Men's Basketball Preview: Ohio at Kent State

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MEN'S BASKETBALL PREVIEW

OHIO AT KENT STATE

n Who: Ohio (14-5, 5-0 MAC) vs. Kent State (11-8, 2-3 MAC)

n When/Where: Tonight, 6 p.m./M.A.C. Center

n TV/Radio: SportsTime Ohio, ESPN3/WHLO 640 AM.

n Head Coaches: Jim Christian, Ohio (14-5, 1st season at Ohio; 207-137, 11th year overall); Rob Senderoff, Kent State (32-20, 2nd season).

n 2011-12 Records: Ohio 29-8, 11-5 MAC;Kent State 21-12, 10-6 MAC.

n Series: Ohio leads 89-44.

n Last Season: Each team won at home. After falling 68-61 at Kent State on Feb. 29, Ohio won its next six games while capturing the MAC Tournament crown and advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.

n Kent State Leaders: Senior forward Chris Evans ranks among the top four in the MAC in scoring (3rd, 16.9 ppg), rebounding (4th, 7.6) and steals (4th, 1.9 spg). Senior guard Randal Holt is second on the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) and second in the MAC in 3-pointers made (44), while sophomore guard Kris Brewer is third in scoring (8.3 ppg) and leads the team in assists (2.4 apg).

n Scouting Ohio: The Bobcats have every player back from last year's Sweet 16 team, and it shows. After a shaky 2-5 month of December, the Bobcats have reeled off six consecutive wins. They lead the MAC in field-goal percentage (.487), 3-point field-goal percentage (.377), assists (19.5 apg) and steals (9.2 spg), and are second in scoring (74.8 ppg) and scoring margin (+11.7). About the only area they're mediocre in is rebounding, which is good news for a Kent State squad that was outboarded 51-39 by Akron last Saturday. ... Ohio is led by 6-foot senior guard D.J. Cooper, who paces his team in scoring (14.1 ppg) and steals (2.0 spg) and leads the MAC in assists (8.3 apg). Walter Offutt, a 6-4 senior guard, averages 11.4 points per game, while 6-9 senior forward Reggie Keely averages 11.1 points and shoots a MAC-best 68.9 percent from the field. ... The Bobcats are looking to reach 6-0 in MAC play for the first time since 1973-74. ... Anthony Stewart, a 1993 Mount Union graduate who played basketball and baseball for the Purple Raiders, is an assistant coach for the Bobcats along with Omni Smith, who played for Kent State from 2005-07.

n Flash Facts: The Flashes are coming off an ugly 70-55 loss at Bowling Green that snapped a three-game winning streak on the road. They are 0-2 at home against MAC teams, opening with losses to Toledo and Akron, and are just 6-5 at home on the season. They are 69-10 against MAC teams at home since the start of the 2003-04 season. ... Look for spirited play out of junior forwards Melvin Tabb and Mark Henniger, who were both chastised by Senderoff after Wednesday's loss at Bowling Green for their lack of effort. Neither player saw the floor in the second half. ... This is a swing game of sorts for the Flashes, who are one of eight teams in the MAC that enter today's action at 2-3 in the conference. They will have faced a tougher six-game stretch to open the MAC season than anyone in the conference, and if they win they emerge with a respectable 3-3 record. If they lose they start 2-4 in the MAC and 0-3 at home, which is not respectable by anyone's standards.

n Senderoff on Ohio: "They're playing very well. They're a great offensive team, they are tremendous in transition. They score a ton off the other team's turnovers. They're probably playing as well now as at any point last year, if not better. We're gonna have to play hard, that goes without saying, but we're gonna have to play well to beat them. We have to limit turnovers, and we're gonna have to make sure we're back in transition and make them score against our halfcourt defense, which for the most part has been pretty good this year. They return every single player on their roster from a team that won 29 games and went to the Sweet 16, and the team was a minute away form beating North Carolina and playing in the Elite 8. They start four seniors and a junior that have all played together for a long time, and their bench guys are good players too. They pose a lot of challenges. I think they lead the nation in assists, so we have to do a good job of containing penetration and make sure the shots they're getting are contested shots."

n Christian on Kent State: "I told our guys the team we're watching on film (against Bowling Green) isn't the Kent team that's coming to this game. I know how hard they play, I know the type of environment they're going to have, the way they build these types of games up. We've gotta be ready for their best shot."

n Next: The Golden Flashes will visit Northern Illinois (4-13, 2-3) on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

-- Allen Moff

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