Flashes find their stride, look for fifth straight win

Deanna Stevens

Sophomore forward Julian Sullinger shoots against Central Michigan on Wednesday. LESLIE CUSANO | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

Apparently, a loss at Akron, a tweaked starting lineup and a trip to the Mid-American Conference West Division was enough to trigger some consistency for the Kent State men’s basketball team.

After the 78-68 loss against the Zips, the Flashes returned to the M.A.C. Center and beat Bowling Green, 62-21, to begin their four-game winning streak.

“The guys, going on this streak, now understand what it takes for this team to win,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “Its always going to be different year to year with the team and the personnel you have. They have to take a lot of pride on the defensive end of the floor to have a chance to win the game, and that’s what they’re doing.”

In conference games, the Flashes are the No. 1 defense in the MAC, holding opponents to about 59 points per game. In the past four games, Kent State’s opponents have averaged 52 points.

The Bowling Green game not only marked the beginning of the streak, but it also introduced the new starting lineup.

Junior forward Mike Scott, sophomore forward/center Julian Sullinger, freshman guards Chris Singletary and Rodriquez Sherman and sophomore guard Jordan Mincy have started the past four games for the Flashes.

Christian said the change in lineup was designed to begin games with more energy. He added that the change cut down the minutes for senior guards Omni Smith and Armon Gates, and in turn, it has increased their production.

“The guys (Smith and Gates) understand that starting or not starting, the minutes haven’t changed very much,” Christian said. “They are both very key pieces to what we do. They’re both in the game during key stretches, and that’s all kids want.”

Although the team is performing well, there are still a few kinks to work out. Christian said he wants the team to rebound better offensively. He also said they need to improve at the free-throw line. Kent State is currently second to last place in the MAC, shooting 65 percent from the line.

“It’s one of those things, its almost contagious,” Christian said. “If a guy goes to the line early in the game and makes them, it spreads. If they don’t, it spreads.”

The Flashes will face Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C. Center to continue their stretch against MAC West Division teams.

So far Kent State is 3-0 versus the MAC West. Christian said the team has to continue its grind-it-out style of play to keep the streak going.

They’ll also need to look out for the Eagles’ outside shooting. They shoot almost 37 percent from the perimeter. However, the Flashes lead the MAC in 3-point defense, holding conference opponents to 28 percent per game.

“We’ve got to get to their shooters quickly,” Christian said. “We’ve been doing a much better job of that. At one point we were last in the league defending the 3.”

The Eagles will be without their leading scorer, sophomore Carlos Medlock. He will be out for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. The point guard averaged 13 points per game.

Eastern Michigan (3-5, 8-13 MAC) is currently tied with Central Michigan for third place in the MAC West.

Even though the Eagles have struggled, it doesn’t mean the Flashes, who are a game out of first in the MAC East, can get complacent, Christian said.

“You got to try to protect the home court,” Christian said. “There’s not a lot of margin for error. Every game is important. Every possession is important.”

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