Kent State fans, where are you? Sunday’s game is a must-see

Deanna Stevens

The key to the Kent State men’s basketball team’s success came from an unlikely source: Akron.

Obviously, the Flashes had a little something to do with their current win streak.

But it seems like the second-half meltdown that led to the Flashes’ 78-68 loss at James A. Rhodes Arena Jan. 17 sparked a sense of urgency.

Since the loss at Akron, the Flashes have won 10-of-11 games and are currently on a five-game win streak.

And as if anyone could write it any better, the Flashes will have an opportunity to take at least a share of the Mid-American Conference East Division Championship 7:30 p.m. Sunday at home against Akron.

Yet, if this season is any indication of the type of crowd that will be at the M.A.C. Center Sunday night, Kent State might as well be playing on the road again, because the Zips, unlike the Flashes, will be well represented.

“I hope we have more fans than Akron does,” Director of Athletics Laing Kennedy said. “They’re a great team and they have a lot of support from the community.”

In their 12 home games, Kent State is averaging 3,087, less than half the MAC Center’s capacity of nearly 6,300. On the road, the Flashes are playing in front of average crowd sizes of 4,899.

I can understand not going out to see a basketball game during a blizzard. But, that’s only happened during one game this season. Where has everyone been, otherwise? It’s winter in Ohio; it’s not like a little bit of snow has stopped people from coming out before.

And I constantly hear people complaining about Ohio sports teams.

Yet, the Flashes are a team with a five-game win streak, nine consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins, six consecutive MAC East Division regular season titles, and four NCAA tournament appearances over the past eight years. And you don’t have to skip buying groceries for a week to watch them play.

The Flashes started slow, the way many people expected, but those days are in the past.

“I knew we were going to start off slow, because everyone had to find their role on the team,” senior guard Armon Gates said. “It took a while, that’s why we had a bumpy start. But I’m glad we started like that because now we know how to finish. All those close games we’re winning now, we lost those close games at the beginning of the season.”

Of their last 10 wins, six have been decided by six points or less.

One of those nail-biters included a 62-61 victory over Bowling Green right after the Akron loss.

In that game, at home, in front of a season high crowd of 4,417, Kent State got a stop in the final seconds to seal the win. And after the game, junior forward Mike Scott said the Flashes felt like they had to get the win, not only for the fans, but for themselves as well.

Whether the game Sunday has 6,000 fans or 600, the Flashes will play just as hard as ever, for each other, if nothing else.

But wouldn’t it be nice to end the regular season the right way? Instead of just a home game away from home for the Zips, a game with so many Kent State fans that Akron’s crowd has to stand in the balcony like last season.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].