Flashes hope for hot streak before tournament begins

Chris Gates

Team hosts Buffalo, looks to end skid

With the Mid-American Conference Tournament just days away – the first round starts Tuesday – the Kent State men’s basketball team knows it needs to end the season on a winning note.

The Flashes had their eight-game winning streak snapped last weekend by consecutive losses at Bowling Green and Miami. Now the Flashes (16-13, 8-6 MAC) are two games out of first place in the MAC East with two games to play.


KENT STATE (16-13, 8-6 MAC) vs.

BUFFALO (18-9, 10-4 MAC)

Where: M.A.C. Center

When: 7 p.m. tonight


Radio: Black SquirrelRadio.com or WNIR 100.1 FM

Online: Live blog at KentNewsNet.com.

The team’s final two contests are 7 p.m. tonight against Buffalo and noon Sunday against Akron. Both are at home, and with Buffalo in a tie for first place in the MAC East and Akron tied for second, both are must-win games for the Flashes’ slim chances at a first-round bye.

“We’re playing for rhythm and confidence and pride,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “Those are three great reasons to play. We’re going to have our hands full.”

The first time Kent State and Buffalo played this season, the two teams were heading in very opposite directions.

The Bulls’ 64-53 victory over the Flashes Jan. 21 in Buffalo was their third win in a row and was part of a nine-game winning streak. For the Flashes, it was their fourth loss in five games.

Things have changed.

Now Kent State is playing better basketball, coming off an eight-game winning streak. The Bulls have lost four of their last five and desperately need wins to break out of their first-place tie with Bowling Green.

“Before, a lot of guys wanted to do their own thing,” senior guard Jordan Mincy said. “Now we’re more of a team, we’re more focused on the defensive end and (we’re) executing on the offensive end. It’s a very different environment and very different players coming to the game than when we first played.”

Ford said managing Buffalo’s depth and size inside will be the major focus tonight. The Bulls pulled down 39 rebounds to Kent State’s 29 in the first meeting, with 13 of them on the offensive end.


Kent State player to watch … Senior guard Al Fisher. Fisher scored 26 points in the Flashes’ loss at Buffalo earlier this season. After missing half of Sunday’s game at Miami because of foul trouble, he should be well-rested and ready to go against the Bulls tonight.

Buffalo player to watch … Junior guard Rodney Pierce. Pierce led the Bulls with 18 points against the Flashes in the first meeting and leads the team with 15 points per game this year.

Matchup to watch … the bigs vs. the bigs. In every game Kent State plays, it is a mystery as to how the Flashes’ forwards will play. This, again, is the case against Buffalo. With the Bulls’ depth and ability inside, Julian Sullinger, Anthony Simpson and crew must play well if they want to win.

Last time they played … Pierce scored 18 points to lead Buffalo to a 64-53 win over Kent State. The Bulls used a 12-4 run midway through the second half to break the game open after leading 28-23.

However, junior guard Chris Singletary sat that game out with a sore shoulder. Junior forward Anthony Simpson has taken on a bigger role for the team since that time as well, which gives Ford more to work with against Buffalo’s “bigs.”

Ford also said Buffalo’s post players aren’t typical because they don’t get the ball in the post in the traditional way. Instead, the Bulls’ guards create by passing off of penetration, giving more open looks to the forwards.

“We’re going to need all of our post guys to play well,” Ford said. “The game up there, they had a major advantage at the basket and we weren’t able to dominate on the perimeter to offset that.”

With Mincy emerging as a scoring threat, the Flashes have had consistent play from the guard position lately. And although the last two games have ended in losses, the players say they aren’t fazed.

“Both games we had chances to win (and) pull away,” Mincy said. “From that we’ve just got to take late-game situations (and) come out and execute at the end – lock up and get that key stop at the end of games so we can go into the tournament and do the same thing.”

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].