament up for grabs.

“I have yet to get to an NCAA tournament,” Holt said. “I got regular season MAC Championships, but the ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA tournament. So going up there, it’s going to be great experience. It’s going to be great for our team, and we’re just going to […] play our hardest.”

The Flashes head into the tournament playing their best stretch of games all season. Along with their five-game winning streak, the team has also won eight of its last 10 games since February. Kent State clinched the fourth seed in the tournament with its 69-61 win over Bowling Green at the M.A.C. Center on March 5.

The Match Up

Kent State Buffalo
Overall record 19-12 13-19
Conference record 9-7 7-9
Avg. points per game 71.7 66.6
Avg. points allowed 67.7 67.4
Current Streak W5 W5

Senderoff said regardless of who their third-round opponent will be, the Flashes will come out with the spirit and confidence they will need in order to win.

“This is a time where if your kids really want to play, which I think they do, and they have a positive mindset, which I know they do,” Senderoff said, “[they will] play with a lot of energy and effort. If we don’t play well in Cleveland, then we won’t advance. If we play well, then we’ll advance. It’s about sharping the knife a little bit in the days leading up to it.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].