Men’s basketball continues conference play with home game against Buffalo


Sophomore guard Eric Gaines guards junior guard Tony Watson on Feb. 14, 2012 The Flashes defeated the Bulls 76 to 71. Photo by Adrianne Bastas.

Tim Dorst

With only a handful of Mid-American Conference games left on the schedule, the men’s basketball team moves into the final stretch leading up to the beginning of the MAC Tournament in March. Kent State wants to finish its regular season strong, and another conference win could more than help its cause.

Coming off a non-conference win over Loyola-Chicago, the Flashes continue their league play when they take on the Buffalo Bulls at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center.

Kent State (15-12, 5-7 MAC) enters the game in fourth place in the MAC East Division, just a game behind the third-place Bulls (11-16, 6-6 MAC). A third-place finish in the division is the best-case scenario for the Flashes, and a win Wednesday night would move them into a tie for that position.

Head coach Rob Senderoff said the Bulls are a much-improved team since the Flashes defeated them 80-68 on Jan. 16, so his team must execute on every aspect of the game in order to be successful against them.

“We’re going to have to do a great job rebounding,” Senderoff said. “That’s a big focus for us in this game, as well as winning the turnover battle. Those are really the two most important things for us in the game. It’s been a focus the last couple games, just getting our guys excited and ready to play.”

The Flashes won the battle on the boards against Loyola Saturday, outrebounding the Ramblers 31-28. Senior forward Chris Evans led the way with 10 rebounds, recording his third straight double-double.

“I think that’s a huge key for us,” Senderoff said. “Him getting double-doubles or double-digit rebounds, it’s important for us. He did that the last time we played Buffalo, and it helped us get the win.”

The 6-foot-8 senior had arguably his best game of the season against the Bulls, in which he scored 25 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Evans was also active on the defensive side of the ball in that win, tallying four steals and two blocked shots.

Evans helped the Flashes close out their 70-63 victory over the Ramblers Saturday as the team found a way to finish both halves effectively. That is one element, Senderoff said, the Flashes will need to carry over to their next game.

“We wanted to start the game great, and we didn’t do that,” Senderoff said. “But we did a great job finishing out the first half and starting off scoring in the second half really well.”

Another focus for the Flashes’ defense will be on Bulls forward Javon McCrea, who is third in the MAC in points per game this season and scored 33 points against Kent State in the teams’ last meeting. He was the only Buffalo player to score in double figures in that game.

Evans and senior guard Randal Holt supply a high percentage of the Flashes’ offense this season, but junior guard Bryson Pope has recently emerged as a consistent scoring option off the bench. Pope is averaging nearly 9 points per game the past three games while making his last 10 shots over that span.

“He’s been helping our team out a lot this season, and he’s definitely an important part,” Senderoff said. “We need him to continue to play well. He plays a number of positions on the floor, he can defend a number of positions and now of late he’s done a great job of scoring with his opportunities.”

Every game from this point on is crucial for the Flashes, as each win or loss could determine what seed the team receives when the conference tournament rolls around. Holt said the mindset of the team the last few weeks has been to head into the tournament playing its best basketball.

“We’re trying to win the rest of our games in the MAC schedule,” Holt said. “So we’re hoping to build on each win and get a winning streak going for the end of the season.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected]