Searching for better beginnings

Doug Gulasy

The past two games have ended well for the Kent State men’s basketball team.

Too bad the games haven’t begun the way the team would like.

The Flashes (16-4, 5-1 Mid-American Conference) head into tonight’s game at Eastern Michigan having come back from double-digit deficits in their previous two games, against Akron and Western Michigan.

Of course, to come back from those deficits, the Flashes had to trail by double digits first, thanks to less-than-stellar the plays in the first halves of those games.

“We’re trying not to have those horrible first halves,” junior guard Jordan Mincy said. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking to all of us.

“We all know that we’re not playing to the best of our abilities (in the first half). We know that (in) the second half, we’ve got to do that; we’ve got to step it up.”

The Flashes have trailed at half-time in three straight games and four of the six MAC games they’ve played to date. Only one of those games, a road meeting with Ohio, ended with a loss.


The Game: Kent State (16-4, 5-1 Mid-American Conference) at Eastern Michigan (7-11, 3-3)

When: Today at 7 p.m.

Where: Convocation Center (Ypsilanti, Mich.)

Radio: WNIR 100.1 FM (Bill Needle)

On the Web: Check for live scoring updates.

Despite the Flashes’ recent half-time deficits, Kent State coach Jim Christian doesn’t see any reason to worry.

“We’ve played 20 basketball games; it’s not something that we’ve done 20 times,” he said. “You’re not going to come out and play great every single night for 40 minutes … it’s obviously something we try to do, start off well. But if it doesn’t happen, you’ve still got to play the game.”

Mincy said nerves had something to do with the team’s slow starts.

“The kids want to do well, so I think they’re excited to play,” Christian said. “Sometimes maybe that has something to do with it, especially when we play Akrons and Western Michigans and teams that have been rivals.

“You get excited to play in those games, so that probably could be a little of it too. But we try not to read too much into any of that. The thing about it is that it’s a long year. There’s going to be times you play really well, (and) there’s going to be times you play really poorly.”

The team’s biggest struggle in the first half, recently has been on defense.

OFF-THE-COURT ISSUES Both teams in tonight’s men’s basketball game will be without someone because of off-the-court issues.

Kent State sophomore guard Chris Singletary (9.4 points per game) will not play because of his suspension for violation of team policy. Singletary was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with a DUI. Yesterday his pretrial date was set for Feb 28.

Eastern Michigan coach Charles Ramsey dismissed reserve center James Matthews yesterday for “conduct detrimental to the men’s basketball program,” according to

In 10 games this season, Matthews averaged five points and 3.8 rebounds while playing 14.5 minutes.

Against Akron, the Flashes allowed the Zips to make 52.2 percent of their first-half shots and trailed 35-25 lead at half-time. Western Michigan shot 48 percent to end the first half up 34-31 Sunday.

But those statistics have dropped in the second half. The shooting percentages for Akron (37.9 percent) and Western Michigan (25.9 percent) went down dramatically in the second half.

“Both teams shot the ball well for both teams, and we just tried to shut that down,” Mincy said. “We try to limit other teams’ open shots because we feel that we have lapses in defense at times.

“Coach has been correcting us in practice, telling us that if we cut down open shots then that (will) cut down on other teams scoring.”

A fast start is probably more important tonight at Eastern Michigan (7-11, 3-3). The Flashes have trailed at half-time eight times this year. At home, they have a 3-0 record when down at half-time. Away from the M.A.C. Center, however, that record is 1-4.

“You get down when you’re away and you’re getting cheered against upon rather than being cheered for to come back,” junior forward Julian Sullinger said. “I think the Akron and Western games, the fans and the crowd also helped us out in picking it up offensively and defensively.

“On the road, you’ve got to come out and be ready to play for 40 minutes rather than 20.”

Sullinger said the key to that fast start lies, unsurprisingly, with the defense.

“Defense creates offense — transition baskets, getting steals, getting stops, getting easy buckets on the break,” he said. “So I think if we come out with the defensive intensity, we’ll have a good chance to put ourselves in a good position to win.”

Last season when the Flashes hosted Eastern Michigan, they got off to a fast start, leading 46-19 at half-time en route to a 82-46 victory.

But that Eastern Michigan team was missing its best player, guard Carlos Medlock, who is averaging 13.6 points per game this season. Christian knows that the Eagles won’t be the same team tonight that they were in last season’s meeting.

“They’ve beaten some good teams in their building (and) they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” he said. “Like everybody else, when they play in their building they feel comfortable. That’s going to be a big challenge.”

Contact men’s basketball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].