Home game could end drought for Flashes

Cody Erbacher

Defense focused on stopping scoring trio

It’s not the bracket that everyone fills out in March, but the National Invitational Tournament gives the Kent State men’s basketball team its best chance to break an eight-year postseason losing streak.

And this year, the tournament brings big name schools such as North Carolina and UCONN to the bracket. In fact, the fourth-seeded Golden Flashes boast the same seed as the Huskies and the defending national champion Tar Heels.

The Flashes (23-9) return to the court today hosting fifth-seeded Tulsa (23-11) in the first round of the NIT at 7 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center. Kent State was guaranteed a spot in the tournament after winning the Mid-American Conference Regular Season Championship.

“It’s a great opportunity to go compete against a great team,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “I think the kids are excited about one more chance to play in our gym against a really good team and have a chance for what would, without a question, be our best win of the year.”

Working against the Kent State defense is the Golden Hurricane’s prominent offense.

Tulsa brings three players to the court recording more than14 points per game: senior guard Ben Uzoh (15.5), senior center Jerome Jordan (15.3) and junior guard Justin Hurtt (14.0).

Tulsa’s offense averages 71.7 points per game compared to the 64.7 points per game they allow.

Although the ultimate goal would be to prevent any one of the three of them from taking the game into their own hands, Ford said the goal is to limit the trio.

“No one’s had much success stopping them; We’ve got to limit them,” Ford said. “The big concerns to me are not letting one of those guys go off and then also the rebound battle.”

Jordan, who is the teams’ seven-foot center, leads Tulsa with 8.8 boards per game, while sophomore forward leads Kent State with 6.8 per game.

The game will mark Kent State’s 11th postseason match in the last 12 years.

“If we play well then there’s none of these teams we can’t beat,” Ford said. “We haven’t won a postseason game in eight years. We’d really like to get that monkey off our back and have a signature in March.”

Kent State enters the game after losing its first game in the Mid-American Conference Tournament against Ohio, who went on to win the tournament. Tulsa lost to UTEP in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].