Men’s basketball hits the road for conference test at Ohio

Rachel Jones

After starting the season with games at Florida and UAB, the Kent State men’s basketball team is settling in a little closer to home.

The Flashes (10-6, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) travel to Ohio University Saturday for their third conference game of the season.

The team started MAC play Jan. 8 at Akron with a 65-62 loss, but redeemed themselves with an 80-63 home victory over Bowling Green.

Junior center Justin Manns said he prefers the nonconference games for the bigger crowds and added pressure of Kent State not having its own fans present.

But the conference games are the most significant part of the regular season — especially if you’re the reigning MAC Regular Season Champions.

“They’re really important because we’re all after the same thing: a championship,” Manns explained. “The scouting reports are more detailed, and the games are just more intense overall.”

And the Flashes’ 2-5 road record doesn’t really alleviate any of the pressure.

“We need to win this road game,” Manns said. “We’ve had a few close ones slip through our hands, but we’re coming to play.”

Kent State is “coming to play” Ohio’s D.J. Cooper, who earned his fifth double-double of the season Wednesday night.

Kent State coach Geno Ford said the Flashes cannot let Cooper get into a good rhythm if they want to win.

“They have one of the most potent offensive teams in our league,” Ford said. “ You can’t give them second shots because they will rebound all of those. For us, we have to make it an ugly game. We’re not going to win any beauty contests with our approach.”

The Flashes’ approach involves their top perimeter players, like senior guard Rod Sherman and junior guard Michael Porrini, finishing on top of the basket.

Ford said if the Bobcats (8-8, 1-1 MAC) turn it into a running game, the Flashes might be in trouble.

The away atmosphere will also make the game harder for Kent State.

“I didn’t like the fact that we caught them on a Saturday because they draw so well on Saturdays,” Ford said. “When the students are there, it becomes a tougher place to play.”

Even though Manns redshirted last season, he knows how intense the OU fans can be.

But with his early season nerves out of his system, the center is ready to play.

“I know what to expect — the atmosphere is crazy,” Manns said. “They have chants for each player and stuff. But I just zone it all out. I’m there to play and just do what I have to do.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].