Road trip begins with reigning conference champions

Doug Gulasy

The next 10 days won’t be easy for the Kent State men’s basketball team.

Beginning with tomorrow’s game at Miami, the Flashes (13-3, 2-0 the Mid-American Conference) will play games against perhaps the top four teams in the M.A.C: Miami, Ohio, Akron and Western Michigan. The Miami and Ohio games are on the road.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” senior forward Mike Scott said after Saturday’s 63-49 victory over Bowling Green. “We’ve got some very good teams coming up, and I think it’s going to be a very telling stretch. It’s a long MAC season, but (if) we get these next couple games we’ll be in good position to take it all.”

Miami’s 6-8 overall record is a bit misleading. The RedHawks played a very difficult nonconference schedule, defeating No. 20 Xavier, Mississippi State and Illinois and had close losses to USC, Dayton, Louisville and Cincinnati.

“They’ve been in a bunch of different styles,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “They’ve played against great teams, great individual players. I think at this point they’re ready for anything.”


The Game: Kent State (13-3, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) at Miami (6-8, 0-2)

When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Millett Hall – Oxford, Ohio

Radio: WNIR 100.1 FM

(announcer Bill Needle)

It was also just last season when the RedHawks won the MAC Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, another reason Christian called Miami an excellent team.

Still, Scott said he didn’t want to get wrapped up in the fact that Miami is the defending MAC champion.

“I really don’t think of the past,” he said. “That’s a thing of the past; everybody has to earn it again. (The championship is) up for grabs this year, and they’re just as good as we are. So we’ve just got to go out there and get the win.”

The RedHawks have gotten off to a slow start in MAC play, losing their first two conference games at Akron and Ohio, but tomorrow’s game will be Miami’s conference home opener. Miami has a 3-1 home record this season.

“They’re going to come out to defend their home court,” Christian said. “I think that’s what everyone’s been trying to do. To have a chance in the league, you have to defend your home court and then you have to try to steal some on the road. They’ve been in two tough environments and didn’t get either one, so they know how important it is to win at home.”

Christian also pointed out that just one MAC team has won a conference road game thus far – Akron, which won at Buffalo.

Miami has two players who combine to score more than half the team’s average points per game: senior forward Tim Pollitz (15.9 ppg) and junior guard/forward Michael Bramos (15.3 ppg).

Still, the RedHawks are most known for holding opponents to low scores; Miami gives up an average of 61.4 points per game. Just two teams, Ohio and No. 3 Kansas, have scored more than 70 points against the RedHawks, and they have held eight opponents below 60 points.

“A lot of that’s how they play, at both ends of the floor,” Christian said. “You know when you play the game against Miami, it’s going to be a grind. It’s important to start the game off well because they’re going to grind it out at both ends. They’re very deliberate on offense and they make you play on defense.”

Kent State’s coach also knows that if the Flashes want to begin their difficult four-game stretch with a win, they will have to win a close game.

“They’re a good team, so you know it’s going to be one of those games where we want the game hopefully come down to the last four minutes,” Christian said. “Then you’ve got to try to take advantage of your opportunities.”

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