Post presence makes a return

Matt Goul

Inside duo carries men over Huskies

Kent State junior DeAndre Haynes goes up for a shot against Northern Illinois defense. The Flashes won 67-57.

Credit: Matt Goul

Not since Jim Christian’s first season as head coach two years ago has he had two inside presences to lean on.

For his 40th birthday, he got them.

Kevin Warzynski and Nate Gerwig combined to score 30 points and grab 15 rebounds in Kent State’s 67-57 home win over Northern Illinois (8-12, 4-8 Mid-American Conference) yesterday. Christian had Gerwig and 7-foot center John Edwards two years ago. Gerwig sat out last season with a knee injury, and Warzynski sat out after transferring from Charleston Southern.

“It gives us other options,” said Christian, who claimed he is 33-0 on his birthday going back to grade school. “It’s not only that they scored, it’s the way they scored. It was unselfish play to get them the basketball.”

Edwards won MAC Defensive Player of the Year with Gerwig and Warzynski watching from the bench last year. Edwards gave 20-point, 10-rebound efforts by himself in the post, but that was key. He was by himself.

“It’s different because Kevin’s a perimeter player and he can step out and hit big shots for us,” DeAndre Haynes said. “We can have him and Nate in at the same time, running the high-low game. We can get the ball to both of them, and they both finish. One can step out and shoot, and one is real good on defense, taking charges.”

The two did not play together until the seventh game of the season. While Gerwig rehabbed from another procedure to his knee, Warzynski was like Edwards — by himself.

He scored in double figures for four of the first six games. One included 20 points and 14 rebounds in a loss at Marquette. That did not mean the first six games were easier.

“It’s made both of us better,” Warzynski said. “It’s good to have him back.”

The two did not contrast in play yesterday like they typically do.

Warzynski scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, both game highs. Gerwig scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds in 12 minutes of play. Although Warzynski is known more for his jumpshot and Gerwig more for his rugged play, they still complemented each other.

“We need it every time, every game,” Haynes said. “In practice we need it. It’s big for them to go out there and play the way they’re doing.”

Warzynski has played more productive games. Gerwig has, too. They combined for 35 points in a win over Notre Dame College of Ohio.

But their play on the glass has not been this good.

The two helped Kent State (15-7, 7-4 MAC) take a 33-20 rebounding advantage in the win.

Northern Illinois managed to hang around in mosquito-like fashion. The Flashes never pulled their lead to much more than 10 points in the second half. The Huskies were able to pull within seven, but any comeback was quickly swatted away.

The Huskies could score back-to-back baskets only once in the final seven minutes.

Their uphill battle started early as the Flashes capitalized on three turnovers to take an 11-3 lead. Northern Illinois’ only lead was after Mike McKinney’s layup made it 3-2. The Flashes scored nine straight points to follow. They later pushed their first-half lead to 17 after Armon Gates made the second of his two 3-pointers and Gerwig slammed down a missed layup.

Casual coaches

Although yesterday’s game was not practice, Christian and his coaching staff wore gym shoes and windbreakers as part of Coaches vs. Cancer Awareness weekend. Coaches around the nation wore sneakers during their games.

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