Flashes defense outdoes Miami

Deanna Stevens

Senior guard Armon Gates lays up a shot over a Miami defender last evening. BRIAN MARKS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

The Kent State men’s basketball team responded to a sub-par effort at Western Michigan with the “best defensive game” of the season against Miami, Kent State coach Jim Christian said.

As predicted, two of the top-ranked defenses in the Mid-American Conference went toe-to-toe, but the Flashes were too much for the RedHawks, winning 61-45. The victory gives Kent State sole possession of second place in the MAC East Division.

Kent State (16-9, 9-3 MAC) got off to a hot start, going on an 11-0 run to begin the game. But Christian said it was the team’s defense that put them in the driver’s seat.

“The start is not important,” Christian said. “We came out and guarded. That’s the way we have to play.”

Miami coach Charlie Coles said that defensive intensity was too much for the RedHawks (12-12, 8-4 MAC).

“Their energy covered up some holes that may have been there,” Coles said about the Flashes defensive traps. “I thought there were some real holes there, but the energy they had was like a team who lost on a last second shot to us and a team who had been beaten by 22 by Western (Michigan).”

Sophomore guard Jordan Mincy said the game at Western Michigan did reinforce how important defense is to the team.

“Western Michigan was a lapse,” Mincy said. “But we’re more motivated to play our defense.”

Christian said Miami is a tough team to defend because of their two experienced forwards.

“With Tim Pollitz and (Nathan) Peavy, they are hard to guard because they get so many things in front of the rim,” Christian said. “You really have to do a good job behind those guys.”

Juniors Mike Scott and Haminn Quaintance displayed dominance in the paint, combining for seven blocks. Scott swatted the ball a career-high three times.

After getting elbowed in the mouth and nearly losing two teeth at practice Sunday, Quaintance overcame the dental pain. Christian said Quaintance’s effort was a huge boost.

“The fact that he stepped out on the floor was a huge lift to our team,” Christian said. “When guys do that, it shows how important it is to them.”

Offensively, Kent State found its stroke from behind the arc in the second half shooting 62 percent; overall the team shot 48 percent from the floor. Senior guard Omni Smith led the way with 10 points in the half, 17 total.

Senior guard Armon Gates added 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds to the effort. Gates said it was important to him to come out and contribute as much as possible.

“Coach told me a few things I need to do be effective and help the team win,” Gates said. “He said I was letting the offense affect my overall game and I can’t to that. So with just a couple games left, I want to go out there and just have fun and do the small things to help the team win.”

A 3-pointer by Gates with just under 11 minutes left, was the dagger, Coles said.

The Flashes will have a break from conference play at 4 p.m. Saturday at George Mason for O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters’ weekend.

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