First-place Flashes looking for tough road win

Deanna Stevens

The Kent State men’s basketball team has seen a similar scenario.

On Feb. 11, the Flashes traveled to Western Michigan and had a chance to take the No. 1 spot in the Mid-American Conference East Division standings. The outcome: a 79-57 loss.

Saturday, the Flashes (18-9, 10-3 MAC), who currently have a piece of first place after Wednesday’s win over Buffalo and Akron’s overtime loss to Miami, are back on the road to face Ohio.

A win will keep the Flashes in the top position, no matter what happens Saturday when the Zips host Bowling Green.

But Kent State coach Jim Christian said the team is not going to get caught up in the standings race.

“The only time first place means something is after the last regular season game,” Christian said after the win over Buffalo. Christian said the team did talk about the new position, but focused on what they need to do against Ohio.

“We’ve just talked about getting better,” Christian said. “We want to prepare ourselves as best we can. The other stuff will take care of itself.”

In their Jan. 14 game against the Bobcats, the Flashes pulled out a 67-65 win in overtime. Senior guard Omni Smith hit a jumper with four seconds left in overtime for the win.

“There are some key things that we have to do,” Christian said. “They hurt us in some areas (last time), and we have to go in knowing what they are trying to do.”

Christian added that the Flashes have to contain forwards Jerome Tillman and Leon Williams in the post. Christian said the Flashes also have to take advantage of their depth.

“To go play a team like Ohio,” Christian said, “you have to have to play with more energy than them.”

Like Kent State, who won its ninth straight game at the M.A.C. Center Wednesday, Ohio is tough to beat at home. The Bobcats are 9-1 in Athens this season, their only loss coming to Northern Illinois Feb. 10.

The Bobcats can also win on the road. Ohio (17-10, 8-5 MAC) is coming off an 88-63 win at Bowling Green. They currently have the No. 4 position in the MAC standings.

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