Flashes men’s basketball looks to bounce back against Akron


Ohio’s Stevie Taylor goes up for a basket during the Bobcats’ game against Kent State on Wednesday, January 18. The Bobcats defeated Kent 87-65. Photo courtesy of Brien Vincent

Nick Shook

Kent State and Akron have a long-standing rivalry that dates back to the 1915-16 season, in which the Flashes fell 16-37. Since the teams’ first meeting, Kent State has won 69 of the 132 meetings.

The 133rd edition of Kent State versus Akron is set to take place on Saturday at Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena. Both teams are entering the game after losing their previous games, which is uncharacteristic of the rivalry. Akron fell to Buffalo 82-70 Wednesday night and Kent State was embarrassed by Ohio, 87-65. The two are expected to approach Saturday’s contest with a bit of anger, considering both teams are expected to contend for the Mid-American Conference East Division Title.

“We should have closed the game,” Michael Porrini, Kent State senior guard, said of Wednesday’s game against Ohio. “We let one get away. What’s more important is getting better after losing to Ohio, but it’s in the back of our minds.”

Kent State and Akron last met in last season’s MAC Tournament Championship, in which Akron earned an overtime victory 66-65. The win gave Akron a berth in the NCAA Tournament, and Kent State ended up playing in the National Invitation Tournament, where they performed well before losing to top-seeded Colorado. The Flashes’ MAC Tournament loss is still fresh on the minds of the players, and they intend to earn redemption and another MAC victory Saturday.

Not only would a win against Akron be another conference win for the Flashes, it would also be the team’s first conference road win. Junior forward Patrick Jackson actually found the team winning their first conference game on the road the more important issue than playing Akron.

“”I feel as though we need to get our first road win,” Jackson said. “That’s what we’ve been lacking this season. We just need a road win underneath our belt.”

In the last loss to Akron, Porrini scored six points, grabbed nine rebounds, and recorded three steals and three assists in the Flashes’ loss, but he was involved in a post-game altercation after multiple Zips nearly trampled Porrini while gathering at midcourt in celebration.

Teammates came to Porrini’s defense, and shoves were exchanged. It was a sour ending to what promised to be a historic night for Kent State, and it has since served as motivation for the Flashes in 2011-12.

“It’s motivation,” Porrini agreed, “but at the end of the day, what matters is that we just lost by 20 points to Ohio. That’s what’s fresh on our minds.”

The Flashes will have to defend 7-foot center Zeke Marshall, who leads Akron in scoring with 10.9 points per game and averages 5.1 rebounds per game. Nikola Cvetinovic is just behind Marshall in scoring with 10.4 points per game and leads the team in rebounding with 6.1 rebounds per game. Kent State will have to overcome a height disadvantage when defending Marshall. The Flashes’ tallest player is 6-foot-11 Justin Manns, who will likely see plenty of playing time Saturday.

Akron currently stands with an 11-7 overall record, but is 3-1 in conference play and resides atop the MAC East standings. Kent State enters Saturday’s contest with a 12-5 overall record and a 2-2 conference record, and hopes to enter a tie for first place with a victory over the Zips.

Saturday will play a pivotal role in how the MAC East standings will shape in conference play. Tip-off is at 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on SportsTime Ohio.

“(This game) is very important,” Porrini said. “It’s our final MAC East game before we play three against the west. We just need to play our hearts out.”

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected] and @NickShookDKS.