Kent State men’s basketball takes on Ball State on Jan. 27

Photo by Matt Hafley.

Photo by Matt Hafley.

Rachel Jones

“Justin Greene is the best player on that Kent State basketball team,” said Miami coach Charlie Coles on Jan. 23.

And the defenders in the Mid-American Conference are taking notice.

Every game, the junior forward gets double-teamed under the net, making it harder for him to make the points he was scoring in the beginning of the season.

“[Greene is] capable of being a little more productive than he has been,” said Kent State coach Geno Ford. “Every time he gets it, it’s like a convention in the lane.”

Tonight’s game at Ball State will be no different.

“When I got to college, my role expanded,” Greene said. “I’m probably the number one option for the double-team.”

While Greene said it is humbling to know he’s the other teams’ biggest target, it does require patience and plenty of drills to handle it in every game situation.

Ford sets up one drill where the ball has to hit the post before anyone else can touch it, and Greene must be double-teamed before he can shoot.

“The guys do a good job double-teaming me in practice and making it game-like,” Greene said.

Greene also has confidence in his teammates during actual game-time double-teams, knowing they will get his passes out and score.

Ford said Greene not only does well getting passes out when he cannot shoot, but he also learned to control his turnovers – something he struggled with in the beginning of the season.

With the ability to turn that negative statistic around, Ford said he is confident Greene can emerge from his current shooting slump.

Compared to other players, Greene’s numbers aren’t bad, but Ford said someone with Greene’s reputation has a little bit more to live up to.

“If he misses a jump bucket, everybody can’t believe it,” Ford said. “He sets expectations so high.”

Greene, who has just as high expectations for himself, has been putting in extra shooting time after practice to prevent a repeat at Buffalo.

“I haven’t been shooting a great percentage these past few games, so I’ve just been trying to work on my little hook shots and jump shots and finishes down low,” Greene said. “I want to make sure I still have the confidence to have those plays.”

Those plays will come in handy when the Flashes (12-7, 3-2 MAC) take on MAC West Division leader Ball State (13-5, 5-0 MAC), especially with Jarrod Jones leading the Cardinals with 15.7 points per game.

Greene said it’s always a good game when the two face each other.

While the Flashes sit in a three-way tie for first place in the MAC East, a victory tonight could solidify a solitary lead.

“The tough thing about our team is we’ve clawed our way back to being first in the division,” Ford said. “But we need some level of consistency. We have to be able to play with the same ball movement (from the Miami game).”

The Flashes hit the road with confidence after the 78-57 victory over Miami, but Greene said the team cannot get too cocky.

When the Flashes had a 2-0 streak going into the Buffalo game on Jan. 19, they fell 79-54.

Greene said as long as the players aren’t feeling themselves too much before the Ball State game, Kent State should be able to hold its own and advance in the conference.

“This is a very huge game, and hopefully, the best team comes out a winner,” Greene said. “And hopefully that team’s us.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].