The Kent State men’s basketball team seemingly has two major strengths: depth and defense.
Both were on display tonight, as the Flashes (3-1) defeated Longwood 80-62 at the M.A.C. Center.
“We tried to utilize our depth as much as we could, especially early in the game – just rotating guys in and out as quickly as we can just to save our energy,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “I thought it really helped us. We got off to a great start defensively in the first half; the first 10 minutes of the game I thought was probably as solid defensively as we’ve played.”
Christian went to his bench early and often because the Flashes were playing their second game in three days, and the move didn’t backfire. Players off the bench scored 46 of the team’s 80 points, and 10 Flashes played at least 10 minutes.
“We have a lot of interchangeable parts,” Christian said. “We’ve been saying it all year, and I really have a lot of confidence in all those guys.
“I really don’t care who starts the game, and they don’t care. They all know they’re going to play; how much they play is determined on how they are playing and what’s going on in the course of the game.”
Junior guard Al Fisher led the team with 14 points off the bench. Ten of those came in the first half to give the Flashes a 47-28 lead at halftime and many of his points came off of his penetration into the lane.
“Coach always tells me to attack the gaps – attack the gaps and if you see somebody open then get it to him, but if you can get a shot, get it,” Fisher said.
Sophomore guard Chris Singletary played for the first time this season after he sat out the team’s first three games, two for a suspension and one for an injury. He scored 10 points and had three rebounds and four steals in 15 minutes of playing time.
One of his prettier plays was a pass to Fisher early in the first half. The pass, lofted over the head of a defender, resulted in an easy Fisher layup.
“I feel I’ll be able to contribute to the team and just play hard and give them some things that I think I’m able to give them,” Singletary said.
The defense had another quality game, holding Longwood to 29 percent shooting in the first half and 37 percent for the game. The Flashes also forced 23 turnovers and scored 28 points off of them.
After a 14-2 Lancers run cut the Flashes’ lead to 71-60 with just under four minutes remaining, Kent State took over. The Flashes scored the next nine points while holding Longwood to one shot per possession and drawing fouls on the offensive end.
The 9-0 run was capped by a two-handed slam on a fast break by junior Rashad Woods that followed a steal by sophomore Rodriquez Sherman.
“The one thing coming out of these three games we’ve played at home (is) I think defensively we’ve been very solid, especially for this time of the year,” Christian said. “We’ve just got to keep building on it; I think our guys are starting to figure it out. The last two games in particular, they’ve done a great job of taking away the one or two key points that we’ve tried to emphasize going into the game.”
Seven Flashes players scored at least eight points in the game; Fisher, Singletary and senior Mike Scott (11 points) scored in double digits.
The Flashes play Xavier on Friday at 5 p.m. in Chicago as part of the Chicago Invitational tournament.
Contact men’s basketball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]