Kent State men’s basketball looks to continue lockdown defense

Nick Shook

After recording a much-needed blowout win over Northern Illinois Wednesday, Kent State will take to the road Saturday to face the Toledo Rockets. In the victory, the Flashes forced 22 turnovers and scored 31 points off said turnovers en route to a 90-56 victory over the Huskies. Kent State will look to continue to take advantage of its defensive prowess Saturday versus the Rockets, who currently sit with a 10-10 overall record and 2-4 in the Mid-American Conference. The Flashes are very aware of the need to win road conference games, where they haven’t won since MAC play began.

“For us to win the MAC again, we’ve got to be able to win on the road,” Flashes senior guard Michael Porrini said. “We know we’re going to win at home.”

Kent State appears to have recovered from a week of mental lapses that resulted in two conference losses and is working on improving both on and off the court. Following the loss to Akron, Flashes’ coach Rob Senderoff sat down with his upperclassmen and explained to them the importance of turning around the recent losing efforts.

“Like I told our team, we’ve got a little Hollywood and were feeling ourselves a little too much,” Flashes senior forward Justin Greene said. “Everybody had to look themselves in the mirror, and the coaches challenged us. Coach challenged me and Mike (Porrini) as the leaders, and he told us that we’ve got to make sure the young guys are on the same page with everything that we’re doing.”

While it is too early to tell if Kent State will begin to find consistent success on the court, the Flashes feel their work in practice will begin to translate to in-game play.

“We know our potential because we see it every day in practice,” Porrini said. “But the problem is, practice isn’t the game. We’ve got another one Saturday. We’ve got a lot of aggression, a lot of fire built up still.”

Defense will again be the focus of Kent State as they head to northwest Ohio. After shutting down Northern Illinois’ leading scorer Abdel Nader (0-for-10, 0 points), the Flashes will have to contain Toledo guard Rian Pearson. The Rockets’ sophomore leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 15.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game.

The Flashes will finally get a break from the torrent 3-point shooting effort from opposing teams that has quickly wiped away second-half leads, as the Rockets are shooting 27.8 percent from behind the arc in 2011-12. Defensive stops will hopefully lead to turnovers and points for the Flashes, who are out to prove critics wrong.

As a collective group, the Flashes feel as though they needs to prove their worth to both their fans and the rest of the MAC in the coming weeks. Porrini and company want to make a statement to the conference with another big win Saturday.

“We’ve still got a lot to prove, and we’ve got to go to Toledo and prove it by getting our first road win in MAC play,” Porrini said. “We’re not trying to settle. We want to win by 50.”

Kent State and Toledo will tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday.