No breaks for basketball

Deanna Stevens

Sophomore forward Julian Sullinger tries to get past Detroit forward Chris Hayes during their game on November 21. Kent State will play at Duke at 7 p.m. on December 19. The game will be televised on ESPN. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

While most students are preparing for finals and winding down their semester, the Kent State men’s basketball team has just begun its test.

Kent State (5-3) has eight games over break. Two of the biggest challenges will come playing at No. 7 Duke and Texas A&M-Corpus Chrisiti, a team that won 20 games last season.

And that is before the Mid-American Conference play begins Jan. 7, at Miami.

“We have a demanding schedule,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “We do it for a reason. All of these things, hopefully, will prepare us to get ready for MAC play because we’ve been in tough environments, we’ve played good basketball teams.”

Christian added that the break is usually the time where the team improves the most.

“The beautiful part is the restraints on our practice time are taken away,” Christian said. “You can practice and you can be with the guys more, and you can work with them individually and get them better and get them confident. We spend a lot of time with players, both individually and collectively, getting them better. It’s a time where good teams come together.”

One thing Christian said the Flashes will work on during the break is playing as strong in their games as they do during practice.

“We’re looking to carry over some of the things we do in practice over into the game and play well and improve,” Christian said.

The Flashes will have their first opportunity to do that tomorrow against Indiana Purdue at Fort Wayne. The game is Kent State’s first since its 66-59 loss to Cleveland State more than a week ago and the third of four consecutive road games.

Even though the Flashes beat IPFW 86-61 last season, Christian said the Mastodons will be a tough road game.

“They are playing people very tough on the road, so at home they’re going to be a tough challenge for us,” Christian said.”And we, as a team, need to understand what it takes to win in somebody else’s building. We haven’t done that yet. So that’s the challenge for us, is to go get a road win and to feel good about ourselves on the road.”

The Flashes will have another opportunity on the road on Dec. 19 against Duke. The Flashes-Blue Devils match up will be televised at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

“That’s a different type of experience and exposure,” Christian said. “We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves, and what we need to do in that game.”

Duke is the third ranked team the Flashes have faced so far this season. The first was Ohio State, which is now ranked No 7 in the AP polls. The second was Butler, who was unranked at the time they played, but moved up to the No. 15 spot.

“Of our three losses, two of them are to ranked teams,” Christian said. “And we’re going to play another one. So we play three teams in the top 20, non-conference. So what it does is it gives you a chance to see where you need work, because they’re going to expose your weaknesses.”

After the road trip, the Flashes return to play Youngstown State (3-5) on Dec. 22.

But its not all work for the team, they have a few days off during the holidays.

“We let them go home for a little bit for Christmas,” Christian said. “That’s one reason why we don’t try to schedule games around Christmas — so they can get some time to be with their family, and then come back and go to work.”

Contact sports reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].