SCOUTING THE GOLDEN FLASHES
Kent State opens its regular season on the road against West Virginia, having played just one public exhibition – a 76-63 win over Rochester last Monday. The Golden Flashes are an early pick to win the MAC, which would continue a decade of dominance in the league, but it will have to do so with a new head coach, as veteran assistant Rob Senderoff takes the reins from Geno Ford, who won two league regular season titles over the past two years.
Senderoff isn't a stranger to the Kent State campus, however, as he has served two stints with the Golden Flashes, including all three seasons under Ford. As a result, there's no expectation of a big adjustment period under the new regime.
Senderoff has a great deal of talent at his disposal as he embarks on a highly-anticipated debut season. On the perimeter, the Golden Flashes can deploy a three-guard offense that has strength on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Point Michael Porrini (10.2 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.7 rpg in 2010-11) is a great defender and distributor who also can score when called upon. Last year's league defensive player of the year is complemented by Randal Holt, who totaled 9.9 ppg a year ago, and Carlton Guyton, who was the league's sixth man of the year in 2010-11, averaging 15.4 and 8.3 rpg. Also slated to fill valuable backup minutes is guard Eric Gaines, who scored nine points in the exhibition win.
Kent State can also deploy a number of looks on the front line, led by forward Justin Greene (15.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg). Last year's MAC Player of the Year, Greene operates almost exclusively in the lane and at mid-range. He creates shot opportunities both in standard sets and off the glass, where he collected nearly one-third of his 308 rebounds in 2010-11. Juco All-American Chris Evans (12 points vs. Rochester) and Mark Henninger (13 points, 8 rebounds) are excellent complements to the talents of Greene. They both started in the exhibition game, but whether they reprise that role or come off the bench, the duo will certainly have a big impact on the game.
Also slated for duty is center Justin Manns, a shot blocker and rebounder who stands 6-11. Manns is excellent as a defender at the rim, and often cleans up defensive breakdowns with a shot block or alteration.
Overall, the picture of Kent State is similar to that of Oral Roberts, only more so. Nine players on this year's roster won letters a year ago, and the returnees accounted for more than 85% of KSU's scoring an 80% of its rebounding.
West Virginia got a very good start to its season on Friday with a win over Summit League favorite ORU, and it faces another challenge of the same sort with Kent State. This figures to be an even more difficult challenge, however, as the Golden Flashes are even stronger and deeper than the Golden Eagles.
WVU 1-0, 0-0
Kent St 0-0, 0-0
WVU - 113
Kent St. - 206
WVU rose to the challenge and produced more defensive intensity against ORU, but it will have to be very savvy against Kent State. Mountaineer defenders will have to be aware of who they are guarding and understand when they can play help side defense and when they need to stay on their men. They'll have to cut down on dribble penetration from a number of players at the forward spots, and will have to make massive improvement on the boards. West Virginia's 13-rebound deficit against ORU is something that it won't be able to survive against most opponents this year. In particular, Deniz Kilicli (who showed some fire on the glass early on against ORU) and freshmen Keaton Miles, Tommy McCune and Aaron Brown must keep offensive rebounders off the glass. Those that do so will definitely be in line for more minutes in this game, and as the season progresses.
West Virginia again pulled the 1-3-1 defense out of its hat for the final two possessions of the ORU game. It will be interesting to see if head coach Bob Huggins keeps that as the ace in the hole, or uses it as a change of pace earlier in games. There's something to be said for keeping it in reserve and springing it at a critical juncture late in the game. Foes that haven't seen it for the entire contest can be confused by it, just as ORU was on its last two possessions.
Overall, however, West Virginia will have to make another giant leap in improvement to win this game. While ORU was good, the Golden Flashes look to be much better, and don't have any glaring weaknesses. WVU will have to play better fundamental defense, avoid silly fouls, protect the ball better and rebound better in order to move to 2-0 on the season.
Kent State has been the monster of the MAC for the last decade plus. In the last 10 years Kent State has won five MAC regular season titles (2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011), while no other team in the league has claimed more than one. It has won at least ten league games in each of the last 13 seasons, and is 167-57 overall against MAC foes over that time span. It does have five NCAA appearances in those 13 seasons, but easily could have added two more in the last two seasons and another in 1999-2000.
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Kent State's nickname, the Golden Flashes, is apparently more of an idea than a particular animal or mascot. According to the school's official website, the team held a contest to select a new mascot in 1926. It had been going by the name "Silver Foxes" for the preceding six years, owing to the school president's raising of that animal on his farm. While the nickname "Golden Flashes" won the contest, three apparently wasn't a defined mascot to go with it. At various times during the years, the school has used a golden retriever,
Over the years, the Golden Flash has been a variety of different mascots ranging from a golden retriever in the 50s, a cartoon character named Grog in the 1960s, a horsed with a rider in the 1970s, and now a golden eagle.
Kent State's colors have a similarly interesting background. Originally, the school used orange and purple, but a laundry mishap faded those tones to a dark blue and gold. That look was favored by the teams and students of the time, so they were adopted as the new school colors.
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Prior to the Oral Roberts game, we discussed Kevin Jones' place on the WVU career scoring list, and his potential to leap up the charts with a strong showing against the Golden Eagles. He did just that, tallying 2o points to move into the #25 spot on the list with 1,185 career points.
In noting that, however, we may have inadvertently shortchanged Truck Bryant, who is also denting the list. His 17 points gives him 1,048 in his career, good for 48th all-time. The return of Jones and Bryant for their senior seasons marked the first time in school history that West Virginia welcomed back two 1,000 point scorers.
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Kent is experienced across the board, and that even includes early morning starts. The Golden Flashes played in the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon a year ago, defeating Robert Morris 62-59 at home in the 8:00 a.m. time slot.