Flashes hope to avoid repeat of last season’s opening loss

Chris Gates

KSU hosts N.C. Central in first 2008-09 game

Last season, the Kent State men’s basketball team opened the year with a loss at Detroit on a last-second 3-pointer.

The Flashes will hope to avoid a repeat of that disappointment when they host N.C. Central at 7 p.m. tonight at the M.A.C. Center. The players say a season-opening win will be crucial to their success as the season progresses.

“I think it’s very important because, as you (saw) last year, that loss in Detroit kind of came back and bit us in the butt,” senior guard Jordan Mincy said. “So every game, in preseason or in early season, it’s very important because it can come back and hurt you or help you in the late season when you’re trying to get to the NCAA Tournament.”

Detroit finished last year with a 7-22 overall record. N.C. Central had an even worse season in 2007-2008, winning only four games. The Eagles began their season Friday night with a 94-48 loss at No. 21 Wake Forest.

Kent State coach Geno Ford says he realizes, however, that regardless of the opponent, the Flashes will likely encounter typical early-season problems.

The game: Kent State (0-0) vs. N.C. Central (0-1)

Where: M.A.C. Center

When: 7 p.m. tonight

Listen: WNIR 100.1 FM,


“Any time you’ve got a first game, there’s going to be some jitters and guys are going to be a little bit tight,” Ford said. “You just hope you come out, and be aggressive and don’t play not to lose, but play to win.

“(We’re) realizing that we’re not going to have a March level of execution (tonight). At least I don’t expect to see that. Hopefully we’ll just come out with a good mentality and grind out some possessions and find a way to get a win.”

Ford also said he wants to see his players avoid what he calls “game slippage.” Rather than freeze up under pressure, he wants the team to take control and dictate game play. This, he said, should bring the crowd into the game.

Controlling the flow of the game early on this season will be crucial to the Flashes’ success. After playing three games against teams that failed to make the postseason last year, Kent State’s schedule gets significantly tougher.

The Flashes will play Illinois, Kansas, St. Mary’s and possibly Texas A&M in the fourth through seventh games on their schedule.

“Last year we weren’t so much focused,” Mincy said. “We were just going out and trying to play basketball. This year I think we have a better focus.

“Our senior leadership, we have an understanding since we lost last year of what we’ve got to do this year to come out to win.”

A big part of winning games is players knowing the system and understanding their roles, Ford said. He added that much of this is still up in the air, but tonight’s game will help speed up the process of figuring that out.

“We’ve got unbelievable depth on this team,” he said. “It a great thing, and it can also be a curse.”

The great thing is that Kent State has a large pool of talent, he said, but the curse is that it will be difficult to figure out how to properly use that talent.

It doesn’t just come down to who starts tonight. Ford also has to determine when to use substitutions and who will be interchanging.

The Flashes know using their heads and sticking to what they know will make the transition to the regular season a bit easier. Smart play was emphasized in practice because it was absent a week ago in an exhibition against Muskingum.

“I felt we played hard, but we didn’t play real intelligent,” Ford said. “You’ve got to put them both together. Playing hard is never going to be enough.”

Excitement is never enough either, but it is a positive for the Flashes as the season begins. Training started in September, and the players say they are more than ready for real competition to begin.

“(We) can’t wait to get the season started,” Mincy said. “We’ve been waiting so long (with) all this training and practicing, so now it’s time to put it into action.”

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].