KSU shows resolve in Chicago

Jonas Fortune

Flashes respond to Friday loss with Saturday win

WATCH a photo gallery of the game.

The finale of the Chicago Invitational Challenge was a bit of a test for the Kent State men’s basketball team over the weekend. Although they finished the tournament with a 3-1 record, it was grueling five-day stretch of basketball that tested the Flashes in more ways than one.

After playing the first two games of the tournament at the M.A.C. Center -— a Nov. 18 win over Coppin State and a Nov. 20 victory over Longwood- — the Flashes headed to the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., over the weekend for two games.

Friday the Flashes met a veteran Xavier team that nearly defeated Ohio State in last year’s NCAA tournament.

The experience proved to be a difference maker as Kent State wilted in the second half. Defensive miscues and blown coverage allowed Xavier easy dunks and lay ups as they went on to win 78-65.

“We just stopped executing,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “We were awful defensively in the second half. We were awful. We’ve got to get better. We got to focus in. They made some plays were we’ve got to do a better job of executing what we are trying to execute during the course of the game.”

With a Saturday matinee game looming with Illinois State, the question became how can the Flashes battle back after suffering a tough loss the night before? Could they solve the defensive woes that may of cost them Friday’s game?

Playing their third game in five days — with very little practice time to correct mistakes — Kent State responded to the adversity by stymieing an Illinois State team that flustered Indiana the night before (the Hoosiers still hung on to win 70-57).

The defense allowed just three field goals in the final nine minutes of the game as the Flashes held on to win 65-59.

“We definitely bounced back,” senior forward Mike Scott said. “That’s what the whole game is about: bouncing back. After people make runs, you got to make your runs. After you get a loss, you gotta come back and win. So we did what we had to do.”

The win was definitely earned. Scott, who was named to the all-tournament team, found himself in foul trouble in the second half. For the first time this season, the Flashes had to play without their senior leader, who had 18 points against Xavier and 20 against Illinois State.

“I have faith in my teammates,” Scott said. “.the intensity didn’t drop when I came off the court; it actually probably picked up in a way. It was definitely frustrating though. You always want to be out there — you want to play 40 minutes a night, but you can’t always do that every night.”

With Illinois State and Xavier well represented by a traveling fan base, The Flashes also had to deal with crowds who often made it feel like a home game for opponents. Kent State just had a smattering of fans in the corner.

“Games like this are tough, especially the third game in five days,” Christian said. “You try to play a lot of people and guys have to step up. There is obviously not much of an environment in the building, so you got to supply your own energy and I was really glad to see the guys step up and do that.”


-A quality loss

The Kent State men’s basketball team has nothing to hang their head about this weekend. Although they split the weekend, they lost to the Chicago Invitation Challenge champion Xavier. The Musketeers upset Indiana 80-65 in the championship game.

-Not much of a tournament

The Chicago Invitational Challenge is really a loose form of a tournament. Although the Flashes played Coppin State and Longwood at the M.A.C. Center those two teams never had a shot at winning the tournament. The winner of the Xavier- Kent State game, played the winner of the Indiana-illinois State game. The losers met as well. The tournament is actually just a way for schools to get two extra games on their schedules that they typically cannot do with an ordinary schedule. By playing in an exempt tournament such as this, all the teams picked up two more games.

-Injury woes

Junior guard Jordan Mincy was hampered all weekend by a severe sprain to his left wrist. He suffered the injury in the second half of the game against Longwood Nov. 20. At the start of Friday’s game against Xavier, Mincy had his left hand taped much the way a boxer has his hand taped before a prize fight. In Saturday’s matchup with Illinois State, the tape job appeared much heavier and it looked as if a pad may have been inserted on top of his wrist. He played just eight minutes in the victory because of the injury.

-A streak ends

Last year’s Kent State men’s basketball team wasn’t known for its foul shooting. In fact, the Flashes shot just 64 percent from the charity stripe last season. However, this season has been different. Kent State is shooting 72 percent and Mike Scott is leading the way. The senior forward connected on 21 straight foul shots before missing one in the second half of Friday’s game. He is shooting 89 for the season and has only missed four foul shots.

-Little Big men

In both games this weekend Kent State faced pint-sized point guards. Xavier senior guard Drew lavender gave the Flashes fits on his way to 16 points and four assist. The 5 foot 7 guard is an All-America candidate and is also candidate for the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard. Illinois State senior Boo Richardson also played well. The 5 foot 8 point guard had nine points, three rebounds and three assists.