Men’s basketball’s confidence hinges on victory Wednesday

Michael+Porrini%2C+senior+guard%2C+dribbles+around+Jarrod+Jones%2C+senior+foward%2C+at+the+game+against+Ball+State+on+Feb.+11.+The+Flashes+won+76-55.+Photo+by+Nancy+Urchak.

Michael Porrini, senior guard, dribbles around Jarrod Jones, senior foward, at the game against Ball State on Feb. 11. The Flashes won 76-55. Photo by Nancy Urchak.

Nick Shook

Kent State’s most important week of the regular season is its last, which begins tonight at the M.A.C. Center.

The Flashes’ first of their final two home games is against the second-place Ohio Bobcats (23-6, 10-4 MAC). The Bobcats defeated conference leader Akron 85-61 Sunday at home and enters the game on a four-game win streak.

Meanwhile, Kent State (19-9, 9-5 MAC) has lost three consecutive games and is trying to regain its winning form after falling to Bowling Green 74-58. The Flashes returned to the practice court Tuesday to prepare for a game in which they hope they can regain their victorious play.

“When you’ve lost a couple, your confidence isn’t as high as it needs to be,” Flashes’ coach Rob Senderoff said. “The only way to cure that is to win, so you’ve got to find a way to win the game. I don’t think our kids lack confidence, but when you’ve lost a couple in a row, I don’t know if it’s trust or belief that dips a little bit, but the only way to get that back is to win.”

Flashes’ senior forward Justin Greene said he doesn’t believe confidence is an issue.

“I don’t think we lost any confidence,” Greene said. “It’ll be huge for us to get this win and get us one step closer to our goal this week to win both games and use the momentum going into the tournament.”

Kent State had opportunities to win in each of their past three games, but couldn’t finish comeback attempts. Senderoff hopes that the team will make the plays necessary Wednesday to earn a victory and a much-needed confidence boost.

“We’re just a couple plays here or there from doing it,” Senderoff said. “We had our chances, for sure. Bowling Green, we just had a let down. There have been a ton of games where we’re down six with seven minutes to go and we’ve won those games. We just couldn’t get it together in that game. We’ve just got to find that collective toughness and will to find a way to get over the hump against a really good team.”

In the two teams’ first meeting of the 2011-12 season, Ohio defeated Kent State 87-65 at home thanks to effective 3-point shooting by guards Nick Kellogg and D.J. Cooper and an impressive performance by forward Walter Offutt. The Flashes believe that at this stage of the regular season, wins and losses aren’t determined by game plans or statistics.

“They beat us like a drum the first time we played them,” Senderoff said. “We had it at a one point game, but they just turned it up and we didn’t respond very well down there. I would hope and expect our kids to not be happy about that and to play with a chip on their shoulder.”

“We’ve seen them play plenty of times. We know what they like to do,” Greene said. “Once it gets to this part of the season, it’s about heart. Not X’s and O’s.”

A fast start or a comeback isn’t what the Flashes need to win their final two home games.

“It’s more of sustaining the effort for 40 minutes and not relaxing,” Senderoff said. “I think it’s more of a mental thing.

“They’re going to bring it,” Greene said. “We’re going to bring it, and it’s going to come down to who wants it more.”

Kent State will need the support of its fans at home in the Flashes’ most important week of the season. While the Flashes are virtually eliminated from regular season championship contention, they hope two victories will give them momentum heading into the MAC Tournament, which begins March 7.

“Hopefully they’ll come out and support us,” Greene said. “The fans play a part in any game in this conference. They played a big part in [the Bobcats’] win at Ohio. Regardless of how we got beat, we have a chip on our shoulder. We don’t lose at home. We haven’t lost at home in conference, and we have to keep it that way.

“Anything can happen on any given night,” Greene said. “You never know. It all comes down to who plays the hardest and executes.”

Game time is set for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast by SportsTime Ohio.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected] or @NickShookDKS