Becoming road warriors

Rachel Jones

Huddled before the start of the Jan. 11 game, the Kent State Men’s Basketball team yelled two final words of inspiration before taking on Ohio: “Road Warriors.”

With a 1-5 away record this season, the title is far from what most would describe the Flashes as. But the team rallied to defeat the Bobcats 69-66 at The Convocation Center.

Now the Flashes (11-6, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) are ready to face Buffalo tonight at 7:30 p.m. for their fourth conference game and third on the road.

“A win on the road before another road game is huge,” said senior guard Rod Sherman. “It gives us a lot of confidence.”

Kent State coach Geno Ford said the fact that the team won is a confidence booster – conference game or not.

But the Flashes will need to step it up if they want a repeat road victory.

“We didn’t by any means play off-the-chart well (against Ohio),” Ford said. “We have another level or two we need to get to if we want to compete for a conference championship.”

In the 16-conference game schedule, the Flashes will need to win at least 10 road games if they want a chance at the MAC Championship.

Ford said the best way a team can win on the road is through communication.

“Communication becomes of the utmost importance on road games because the ground’s not going to give you a lift,” Ford explained. “Everything you do comes from each other and yourself. I thought we communicated really well (at Ohio) – not just on the floor, but in the huddles.”

The teammates communicated well with not only each other, but also the coaches.

Ford said many of the younger or first-time players showed great maturity and improvements by handling criticism better.

“We seem to finally be over the sensitivity we had in the beginning of the year where too many new players (could not) take criticism,” Ford said. “We’re finally learning how to play hard and move forward.”

He also credited the win to vocal leadership and high energy levels on the defensive end.

New vocal leaders, like junior center Justin Manns, have recently stepped up on the court, while other players contribute with baskets, like junior forward Justin Greene, who scored 18 points against the Bobcats.

The Flashes will need both types of leadership to beat Buffalo (9-6, 1-2 MAC), who defeated Akron 73-70 last Sunday.

Byron Mulkey, who averages 13.8 points per game, lead the Bulls with 17 points.

But Sherman and the Flashes are hoping they can use their newfound confidence to overcome players like Mulkey and earn another road victory.

“We said we’re going to road warriors before the start of (the Ohio) game, so we’re just trying to bring that back and get a win,” Sherman said.

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].