Men’s basketball looking for strong showing against Akron


Senior Guard Michael Porrini dribbles the ball past Sophomore Guard Alex Abreu in the MAC center on March 2, 2012. The Zips defeated the Flashes 61 to 55. Photo by Adrianne Bastas.

Tim Dorst, TV2 Sports

//Change the div id to match the name of the file without the “.flv” !!

videotoPlay(‘011813_BBALL_SOT.flv’);//Paste video filename between the quotes

function videotoPlay(file){

var video = file;

var divId = (video.split(“.”,1))[0];

var playlist = [{file: ‘rtmp://’ + video }];

var ad = “TechHelpAd_11152012_600.flv”; //Paste pre-roll ad filename between the quotes

var adPlayed = false;


file: “rtmp://” + ad,

image: ‘’,

captions: [{ file: “”, label: “English” }],

width: ‘665’, height: ‘450’, events: {

onPlay: function(){if (adPlayed == false){jwplayer(divId).setControls(false);}},

onComplete: function(){adPlayed = true;



Kent State Men’s Basketball Players Bryson Pope, Randal Holt and Coach Rob Senderoff preview Saturday’s game vs the Akron Zips. Video by TV2 Sports

Follow TV2 Sports on Twitter @TV2KSUSports.

The storied rivalry between Kent State University and the University of Akron, known across the various sports as the Wagon Wheel Challenge, renews once more this weekend in a game that will have major influence on the Mid-American Conference standings in the opening weeks of league play.

The Flashes (11-6, 2-1 MAC) come home to the M.A.C. Center for their first meeting this season with the Akron Zips (12-4, 3-0 MAC) at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Kent State goes into the game riding a two-game winning streak after hard-fought road victories over MAC opponents Ball State and Buffalo, and the Flashes sit just one game behind Akron and Ohio for first place in the East Division.

With the University of Akron located about 15 miles from Kent State’s main campus, the proximity of the two schools sets the stage for a competitive rivalry across most of the schools’ major sports. Head coach Rob Senderoff said while every game on the schedule is important, the players understand the significance of the Kent State-Akron feud.

“In the standings they all count the same, but our kids know that this is a little bit different,” Senderoff said. “We’ll have our biggest crowd of the year here. The players know each other because they’re not too far apart from each other. Our kids know it’s a big game, and our kids will be up for it, as will [Akron’s].”

The events of last season add some fuel to the rivalry, as the Zips defeated the Flashes in all three meetings and eliminated the team from the MAC Tournament last March. That fact is still very fresh in the mind of senior guard Randal Holt, who said the team is looking forward to gaining a measure of redemption.

“They crushed our hopes of going to the NCAA tournament,” Holt said. “So of course, we have this game circled on our calendars. We need to play as hard as we can, play with as much energy as we can, and try to get this win.”

The Zips started off their conference schedule by winning their first three games, their most recent win coming in a 71-64 victory over Ball State on Wednesday. Led by head coach Keith Dambrot, the Zips rank in the top five in most major statistical categories among MAC teams, including leading the conference in points per game and blocks.

Akron has also won its last eight games and nine of 11.

“They’re the best team in the league,” Senderoff said. “They have 10 guys who can all score 20 in a game. They’re the biggest team in the league and one of the best rebounding teams. So they present some challenges, but we’ll be up for it.”

Senderoff mentioned size as one of the main challenges the Flashes might face Saturday, which is likely to come in the form of Zips center Zeke Marshall. The 7-foot senior leads the MAC in shooting percentage at 67 percent, ranks sixth in rebounds per game (6.6) and 12th in points per game (12.3).

The Flashes’ top scorer, senior forward Chris Evans, is currently second in the conference at 17.1 points per game and forms one-half of one of the best scoring duos in the MAC along with Holt. Evans said he feels that not only are the Flashes improving on the defensive side of the ball, but also the team is playing much better as a unit since the start of the season.

“Everybody is just finding ways to win, especially when games get tough,” Evans said. “When we get into clutch situations in the game, everybody just comes up with game-winning plays.”

Evans and Holt both hit a few clutch shots and free throws in Kent State’s 80-68 win over Buffalo Wednesday, the two combining for 52 points in the game. After the team bounced back from a home loss to Toledo to win two games on the road, Holt said the players are maturing as the season progresses.

“It seems like we’re coming together as a team and finding ways to win tough games,” Holt said. “We just have to go into this game on Saturday and just play our game, play with confidence and play with toughness.”

A win over the Zips would tie the two teams in terms of conference record and put the Flashes right where they need to be in the East Division at this point in the year. Sophomore guard Devareaux Manley said Kent State will have to bring the same level of energy against Akron that it had in the win over the Buffalo Bulls.

“It gives us a lot of confidence coming off a two-game winning streak,” Manley said. “We had a lot of energy that last game, playing as a team. It definitely built a lot of confidence for us, and that’s what we need coming in against Akron. We need a lot of energy, and our last win was definitely an energy booster. I think it prepared us a lot for this game coming up because it’s definitely gonna be a big one.”

The Flashes have won six of their last seven games. However, four of their six losses have come on their home court, something which Senderoff and the players know needs to improve within the next three months of the season. For Manley, the key to improving this stat is maintaining the winning mindset regardless of the game’s locale.

“It seems like he doesn’t care about anything else but winning when we’re on the road, so that’s the same attitude we need to bring when playing at home,” Manley said. “When we play Akron we just have to forget about everything else and just worry about winning.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].