Men’s basketball wins with defense

Chris Gates

Flashes shut down Broncos in victory

Relying on defense has always been a staple of the Kent State men’s basketball program.

In their 65-47 victory at Western Michigan on Saturday, the Flashes (10-11, 3-4 Mid-American Conference) displayed that they can rely on defensive pressure when times are tough. A 0-of-9 shooting start and 17-6 deficit with just under seven minutes to play in the first half were erased because of a commitment to defense.

“Any good team starts with defense,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “We still (have) some things we need to clean up and get better at, but the guys have bought in.”

No single player was responsible for the 15-3 run that ended the first half and gave the Flashes a 21-20 lead at the break. Six different Flashes scored at least one basket during the run.

After that 0-of-9 start, Kent State shot 60 percent for the rest of the game.

“We really executed well the entire day,” Ford said. “We got good shots, and we knocked them down as the game wore on.”

INFOBOX GAME NOTES Tyree for 3: Tyree Evans officially broke his shooting and scoring slump on Saturday by shooting 4-of-7 from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and scoring 13 points. Dating back to the second half of Tuesday’s game against Eastern Michigan game, Evans is shooting 7-of-12.

Cleaning it up: Along with the 0-of-9 shooting start, the Flashes turned the ball over six times in the first 8:52 of the game. As the Flashes began to make shots, they turned the ball over less – just seven times for the rest of the game.

Total team effort: Nine Kent State players saw time on the floor against Western Michigan, and eight of them scored. The only player who didn’t score, freshman forward Justin Greene, gave the Flashes added help on the boards with five rebounds.

Ford said the Flashes have gotten down on themselves this season when baskets are hard to come by. They have also had trouble shooting the ball well to start off games.

The coaching staff knew that was a bad combination and focused on changing that offense-first attitude in practice. It paid off against the Broncos.

“Another point that we have been trying to stress with our guys is not allowing your offense to dictate how hard you play defensively,” Rob Senderoff, Kent State associate head coach, told Tim Linder on WNIR 100.1 FM’s postgame show. “We have a lot of guys identified as offensive players.

“When they’re not making shots, sometimes that affects their defense.”

Those scorers, senior guard Al Fisher and junior guards Chris Singletary and Tyree Evans, are what opponents refer to as the “big three.” Lately they have struggled offensively, and so has the team.

But those three combined for 38 points on Saturday and played a big part in the victory, especially in a second half that was controlled by the Flashes.

“The second half, we were really good,” Ford said. “We were as good as we’ve been at any point during the year. Tyree’s shots were really big.”

Evans scored all 13 of his points in the second half and helped push Kent State’s lead to as many as 20 points with 7:09 remaining in the game. The Flashes outscored Western Michigan by 17 points in the second half.

Ford said the way the Flashes have played through tough spells in the last two games is encouraging and shows that they are taking steps toward becoming a better team. He said the next important factor is continuing the progress they have made.

“The growth our team has made is that we’re still defending when it’s not going our way,” Ford said. “If we keep doing that, it’s going to pay off.”

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