Men’s basketball proves ‘Ford Tough’

Chris Gates

Under a new head coach, Flashes beat N.C. Central 83-42

READ yesterday’s live blog from the game.

Midway through the second half of last night’s men’s basketball game at the M.A.C. Center, North Carolina Central guard Phillip Branch missed an easy lay-up. Kent State turned it into two points of its own with a slam dunk by junior guard Chris Singletary.

That sequence was typical of the entire game, as the Flashes (1-0) beat N.C. Central 83-42 in their season opener. The Flashes repeatedly forced the Eagles to play their style of game.

First-year Kent State coach Geno Ford said he learned a lot about the team just seconds after tip off. Senior forward Julian Sullinger set the tone of the game as he dove for a loose ball, secured possession and called a timeout on N.C. Central’s first possession.

That single play established that the Flashes would not be outhustled in the game.

“My biggest fear is that we have seven first-year guys,” Ford said after winning his debut as coach. “There’s no better start to your year than having a veteran guy make a hustle play like that. It may have been one possession, but to me it was a much bigger statement to that.”

The play was the first of 29 turnovers the Flashes forced in the game. They translated them into 34 points in the 41-point win.

They had no trouble putting points on the board in the first half and did so quickly. Kent State jumped out to an 11-0 lead to start the game.

While forcing the Eagles into several lengthy scoring droughts – a 5:27 scoreless period midway through the first half and a 5:17 span without a field goal to end the half – Kent State rolled to a 40-17 halftime lead.

In that first half, Ford was also impressed with junior center Brandon Parks. Parks led the team in scoring after 20 minutes with 10 points and added six rebounds.

“Brandon Parks was terrific (in) the first three or four minutes of the game, making a couple in-traffic rebounds (and) power moves through guys to score,” Ford said. “That just gave him some confidence and also made our team feel a little better too.”

Parks’ performance gives his teammates the confidence they need to go into games and have a strong presence down low.

“It think it does a lot for us,” Singletary said. “(Brandon Parks) is one of those guys (that) if he gets confidence, the sky’s the limit.

“Knowing that we don’t have anybody at that position right now, he’s taken on that responsibility and he’s doing it well.”

Parks saw less time in the second half, but Kent State continued a similar performance, scoring 43 points compared to the Eagles 25.

Ford talked before the game about wanting his team to avoid “game slippage,” what the team calls freezing up under pressure. Ford saw none of this and was pleased to see his young players perform as well as they did.

First-year Kent State players Anthony Simpson, a junior forward, and Justin Greene, a freshman forward, combined to score 18 points and pulled down an additional nine rebounds in the game.

“Justin Greene, for a first game for a freshman, he’d been doing nothing but getting better and better,” Ford said. “He was limited in practice the last two days with a knee injury. We weren’t even sure he was going to be able to play until today.

“I thought Anthony Simpson stepped up and gave us some good energy plays, tipping balls in traffic (and) running them down. He’s really a skilled big man, a little bit more than some we’ve had in the past.”

Ford was also unsure on how he would use his depth. He said things are beginning to shape out, but it will take a while before he knows exactly how to utilize his bench.

His next chance to figure out his rotation will come tomorrow night, when the Flashes play at Saint Louis at 8 p.m.

“(The rotation is) more clear now than it was yesterday, but it may be a little while before it’s crystal clear,” Ford said.

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].