Flashes ranked in top 25 by two major polls

Doug Gulasy

Regular-season ranking, win over ranked team are firsts for Kent State

Two days after achieving one first in program history, the Kent State men’s basketball team received another when the Flashes were voted among the top 25 teams in the country in two major polls announced yesterday.

The Flashes (23-5, 11-2 Mid-American Conference) were ranked 23rd in the nation in The Associated Press poll and 24th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.

“It’s great news for this program, and I’m happy for our guys,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “It’s just more (validation) that their hard work is paying off.

“But this is not something we were expecting, and it’s not one of our goals for this season. All we are thinking about is winning a MAC championship. That’s what matters to us.”

It is the first time the Flashes have been nationally ranked during the regular season. They finished as the No. 12 team in the country after advancing to the Elite Eight in 2001-02.

The last time a MAC team had been ranked during the regular season was in 2001, when Ball State was ranked for four straight weeks, ending the week of Dec. 17.

Yesterday’s announcement came after the Flashes won 65-57 at then No. 20 St. Mary’s on Saturday. That victory was Kent State’s first regular-season win over a ranked team in program history. Previously the Flashes had been 0-36 in such games.

“A lot of people say we don’t get as much (recognition) as we should,” junior guard Al Fisher said after Saturday’s victory. “We just came in here and got a quality win over a top-25 team, and hopefully that will put us on the map.”

Fisher received some recognition of his own when he was voted MAC East Division Player of the Week for the second straight week and the fourth time this season. No other player in the conference has won the award as much as Fisher this season.

Fisher scored 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting in Saturday’s victory, after he scored 20 in a victory at Buffalo on Tuesday. He is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.4 points per game.

“He’s been a tremendous player all year,” Christian said after Saturday’s game. “He’s without question a candidate for player of the year in our league.”

The Flashes lead the MAC with three conference games left to play. Their next game is Saturday at Bowling Green.

“We’re back to MAC play now,” Christian said Saturday. “We’ve got to try to win the MAC championship (and) worry about everything else later.”

Contact sports reporter Douglas Gulasy at [email protected].