CW: What would you make of Ohio's work in non-conference play this year?
KC: Ohio has actually been pretty impressive to me at times in the non-conference. I bet they wish they could take away that blemish at Oakland, but a team with a new crew of go-to guys doesn't surprise me. Maurice Ndour and Nick Kellogg have stepped up BIG in the non-conference, and I'm expecting more of several guys like Jon Smith, TJ Hall, and Javarez "Bean" Willis, the last of whom has struggled mightily.
CW: Which game have they played so far stands out in your mind as being their most impressive performance?
KC: For me, Ohio's most impressive performance has to be between the loss at Ohio State and their last win on the road against UNC-Asheville. They may not have won, but the game in the Schottenstein Center was a battle all the way to the end with the Bobcats narrowing the Buckeye lead to six or seven several times in the second half. They picked up fantastic contributions from guys like Stevie Taylor who has since to have a really good game, while playing through a poor offensive performance from Ndour. In the UNC-Asheville game, they took to the road, went down 15 early, but roared back in the second half, looking extremely impressive, despite losing Ricardo Johnson (possibly for the season). In that game Ndour and Kellogg set season highs for points (27 and 23 respectively).
CW: The Flashes have a big front court with Mark Henniger, Chris Ortiz, and Khaliq Spicer. Aside from Ndour, who can we expect the Bobcats to throw in the paint to try to match up with the sizable Golden Flashes?
KC: Well Jon Smith is going to try and put his wiry body in there, that's for sure. You might see Coach Jim Christian play Antonio Campbell a bit more against those big bodies. TJ Hall is a guy who is capable of throwing his weight around as well. It'll be a bit different of a lineup for Ohio with starter Johnson out, as you'll likely see a two point guard type lineup with Willis and Taylor starting in the backcourt. Ohio will be running and gunning to the best of their abilities on Wednesday as well, to take advantage of that quickness.
CW: With Johnson out, where do you expect the production to come from out of the Bobcats offense and who needs to play especially well for Ohio to have the edge?
KC: Johnson eats up a lot of minutes and scores by slashing to the bucket and by way of the three ball now and then. He's third on the team in minutes and is a big contributor so it can potentially be tough to get that production back. Ultimately, it has to be T.J. Hall picking up some slack. He has stepped up and assumed that x-factor type role. Now he has to be the guy to step in and average around 10 a game, and play some hard-nosed defense.
CW: Do you think, injuries in mind, the Bobcats can reel past a struggling Flashes team? What say you on the Bobcats?
KC: As awkward as it may be out there on the court without Ric, I do think Ohio will come ready to start off MAC play with a bang. Ndour and Kellogg seem to be in their element. Jon Smith needs to get back to contributing in the way that he did early on in the season, but I can see that happening for him this Wednesday night. I also think we see something develop between Willis and Taylor at the guard spot, and Stevie comes into Kent with a swagger after hitting that game winning shot in Ohio's Convocation Center last season. I think his 2nd biggest game of the season could be in order. Ohio comes away with a win 77-72.
Now let us flip seats.
Connor is going to sit in Kaleb's chair and Kaleb shall sit in Connor's chair. May the interviewer become the interviewee and whatnot.
KC: You might say (would you Connor?) that the Golden Flashes have played beyond expectations this season, though they have dropped off a bit in their last two non-conference games. Where have they made improvements specifically to be sitting at 9-4?
CW: I would say they started the season playing above expectations. Much like Ohio, Kent State had big holes to fill after last year losing Randal Holt and Chris Evans. They started 8-1 including a nice win at Temple and a heartbreaking loss to Seton Hall. In their last four games they have went 1-3 in large part, due to poor performance at the free throw line. All three teams are solid albeit, however if the Flashes want to get off on the winning foot in MAC play against a good team, they are going to need to shoot the ball a lot better.
KC: So you said it yourself, the Golden Flashes have struggled in close games as of late, specifically from the charity stripe. Is there anything else Coach Rob Senderoff has been harping over the last several weeks to improve his teams' performance?
CW: Not necessarily. I think something he has made quite clear is that this team can be really good when they get production from everywhere. The Flashes are ten deep with guys who can really play and perform well. Dev Manley came off the bench to score 17 against Princeton and Khaliq Spicer is an exteremly dangerous big man off the bench. If Kent State can get guys like Manley and Spicer to perform well and also have the starters like Darren Goodson, Derek Jackson, and Kris Brewer shoot the ball to their potential, this team is going to be really tough to beat.
KC: You mentioned a lot of guys contribute to the team's cause, but the Golden Flashes seem to lack a go-to scorer, with no one averaging even 12 points a game. Kris Brewer scored 28 at Seton Hall, so is he the guy to get it done and be a leader?
CW: I would actually say Derek Jackson is the go-to guy. He is either ice cold or too hot to miss (much like the rest of the team). He has put up at least 14 points six times this year and when he puts up at least 14, the team is 5-1 (exception being Cleveland State). Even when he does not play well, he isn't the type of player to force up 15 shots. He seems to know when he has it and when he doesn't which is extremely helpful. The points should flow through him if the Flashes are on Wednesday night.
KC: So in the end, does Kent State's struggles winning close games do them in? How does this home contest go for the Golden Flashes?
CW: I think Kent State wins this one down the stretch. Kent State has run into tough times recently but after a game where real improvement was seen against Princeton, they are due to put it all together and play 40 minutes of solid basketball. Barring the conditions, it should be a good crowd, and hopefully that, along with a good performance from the field, can will the Flashes to a W. KENT STATE 82 - OHIO 76
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