Men’s basketball looks to extend winning streak against Central Michigan


Kent State senior guard Michael Porrini attempts to pass the ball past Akron defenders on Saturday, Jan. 21 at the University of Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena. The Akron Zips beat the Golden Flashes 84-75. Photo by Kristen Bauer.

Nick Shook

Fresh off two straight convincing conference victories, Kent State travels to Mount Pleasant, Mich. to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas on Tuesday. The Flashes face their third Mid-American Conference West division opponent in a row after recording wins over cellar-dwelling Northern Illinois and Toledo. Another victory over a less-than-stellar conference opponent would put Kent State back in the middle of the MAC East standings.

The Flashes currently sit in fourth place in the MAC East but trail division-leading Akron by only two games. With Central Michigan (7-13, 2-5 MAC) in the midst of an unsuccessful 2011-12 season and a five-game losing streak, Kent State is in a prime position to take advantage of a weak opponent in order to gain some ground on division foes Akron, Ohio and Buffalo.

Although the Chippewas’ record isn’t one to write home about, Central Michigan still has at least a couple of players worth noting. Guard Trey Zeigler leads the Chippewas with 16.1 points per game, including a 15.1 points-per-game average against conference opponents. Zeigler is shooting 46.2 percent from the floor in 2011-12 and has made 32 percent of his shots from behind the arc. The 6-foot-5 sophomore also averages seven rebounds per game, and will undoubtedly be the focus of Kent State’s defensive game plan.

“We just have to do a great job on (Zeigler),” Flashes head coach Rob Senderoff said. “They isolate him a lot at the mid-post. Mike (Porrini) will get the first shot to guard him, then Pat (Jackson) and Chris Evans as well.”

“We’re just gonna come out and try to contain him,” Flashes guard Randal Holt said. “Mike (Porrini) will give him everything he can handle.”

Zeigler is joined by Cleveland Benedictine High School product Derek Jackson, who scored a career-high 21 points in the Chippewas’ 74-64 loss to Akron. Jackson is Central Michigan’s second-leading scorer with 11.7 points per game and will look to continue his recent success Tuesday against Kent State.

Central Michigan is allowing 67.9 points per game, and Kent State leads the MAC with a team average of 72.1 points. The Flashes have gotten back to the roots of what they like to call Kent State basketball by creating offensive opportunities with defensive stops. Junior forward Chris Evans recorded three steals within two minutes during the Flashes’ 77-61 victory over Toledo Saturday. Kent State would finish with 13 total steals.

“It’s important for us to continue to play that way, with a defense-first mindset,” Senderoff said. “I think our offense is better when we’re getting out and scoring in transition and to do that, we have to create turnovers or rebound.”

“We need that,” Holt said. “We need (Evans’) energy off the bench.”

While Evans was the star of Saturday night’s victory over Toledo, junior Patrick Jackson played one of his better games of the 2011-12 season. The 6-foot-6 forward scored four points and grabbed a rebound in 18 minutes of action, but proved his worth by recording a steal and finishing a fast break with a layup during the Flashes’ 11-0 run in the second half, which allowed Kent State to run away with a 15-point victory.

“He’s really starting to buy into what he needs to do to help our team and help him get on the floor, which is defend and bring a lot of energy on that end of the floor,” Senderoff said. “As long as he continues to do that, I think he’ll play more and it’ll help our team play better.”

Kent State and Central Michigan will tip-off at 7 p.m. The MAC contest will be broadcast live on SportsTime Ohio.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].