Flashes know what it takes

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

If you're a Kent State men's basketball player gazing at Akron's James A. Rhodes Arena, your're not simply taking in a big building. You're sizing up a potential buzzsaw. A group of grumpy young men with short memories wearing Zips uniforms have been sharpening the blades ever since their 1997-98 season came to an abrupt halt last February thanks to you, and they'd like nothing more than to cut you down to size in front of a sellout crowd Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. And you know they have the machinery to do just that if you let 'em. "We better come to Akron focused and ready to play, because if we don't we'll get blown out of there," said Kent junior center John Whorton. "That team's playing good basketball." Actually the Flashes (3-2 MAC), who are 10-3 for the first time since the 1989-90 campaign, are playing good basketball themselves. But the Zips (9-2) are playing great. "In my estimation, they're playing the best basketball in our league," said Kent coach Gary Waters. "They're playing well together, and their top two players (junior guards Jami Bosley and Jimmal Ball) are doing what needs to be done." After losing the season opener at Illinois State, Akron has won nine of its last 10 games and improved to 3-0 in the conference and 5-0 at home by knocking off then-unbeaten Toledo last week. The Zips defeated the Rockets even though Ball (13.4 points, 4.2 assists, 2.4 steals) and Ryan Andrick, the team's best post player, struggled immensely thanks to new found depth _ which had been Akron's lone weakness. "Akron is very well-balanced," said Whorton. "Everyone plays their role and makes personal sacrifices for the good of the team." But make no mistake, Bosley is clearly the heart and soul of the team. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound ramrod has dominated countless games from his two-guard slot this season, averaging 21.1 points (2nd in MAC), 4.4 assists (fifth) and three steals (first) while shooting 47 percent from the field and 86 percent from the free-throw line. If Bosley puts those numbers up against the Flashes' MAC-leading defense, the wood chips will be flying. "We've shut great perimeter players down all season long," said Waters. "The last two games teams have gone inside on us, but I think we can stop that too. It's not something we've been concentrating on, but we will now." Kent is surrendering just 61.4 points per game on the year. However, Western Michigan scored 87 to defeat the Flashes in overtime last week and lowly Buffalo piled up 61 points in the first 32 minutes of last Saturday's game before the Flashes turned their defense up a notch down the stretch. "We haven't been playing Kent basketball," said Whorton, following Saturday's 75-68 home victory over the Bulls. "Kent basketball is aggressive, in-your-face defense. We haven't stopped anybody lately. If we want to achieve what we think we can, we've got to get back to playing great, hard-nosed defense." Defense will be in the forefront of the Zips' minds as well this Wednesday. Last year Kent scorched Akron for 95 points to pull off a shocking upset in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament after the defending East Division champs had routed the Flashes twice during the regular season. "They'll want to shut us down," said Whorton, who tossed in a career-high 27 points in Kent's 95-88 victory. "But the losses are in the past and the win is in the past, and none of that will matter (on Wednesday). Both teams have a lot of the same players, but this is still a different year and we're different teams. "We've just got to look ourselves in the mirror and come to Akron ready to play. If we don't come out with intensity and put our best foot forward, it will be a real struggle in Akron."

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