Kent State vs. Akron
Senior Guard Al Fisher
Career against Akron (three games):
15 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game.
Q: Last year, you were a newcomer to the rivalry. Now that you’ve played Akron a few times, what can you say about the rivalry?
A: It’s a big rivalry. It’s never going to be an easy game, so everybody’s got to come ready to play and do our part so we can get this win.
Q: Of the three games last year, which was most memorable for you?
A: Winning the MAC Championship game. It was my first time winning a championship, but we won it as a team, the MAC championship. And we won it how we were supposed to; we won it by (19 points). That was the best game we had against them, I believe.
Q: What’s it like playing at James A. Rhodes Arena, where it’s always intense?
A: It’s fun. It’s going to be hard, (and) you’ve got to come ready. It’s definitely not going to be easy. Playing at Akron is a hard place to play in. We’ve just got to come there, follow the game plan and do what we’re supposed to do so we can come out with a victory. It’s a very fun environment. You’ve got a bunch of fans screaming at you; it just makes you want to play that much more.
Q: What’s the rivalry like off the court?
A: It’s not like (when) we’re off the court, we’re going to fight them or nothing. No, we know we’re all basketball players. When we’ve got on Kent State uniforms and they’ve got Akron, it’s a rivalry, we’re against each other, we’re both trying to win the game. It’s an intense rivalry, it’s a big game. But off the court, we’re all players, we’re human beings (and) we’re cool.
Senior guard Jordan Mincy
Career against Akron (eight games):
1.6 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 2.3 apg
Q: What would you say about the rivalry?
A: I think it’s something you just learn to adapt to. I think it’s like a built-up rivalry, and it’s competition from the jump (ball). No matter what the outcome, everybody’s always looking forward to this game. It’s a big-time game.
Q: What’s the best thing about having this rivalry?
A: It always brings out the best in you. Every team always wants to play to the best. It’s like we don’t want to take any slack, no time off, no possessions off. And everybody makes you focus in and pay special attention to the game plan.
Q: You’ve played against them for four years now. Are there any games that stick out for you?
A: Last year at Akron, when (Jeremiah Wood) came down and hit that 3-point shot (to tie the game), I was panicking, sort of. But then I saw Al, set the ball up, gave Al the ball, saw Al go coast-to-coast and hit that remarkable 3-pointer in the corner (at the buzzer). That’s probably the most exciting Akron game I’ve ever been in.
Q: Two years ago, Akron took three games from you. Last year, you did the same to them. How much does that back-and-forth competitiveness help this rivalry?
A: It just lets you know – any year, any team can take it. It just depends. Hopefully this year, we take all three.
Q: What’s the rivalry like off the court?
A: Same way. It’s just like in the game (if) you see them. It’s like we’ve all got some built-up animosity. But at the end of the day, you’ve still got love for them because you’re all competing, you’re all playing basketball. It’s all fun and games, but at the same time, you’ve still got that animosity toward one another because you’re all rivals.
Senior forward Julian Sullinger
Career against Akron (six games):
5.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.7 apg
Q: You’re a seasoned veteran when it comes to the Akron game. First of all, can you tell me what it’s like to play them?
A: To us, it’s like the Duke-North Carolina (rivalry). It’s a big-time mid-major rivalry. I basically know the exact records I’ve had against them. Right now, we’re .500, at least when I was playing. You know a lot of things about each other. You know a lot more than usual (after) playing with them in the summer.
Q: What’s the best thing about this rivalry to you?
A: Although it’s very competitive, at the same time, it’s kind of a friendly rivalry. Everybody basically sees eye-to-eye. You see these people out maybe more than when you see them on the court the three times you play in the year, or the two times you play them in the year. That’s the good thing about this rivalry.
Q: You mentioned you’re .500 against them personally. How much does that competitiveness help this rivalry?
A: The thing about it is, it has nothing really to do with talent at that point. It has everything to do with heart and energy on the court, and that’s basically what wins the game when we play against them. Whoever brings the most energy that game usually wins the game.
Q: You’re playing at Akron this week, and you know their fans are going to be out screaming against you. What’s it like playing in an environment like that?
A: To me, it’s fun. It’s a lifetime experience. Most people don’t really get a chance to get experiences like that. So when I enter environments like that, I just take it as getting a chance to do something that most people aren’t able to do.
Junior guard Mike McKee
Career against Akron (five games):
0.4 ppg, 0.8 rpg
Q: You’ve been through a lot of Akron games. What do you have to say about the rivalry, first and foremost?
A: The rivalry is big, obviously. Everyone knows that. All the players know it. We have the utmost respect for them, so that’s why we do have a rivalry with them. We respect how good they are, we respect their program and we just know that every time Kent State and Akron step on the floor, it’s going to be a battle.
Q: What’s the best part about the rivalry for you?
A: Just the local support for each team. (At) Kent State, we have a huge fan base and so do they, and whenever we play together, they all seem to come out and support us. It makes for a great environment.
Q: You’ve seen a lot of Kent State-Akron games now. Are there any memorable ones that stick out to you?
A: The two that are most memorable to me was last year when Fish hit that buzzer-beater at their place, and actually, I came to a game before I ever was in school here. My senior year of high school, I came up to see the Kent (State)-Akron game, and I was sitting in the front row of the chairback (seats). I just remember how exciting (it was); the whole place was electric, and I think Kent State ended up winning down the stretch.
Q: You’ve played Akron in three gyms now: At the M.A.C. Center, at the JAR and at Quicken Loans Arena. Where’s the best place to play them?
A: Well, obviously the best place to play them would be at the “Q” for the MAC championship. But I’d have to say I like playing them here. I like the home environment, obviously; nobody really likes going on the road in a big rivalry. But whenever you can play them at home, it’s pretty exciting.