KSU hoping to "find a way" in NCAA tournament match with Temple

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

So 'the team no one wants to play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament' has been tossed in the collective lap of the Kent State men's basketball team.

So the Golden Flashes' initial taste of March Madness will be supplied by legendary coach John Chaney and tourney-tested Temple.

So no one outside Portage County seems to be giving Kent (who?) a new bumper's chance in Boston of beating the Owls.

So what, says coach Gary Waters.

"They say no one wanted to play Temple in the first round, so I guess they saw Kent and decided to throw us in there with 'em," said Waters, whose squad will battle the Owls Friday at 2:45 p.m. in the FleetCenter. "Really, what did you expect? It's a difficult draw, but that's fine with us.

"Whoever we've played and wherever we've played this year, we've always seemed to find a way."

Waters and his Flashes (23-6) have indeed found a way to buck the odds and win one behemoth battle after another on their way to a school-record 23 wins and a first-ever Mid-American Conference Tournament title.

But that was then. This is Temple.

"Temple's style is different than anyone else's is this tournament," said Waters. "That's what makes them unique, and that's what makes them tough to play."

The Owls feature an aggressive matchup zone defense and a methodical, mistake-free offense. They're big, strong and physical and they do everything in their power to constantly control tempo, which makes playing them no picnic.

"They control tempo in three ways: their zone defense, their deliberate offense and rebounding," said Waters. "It's a continuous circle. They slow you down with their zone, they rebound, then they literally walk the ball up the court. And they take care of the basketball."

That's Temple basketball, according to Chaney.

"We do the same things every year, so I guess we're predictable," said Chaney. "But we've been successful with it, and I'll keep doing it until I die."

Chaney's formula for success has worked the past 17 seasons (377-159) at Temple, including this year as the Owls average just 10 turnovers a game and hold opponents to a paltry 58 points per contest.

However, they have to rely heavily on defense because they have a difficult time putting the ball in the basket. That's what makes the Owls beatable.

And they know it.

"I don't know how our kids can be overconfident when all year they've disappointed me by shooting rocks and stones," said Chaney. "Sometimes I think they're throwing them at me."

The Owls are shooting just 41 percent from the field, 31 percent from 3-point range and 65 percent from the charity stripe. Close games are the norm because they have a tough time scoring enough points (66.6 per game) to put foes away.

So they do have legitimate weaknesses for the Flashes to expose.

"This game's a contrast in styles, and we've gotta make them play ours," said Waters, whose Flashes are a nine-point underdog. "We have to get the tempo up and make them play us. They like to play slow and they only play seven guys, so we can't let them walk the ball up the court.

"Second, we have to get inside their zone. Teams average 25 3-pointers against them, and some have shot as many as 40. They literally shut down the inside and make you shoot from the outside, and we can't let them do that to us."

Kent junior center John Whorton (6-foot-8, 250 pounds) will need to hold his own against Temple hulks Mark Karcher (6-5, 220), Lamont Barnes (6-10, 230) and Kevin Lyde (6-9, 240) underneath in order to give teammates Kyrem Massey, Andrew Mitchell, Trevor Huffman and Nate Meers room to shoot from long and _ perhaps most importantly _ medium range.

"We need to establish something inside, because that's what we do," said Waters. "We need to press and run and play harder (than Temple), because that's what we do when we're at our best.

"That's Kent basketball, and that's what we have to play. No matter who the opponent is."

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