One position makes the point

Matt Goul

Point guard is the most important position in basketball.

Having a dominating center can be the biggest luxury, but someone has to get the ball to the colossal one.

Look at Kent State. The women’s basketball team advanced to the championship game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament by its point guard play. Forward Lindsay Shearer carried the Flashes in the final game, scoring a tournament-record 44 points, but it was point guards Malika Willoughby and Kerrie James pushing Kent State into the game. The two complemented each other. When Willoughby found herself in foul trouble in the semifinal, James was not a downgrade. Momentum was building Kent State’s way before Willoughby picked up her fourth foul. It only increased with James in a 73-57 win over Marshall. They could not be as effective the next day in Saturday’s loss to Bowling Green in the tournament final.

The men, meanwhile, fell far short of their title game without the point-guard play they needed.

Even when DeAndre Haynes seemed he was breaking out of the lackadaisical play he’s gone through all year, a down moment came back to bite him. He did not get the same relief from freshman Marcus Crenshaw that Willoughby got with James. Crenshaw is only a freshman but gets more minutes than the freshman excuse allows.

Let’s not be quick to put much blame on him, though. Crenshaw had little to do with the men’s inability to advance. He’s not gun-shy when it comes to shooting the ball. That helps more than it hurts. With that mentality now, he can only harness it as he matures with his role. His one problem is pulling the trigger before running the offense can punch holes in any ability to build a comfort level as the game progresses.

Patience will be key for Crenshaw — on his part and for his development as a point guard, unless his calling is as a 5-foot-9 shooting guard.

Forgetfulness is essential for Haynes.

He was a preseason All-MAC pick but could not keep that caliber as the season went on. He still shows signs of it and can return to the level he has performed at in the past. After all, it was Haynes who took a veteran team on his shoulders a year ago in the MAC Tournament. He is now the veteran, whether it’s next season as a senior or the remainder of this one in the National Invitation Tournament, starting with Western Kentucky.

Like their counterparts on the women’s team, Haynes and Crenshaw will play on the court together. Though most of the time Crenshaw has handled the ball instead of Haynes. All Haynes can do to improve is handle the ball. He has to play through his problems. As long as he can, handling any adversity from a sub-par season can only get easier.

They still won 20 games with sporadic play. Not bad, but imagine how much better it could be with consistency.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Matt Goul at [email protected].