How the West was won

Chris Gates

Team completes divisional sweep by beating CMU

Senior guard Jordan Mincy passes the ball around Central Michigan guard Robbie Harman. Mincy had nine points and two assists in the Flashes’ 61-57 win over the Chippewas. Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

After a 61-57 win over Central Michigan on Saturday, it’s hard to believe two and a half weeks ago the Kent State men’s basketball team was in a rut.

It was two games under .500 and amid a streak of five losses in six games.

Then the Flashes played six straight games against the Mid-American Conference’s West Division.

Everything changed.

Kent State (14-11, 7-4 MAC) won its first three games against MAC West opponents by a combined 68 points. Then the Flashes went on the road for the two longest road trips of the season and squeezed out two close wins, one in double overtime.

Most recently, as fatigued as it has been all season, the team held off several runs by Central Michigan to win at the M.A.C. Center. The win completed the team’s MAC West stretch with a perfect 6-0 record.

“The first four games (against) the West Division, we played really well,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “At Northern (Illinois) we played OK; I don’t think we were as great. (Saturday), I just give Central all kinds of credit. They impacted the game.

“We’re playing much better basketball now than we were earlier in the year. We’ve got three of our last five at home, which is a positive.”

Ford made sure to instill the same work ethic every day in practice, regardless of the outcome from the previous game. Winning didn’t change anything and the players understood that.

“I believe we’re a very competitive team now,” senior guard Al Fisher said. “At the beginning of the year things didn’t go our way (and) we might have gotten down a little bit. Now we’ve all come together.

“At one stretch we beat two teams by like 20 (points) or more. In practice we were doing situations still – with a minute left, down by one; with two minutes left, up (by) three.”

That situational practice paid off against Central Michigan on Saturday night. Kent State led for nearly the entire game, but Central Michigan didn’t allow the game to get out of hand.

The Flashes led by as many as 12 points in the first half and 14 points in the second half. However, the Chippewas closed the gap both times and even took the lead early on in the second half.

Kent State made enough shots down the stretch, though, and held off a final surge by Central Michigan to win, 61-57.

Ford said being fatigued was not an excuse for letting the Chippewas back into the game, but he said he noticed that his team was “leg-heavy.” Fisher said the Flashes aren’t the only ones who are tired.

“After playing 20-some games, everybody in the nation is tired,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to find a way to fight through it and win. That’s all we’re trying to do right now.”

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