'Wally World' coming to Kent

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

"Wally World" is scheduled to make his eagerly-anticipated appearance at the MAC Center Wednesday night at 7 p.m. sharp. And if Kent State coach Gary Waters has his way, Wally won't exactly be welcomed by the Golden Flashes or their hometown faithful with open arms. "This is one of the biggest games we've had at our place," said Waters, whose Flashes (12-4, 5-3 MAC) will take on the most formidable foe the Mid-American Conference can offer in Wally Szczerbiak and the Miami RedHawks (12-3, 7-0) on Wednesday. "We need all the help we can get, but we especially need a big crowd. In the past fans here have come out to see the marquee players, guys like Gary Trent and Dave Jamerson. "And Szczerbiak's even better." A bold statement, indeed. But it's hard to argue with a MAC-leading 24 points and nine rebounds the 6-foot-8, 243-pound senior forward puts in the books night in and night out, numbers even the truly elite players in conference history have trouble matching. "Everyone knows what a versatile player Szczerbiak is, but the best thing about him is he's so consistent," said Waters. "His stats never vary, and that's very unique. And he's shooting over 50 percent from the field. That's scary." Things get more frightful for RedHawks' foes when veteran guards Damon Frierson (13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and Rob Mestas (8 points) are added to the mix along with senior forward John Estick (8 points, 6 rebounds). "Miami's starting five is as good as any in our conference," said Waters. "And they're a confident team playing very good, very consistent basketball." Fortunately for the Flashes, confident and consistent can also be used to describe their play at home. Kent is a perfect 7-0 at the MAC Center this season, and Waters has said on countless occasions that one of his team's major goals is to remain unbeaten at home this year. To do so, the Flashes must conquer the "Wally World" of college basketball. "This is a great test for our team, a major challenge," said Waters. "If we're gonna compete for tournament bids or anything else, we've got to meet this challenge. We've got to defend our turf." Intriguing matchups will be taking place constantly all over the court. Kent first-year guards Andrew Mitchell (9 points, 3 assists) and Trevor Huffman (8.5 points) vs. Frierson and Mestas. Kent junior center John Whorton (13.4 points, 6 rebounds) vs. Miami's staunch interior defense. The Flashes' bench vs. the Red Hawks' bench. "People coming off the bench will have a major say in the outcome of this game," said Waters, whose subs average nearly 30 points per game while Miami's non-starters chip in 20 per contest. But in fans' eyes, the other players are merely props. Peepers will be glued to Szczerbiak, who will likely be chased by Kent senior Ed Norvell all evening long. And to his credit, Norvell has guarded Szczerbiak as well as anyone in the past, holding him to nine points in a Kent win in Oxford and to 18 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field in Miami's victory in the MAC Tournament semifinals a year ago. "This is a good matchup," said Waters. "We have played them tough in the past, and we have a lot of incentive to play them tough (on Wednesday). If we play the way we're capable, this should be a great game."

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