One game at a time for Flashes; Waters, Kent State know winning will take care of everything

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

For the Kent State men's basketball team, there's no time to mope about Miami.

Coach Gary Waters knows this as well as anyone, and he's come up with a crafty way to help his squad quickly recover from a disappointing loss to the Mid-American Conference regular season champion RedHawks on Wednesday.

He's preaching the importance of tunnel vision to anyone that'll listen.

"Before this whole thing started all we wanted was to host a (quarterfinal) game in the MAC Tournament. So right now, we're right where we want to be," said Waters. "The Miami game is history, we'll learn from that and move on. And there's no sense talking about postseason possibilities, because none of it will matter unless we take care of business on Saturday.

"Right now, all that matters is Marshall."

The man speaks the truth.

What has been a dream season for the most part could come to an abrupt end Saturday afternoon at the MAC Center if the No. 2 seeded Flashes (20-6, 13-5 MAC) fail to handle the No. 7 seeded Thundering Herd (16-10, 11-7) in their MAC Tournament quarterfinal clash.

And a loss is certainly not out of the question. Marshall had its way with Kent in an early-season matchup in Huntington, W.V.

"We played two bad games on the road, where we didn't deal well with adversity _ Miami and Marshall," said Waters. "Marshall really hurt us in transition and with penetration. They pretty much dominated us."

The Herd features an impressive stable of athletes led by 6-foot-9 freshman forward J.R. VanHoose (14 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) and sophomore guard Travis Young (14 ppg), who hasn't started the last three games due to disciplinary reasons but is expected to be in the lineup on Saturday.

They lead the league in scoring (77 ppg), and had won five straight before losing at home to Bowling Green on Wednesday.

In other words, Marshall is extremely dangerous.

"Everyone in this tournament is dangerous," said Waters. "The great thing is that this time we get (Marshall) at home, where they'll have to deal with our crowd and our emotion. It's going to be great to play at home after what we've been through at Ohio and Miami."

Despite the loss to the RedHawks, the Flashes are in prime position to earn an at-large NCAA Tournament berth if they fall short of a MAC Tournament title.

Kent enters the MAC Tournament as the undisputed No. 2 team in the conference thanks to Toledo's loss to Northern Illinois, which dropped the Rockets all the way to 53rd in the RPI ratings while the Flashes jumped to 35th. Kent can all but wrap up an at-large berth by advancing to the championship game, especially if Miami _ which is already 99.9 percent guaranteed an NCAA Tournament berth _ makes it as well.

But don't try running all this past Waters or his Flashes. They don't want to hear it.

"Our only goal right now is to make it to the (MAC) championship game," said Waters, "because that would indicate progress over last year, when we made it to the semifinals. The first obstacle in our path is Marshall, and that's all we're concerned about right now."

If the Flashes defeat the Herd, they'll take on the winner of Saturday's Toledo at Ohio game in the MAC Tournament semifinals Tuesday in Toledo.

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