January 22, 2007

KSU Hoops: The Week in Review

Kent State's 62-61 victory over Bowling Green at the MAC Center on Saturday completed the first round of games against Mid-American Conference East Division opponents. Now the Golden Flashes look to the West Division starting with a road trip to Ball State on Wednesday.

Before looking ahead, KSU head coach Jim Christian reviewed the first part of the conference schedule.

"The division is what everybody expected it to be," Christian said. "It's very competitive and obviously teams are playing very well to defend their home court. That was a huge key. We all had a chance to see each other one time and I don't think anybody is surprised by anything."

The Golden Flashes won three of their first five conference games with both defeats occurring on the road. But, regardless of the location of the game, the MAC schedule is grueling from start to finish.

"Our week, we played at Akron, which is obviously a difficult place to play and they are playing very well," Christian said. "For stretches we looked very good and for stretches we did not. Then we played at home against Bowling Green and it was just another very competitive MAC game with two teams playing extremely hard. It came down to the final seconds and that's what I think has happened throughout the beginning of the league on both sides."

Heading west, the Golden Flashes will see many familiar faces but they'll also see a couple of new ones. Both Ball State and Central Michigan welcomed new head coaches this season, Ronny Thompson at BSU and Ernie Ziegler at Central Michigan. Despite the new faces roaming the sidelines preparations for the Cardinals and Chippewas won't be different than in the past.

"That's why you watch all the tapes that you watch and try to pick up as much as you can," Christian said. "One of the things we always do is see how other teams in the league defend them. It's just like preparing for everybody else that you play. You know that when it comes to MAC play that every team is going to be very well prepared whether you faced that particular coach before or not.

"It's what makes our league very difficult; it's why if you look at the numbers the statistics really change a lot during the course of MAC play because there's so much, you prepare for all the games but there's a special preparation for MAC games. Even though the coaches sometimes change, you still know the players and you kind of know what their tendencies are so you really try to use that as much as you can."

During game preparations, the Golden Flashes must first become comfortable with what they want to do on the court before they can prepare for what challenges are presented by the opponent.

"With our team I find myself trying to get our players to do what we want to do first," Christian said. "We try not to make our own selves the enemy. It's a different team here so for us we have to put our game plan in and make sure our players understand it and do what we're supposed to more so worrying about what they do because if you can't execute what you are trying to do either way, offensively or defensively, you don't have much of a chance anyway."

As was the case on Saturday against the Falcons, that game plan often requires some adjusting of the starting lineup. In place of regular starters Armon Gates, Omni Smith and Haminn Quaintance were Julian Sullinger, Jordan Mincy and Chris Singletary. Replacing two seniors with a sophomore and a freshman presented its own challenges.

"We started two freshman and two sophomores, so it's a hit; it's not easy to do but it's a way that those guys gain experience and confidence," Christian said. "Like anything else, kids have to see themselves doing things correctly in order to learn and see positive results and I think when that happens, that's where confidence comes from and I think those situations sometimes are good because even when they don't do it right, if the result wasn't what they wanted, they usually focus a little more next time. Sometimes those are painful lessons to learn."

Notes and News:
Gates and Smith both scored in double figures on Saturday, the 11th time this season that has happened. For Gates, it was his 34th career game hitting double-digits and the 24th time for Smith.

Gates became the fourth KSU player to hit 170 three-pointer in his career.

Sullinger's start against Bowling Green was his first this season and just the second of his career.

Mike Scott has recorded 18 rebounds in his last two games.

Saturday's announced attendance of 4,417 was the largest crowd so far in the MAC Center this season.

Quotable:

"We had to do it, it's that simple; we couldn't lose this one. We couldn't let ourselves down, let coach down, let the fans down; everyone came out to see us win, we just had to win this one so we had to do whatever it took." ~Scott on KSU's defense down the stretch against Bowling Green

"It was good to cut their minutes a little bit. Those guys were playing a lot of minutes. They played 36-38 minutes last game. To play Bowling Green you have to chase them around for 40 minutes; that's hard to do because there's so much movement in their offense. I thought we needed fresh legs, especially in the beginning of the game." ~Christian on playing Smith and Gates off the bench

"Chris did a good job guarding. We put him on (Nate) Miller at the end and he did a great job of keeping him out of the lane. Chris is physically strong enough to guard a guy like that. That was a big, big match up for us down the stretch." ~Christian on the performance of freshman Chris Singletary

"Basically, I was trying to get a shot off and when I got ball screen, I didn't expect them to trap it and I picked my dribble up and it caused a turnover. I was trying to get it to Ryne Hamblet in the corner." ~Bowling Green's Martin Samarco on his turnover at the end of the game

"Nobody has more respect for their program than me. We're just trying to do what they've done, really." ~Akron head coach Keith Dambrot

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