Post-practice work starting to pay off for men’s basketball

Chris Gates

Ballhandling and shooting improving thanks to extra effort

Senior guard Jordan Mincy makes a no-look pass during the first half of Tuesday’s game against Toledo. Mincy had nine points and seven assists in the 81-53 win. Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

At the end of each practice, members of the Kent State men’s basketball team stand around the school’s logo at center court.

They stand there in silence for a few seconds and then gather together in a huddle, which then breaks for the showers.

Breaking down the game:

Matchup to watch: Kent State’s forwards vs. Ball State freshman Zach Fields. The Flashes will have to find a way to overcome their season-long struggle in the post if they want to compete with Fields’ size and strength down low.

Kent State player to watch: Tyree Evans (13.1 points per game, 2.1 rebounds per game). Evans has been the Flashes’ best shooter in the last three games, going a combined 13-of-25 from the field, and he is a big reason why the team has won three in a row.

Ball State player to watch: Junior forward Anthony Newell (15.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg). Newell is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Cardinals. With Kent State’s struggles down low, he could have a big day.

What happened last time: Kent State needed overtime Feb. 6, 2008, to knock off Ball State 64-61 at the M.A.C. Center. Senior Haminn Quaintance’s tip-in of a missed shot gave the Flashes the lead for good with 12 seconds left, but Ball State senior Anthony Newell, then a junior, then missed two free throws that could have given the Cardinals the lead with 4.2 seconds left in overtime.

The thing is, nearly half the players stay after that to work on their game after practice officially ends.

Shooting and ballhandling drills have become common for extra work as the Flashes use the M.A.C. Center floor for as much time as they are allowed.

“There aren’t many teams around the country that, when practice ends, you still find eight guys going through individual instruction,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “They don’t need to be here. They’re not forced to be here. They want to be here.

The game:


When: 2 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Muncie, Ind.

Radio: WNIR 100.1 FM

Internet: live blog

“That’s the reason why this group has been such fun to coach.”

It has been more fun than ever in the last week and a half, with the Flashes (11-11, 4-4 Mid-American Conference) winning each of their last three games. All of those victories have been convincing, with the closest contest being an 18-point win over Western Michigan last Saturday.

On Jan. 27, the Flashes won 68-46 at home against Eastern Michigan. The third win came on Tuesday night when Kent State beat Toledo, 81-53.

The 3-point shot has been a catalyst for the team’s newfound success and, Ford said, will continue to play a large role as the season winds down.

“We don’t possess wings that are slashers,” Ford said. “We don’t possess a dominant, back-to-the-basket post guy that demands double teams.”

Therefore, he said, the perimeter needs to play like the best perimeter in the MAC. That is exactly what it did against Toledo.

Senior guards Jordan Mincy and Al Fisher, along with junior guards Mike McKee and Tyree Evans, combined for 44 of the Flashes’ 81 points. They did so in part because of 10-of-19 shooting from 3-point range.

The players say they have found their own comfort zone, and they’re not too worried about what other teams are going to throw at them. The team believes if it can play its own style of basketball, it can be successful.

“We’re never going to change what we’ve got to do,” Evans said. “Most teams change what they’ve got to do against us more than we have to change against them.

“We’re just going to do what we’ve got to do to win. We’re going to be scrappy on defense. We’re going to be making buckets off of turnovers. We’re going to do all the extra stuff to win.”

The Flashes travel to Ball State (10-10, 5-3 MAC) tomorrow and are hoping to get another good performance from the guard position. The Cardinals possess what Ford believes is the best freshman center in the league, Zach Fields. He and senior forward Anthony Newell provide the majority of the Cardinals’ offense in the post.

“We’re not satisfied right now,” Evans said. “We’re confident but we know that we’ve got to keep moving on.

“I’m (going to) make sure that we’re not too confident and too comfortable right now with these three wins.”

Contact principal sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].