Center John Edwards (7-0, 270) leads KSU in scoring (13.2 ppg), rebounds (6.6 pg), blocks (80) and shot attempts (297), and is the most consistent inside threat in Kent's perimeter based offense. While Edwards doesn't range far from the hoop himself, his presence allows his teammates the freedom to fire away from the outside.
Joining Edwards on the front line are Scott Cutley (6-6, 230) and Jason Edwin (6-5, 220). Cutley, a freshman, has started just five games this year, and averages 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, while Edwin had a solid MAC tournament, and averaged 7.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per outing.
Frontcourt depth is provided by Clif Brown (6-7) who averaged 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per outing, and Bryan Bedford (6-4) a swingman with both guard and forward abilities. Bedford averages 8.4 points per game in 22 minutes of action per contest, and started 22 games this season.
The backcourt is paced by DeAndre Haynes, who combines playmaking abilities with solid outside shooting. Haynes averages 10.6 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game, and hits 36.3% of his three-point attempts. He excels at moving the ball to find an open perimeter shooter, but defenders have to play him closely, or he'll uncork a three.
Joining Haynes is Eric Haut (6-0, 195). Haut hits 40% of his threes, and is an 80% shooter from the free throw line, which makes him another big offensive threat. He averages 11.5 points and is a sticky defender as well, recording 32 steals.
Backcourt support is provided by Matt Jakeway(6-3) an experienced senior, who, like Bedford, gets a lot of minutes. Jakeway puts up 6.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest, and is another three-point sniper, shooting 45.9% from beyond the arc.
A defensive battle of shotblocking centers who also possess good offensive skills will be a big factor in the outcome of this opening-round NIT contest.
|Wed 3/17 7:00 p.m.|
|Memorial Athletic and
WVU 15-13, 7-9
KS 23-8, 13-5
WVU - 97
KS - 76
|Margin: KS +4|
The one advantage Fischer has over Edwards is mobility, and an outside shot. If Fischer can hit a couple of the 17-18 foot jumpers that he is quite comfortable with, he could force Edwards away from the basket, and thus open up some driving lanes for his teammates. If, however, Fischer has another game like the Notre Dame contest, Edwards may be able to stay in the lane and jam things up.
Fischer has not recorded to back to back sub-par outings this year, so West Virginia will be looking for him to reassert himself in this contest. Other than Edwards, Fischer might not get many chances to block shots, as the rest of the Kent State offense is outside-oriented. Therefore, WVU's rangy center must be careful not to chase shooters too far from the basket, which takes him out of rebounding position.
Kent State relies on three-point shooting and a dash of post play from Edwards to power their offense. Quite simply, if the Flashes are hitting from bonus range, then they are difficult to beat. If they go cold, as they did during a late season stretch, then pinning a loss on them becomes much easier.
The bad news for WVU is that Kent State broke out of that four-game shooting slump (all losses), to record a pair of wins in the MAC tournament and advance to the championship game. The good news is that the Mountaineers have the perfect defense (their 1-3-1) to combat the Flashes' chief weapon.
Although Kent State fared well against the Gold and Blue during their preseason scrimmage, too much stock shouldn't be put into that meeting. At that time, Tyrone Sally wasn't playing on the top of the 1-3-1, and WVU's defensive rotations out of that set were different, and not as varied, as they are today. WVU might also be able to match up with the Flashes in a man-to-man defense at times, especially when Fischer and Kevin Pittsnogle aren't in the game together.
Winning on an opponent's home court is a difficult task at any time, and this one will be a definite challenge. The Flashes, who dropped a close overtime decision to Boston College on the road, will definitely be fired up to host a Big East team in their house. West Virginia must keep the home team from getting off to a big early start, especially one that's fueled by crowd-stoking three-point shots, in order to advance to New England for the next NIT contest.
The pace of the game will again be an important factor in WVU's fortunes. Kent State is 16-0 when scoring more than 70 points, while WVU is 12-6 when holding teams below that mark.
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Jarmon Durisseau-Collins had a career-best 10 points against Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament. JDC must duplicate that effort, and continue his drives to the basket, to give WVU's offense another threat.
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Ohio U alumnus Geno Ford, who was a thorn in WVU's side when those two teams were regular opponents, is a Kent State assistant coach.
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The Mountaineers are 14-14 all-time in the NIT.
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Kent State is making its sixth straight postseason appearance, the longest current streak in the MidAmerican Conference. The Flashes have been in three NCAAs and three NITs over that span.