Men’s basketball toughens up before crucial road game

Rachel Jones

Sitting at 7-2, the Kent State men’s basketball team should feel good about its season so far.

But with both losses coming on the road and Thursday’s game at Florida, the Flashes are feeling the pressure.

Kent State will battle the No. 24 Gators (6-2) at 7 p.m. in one of the Flashes’ toughest games on the schedule. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

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Breaking down the game

Kent State at No. 24 Florida
?Stephen C. O’Connell Center
?Thursday at 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

• Record:

Kent State

The Flashes fell on the road to Cleveland State (69-66) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (75-59). Best win: 62-59 home win over Robert Morris



The Gators lost to Ohio State (93-75) and Central Florida (57-54). Best win: 79-66 home win over Florida Atlantic

• Overall Team Leader:

Kent State
?Rod Sherman
?The senior guard is averaging 10.9 points per game and is on track for the best season of his career.

?Erving Walker
?The junior guard leads the team with 13.3 points per game and averages 31.5 minutes per game.

• Rebounding?Kent State

The Flashes lead the Mid-American Conference with 40.2 rebounds per game.


The Gators are averaging 36.4 rebounds per game, ranking them 10th in the Southeastern Conference.

• Scoring

Kent State
?The Flashes lead the MAC in scoring, too, with 74.6 points per game.


The Gators average 71.6 points per game with a +11.3 scoring margin.

• Steals

Kent State
?Michael Porrini is ranked 21st in the nation with 20 of the team’s 69 total steals this season. For the past five games, the junior guard has made at least three steals.


The Gators have totaled 60 steals this season, averaging 7.5 per game.


Previously on the road, Kent State fell to Cleveland State on Nov. 14 and University of Alabama at Birmingham last Sunday.

“We need to learn how to play on the road,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “It’s totally different than a home game. We’ve shot better at home, and our defense and rebounding is tougher.”

After the 69-66 loss to Cleveland State, Ford said the team played tough but was not ready for a win yet.

This weekend, the Flashes’ credited their loss to an early UAB lead. They chipped away at the 29-15 deficit in the first half but couldn’t come out ahead, losing 75-59.

Ford said teams learn more from losses than they do from wins, so he hopes his team can make improvements before this road trip.

“We have a bunch of new guys, and it’s early in the year,” Ford said. “We weren’t expecting miracles. This is a process. Right now, we have tough kids but not a tough group.”

After two flight delays Sunday and a canceled practice Monday, the Flashes finally got to work on this “team toughness” yesterday.

Ford set up a drill where the players ran full-speed to shoot layups but got hit by football training pads on their way up.

“It’s to get them in a more physical mindset,” Ford explained. “We need to fight and get tougher and more competitive on the backboard.”

Junior guard Michael Porrini has made three steals in each of the past five games, and junior forward Justin Greene led the team in rebounds last Sunday with seven.

But the team will need to produce more as a whole to overcome Florida.

“I would say they’re just as physical as UAB,” Ford said. “But Florida is a very good team.”

The Gators’ seniors Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus scored 39 points combined against American last Sunday. On the season, Florida is averaging 71.6 points per game.

The Flashes are working on rebounds and strong defensive play in practice this week to prevent a similar shooting spree on Thursday.

Kent State is also hoping to pick up its shooting game, especially early on in order to tame crowds at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Against UAB, the Flashes only scored 25 points in the first half. In its nine games this season, Kent State has scored 298 total points in first halves, compared to 360 in second halves.

“We need to get a better start (against Florida),” Ford said. “I expect the first 8-10 minutes to be very big.”

While the Flashes are looking to make a powerful first impression and improve its road record, they have to remember: It’s still early in the season.

“November and December are tough,” Ford said. “We want to win these games, but we need to get ready to win a championship. That’s not until March. We need to be worried about us.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].