Top defenses ready to rumble at M.A.C. Center

Deanna Stevens

Two of the Mid-American Conference’s best defensive teams will meet at 7 p.m. tonight at the M.A.C. Center.

The Kent State men’s basketball team, the third-ranked defense in the MAC holding opponents to 62.5 points per game, will face Miami, who holds its opponents to a league-best 57 points.

“You know what you’re going to get with Miami,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “They are a great defensive team. We have to try to beat them. They are not going to come in and beat themselves.”

Miami protects the perimeter just as well as the post. They have the best 3-point defense in the MAC, holding opponents to 32 percent from behind the arc, and their four blocks per game are tied for the league lead with Akron.

In their previous meeting on Jan. 7, the RedHawks beat the Flashes, 65-63, on a buzzer-beating jumper by redshirt sophomore guard Tim Pollitz.

Although the loss is still fresh, and on Sunday, the Flashes’ six-game win streak was snapped with a 79-57 loss at Western Michigan. But Christian said the Flashes aren’t looking at this game any differently.

“There are five MAC games left,” Christian said. “And we have to approach them the same way. If we need to find external motivation in February, we’re in trouble. It’s just an opportunity for us to go out and protect our home court.”

Pollitz continues to make his presence felt in the MAC. He’s the No. 6 scorer in the league, averaging 14.9 points per game.

Last week, he was named MAC Player of the Week after averaging 23 points and shooting 75 percent from the field. RedHawks senior forward Nathan Peavy is the No. 9 scorer in the conference, averaging 14.3 points a game.

But the RedHawks are led by their defense, and the Flashes are coming off their worst offensive game of the season. The Flashes also defended poorly in the loss.

Christian said facing the best defense in the league right after one of their worst defensive efforts puts more emphasis on that end of the floor.

“It’s clear, in order for our team to have a chance to win, we have to defend well,” Christian said. “That’s got to be what we hang our hat on, and that game (Western Michigan) just made it more evident. Defense is going to be key for us to win games.”

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