One tough opponent

Cody Erbacher

Flashes take on Xavier tonight

The Kent State men’s basketball team has been evenly matched with its opponents this season – up to this point.

Tonight the Flashes (5-2) will face Xavier (4-2), a team with a stacked offense, a winning tradition and a powerful post game.

“The biggest thing is I’m looking for us to play with fearlessness about us,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “With a team like Xavier, we need everybody to play well. We’re at a situation where when you go play these games, we can’t have anyone have an off night.”


Kent State:

Senior forward Anthony Simpson has been a key component off the bench for the team. Since his transition to sixth man, Simpson has had the best four-game stretch of his career, averaging 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Simpson is undersized compared to Xavier’s big men; therefore, his outside shot will need to be working to give Kent State the edge.


Sophomore guard Jordan Crawford will provide a tough challenge for the Kent State defense. Crawford is averaging 18.5 points per game. He is the first Xavier player to average more than 17 points per game since the 2002-03 season.

In the last match-up between the two teams in the 2007-08 season, Kent State lost to Xavier 78-65. Junior guard Rodriquez Sherman, senior guard Mike McKee and senior guard Chris Singletary are the only Kent State players who played in the last game against Xavier.

This game will be difficult for the Flashes because the Musketeers are coming off a two-loss weekend and are looking to rebound. Prior to losses against both Baylor and Marquette last weekend, the Musketeers were receiving votes in the national rankings.

“We’ve got to come out and establish an identity early in the game,” Ford said. “We can’t come out and have a sluggish start because if you get down in these type of teams, you’re not going to get back in it.”

The Flashes are undersized compared to the Musketeers and do not have the same schedule difficulty.

Senior forward/center Jason Love leads Xavier in rebounds (66), rebounds per game (11), blocked shots (14) and turnovers (13). Love is second on the Musketeers in scoring with 11.2 points per game and a 62.9 field goal percentage.

But senior guard Tyree Evans said the Xavier players shouldn’t overlook this game because Kent State is ready for the challenge.

“They’re going to come out hungry,” he said. “They might come out thinking it’s going to be easy. If they know what’s better for them, they’re going to come out hard because right now we’re focused.”

Today’s game is the third straight road game for the Flashes. Following this game, the team will travel to face Pittsburgh to finish off the away stretch.

Ford said the extra time the players have between games is a huge help because it gives them extra time to practice and prepare mentally for the toughness of away games.

“It should help us down the road,” he said. “For right now, it’s tough because you’re just trying to grind each day and get better in practice, you can’t go on the road and play poorly and expect to win.”


Kent State (5-2) vs. Xavier (4-2)

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati

Televised on Fox Sports Ohio and Radio WNIR 100.1 FM

The Flashes, who are 5-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 75 points, matched a program record for wins in November with five. The previous team to accomplish this was the 2007-08 roster, which posted the second-best season in school history at 28-7.

Kent State (262) and Xavier (269) have a combined total of 531 wins and 13 NCAA Tournament appearances since the 1998-99 season.

“We just need to play Kent State basketball,” Evans said. “We need to be comfortable, be focused, be fearless, just be us. It’s all about our mentality, that’s all it’s about . being fearless.”

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].