Stingy defense has bailed the Kent State men's basketball team out of several sticky situations thus far in 2000-01, keeping coach Gary Waters' troops perched among the Mid-American Conference's elite. But can the Golden Flashes tame the Thundering Herd? We'll find out today, when Marshall (11-3, 5-1 MAC) brings its potent offensive arsenal to the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center to battle a Kent State defense that's among the nation's best for first place in the MAC's East Division. Marshall boasts the best 1-2 scoring punch in the MAC with juniors Tamar Slay and J.R. VanHoose. Slay, a sleek 6-foot-9 slasher who has developed a lethal jumper over the past two seasons, once again leads the conference in scoring at 19.4 points per game. Some insiders believe he may be NBA bound once this year ends. VanHoose, a 6-10 center who can beat you inside or outside, averages 16.3 points per game and leads the MAC in rebounding (11.1 rpg). Toss in an experienced backcourt headed by Cornelius Jackson (6.2 assists per game) and Travis Young (13.9 ppg), and you have a Marshall offense averaging 77 points per game that's capable of lighting foes up for 90-plus points on any given gameday. "Slay, Young, VanHoose, man they have some weapons," said Golden Flashes guard Andrew Mitchell. "This is the biggest challenge yet for our defense." Defense has become Kent State's trademark over the past three highly successful seasons, and this year's unit is as solid as ever. The Flashes (11-5, 4-1) are allowing under 63 points and forcing nearly 18 turnovers per outing. "We'll need to put together a great defensive game and play hard for 40 minutes," said Mitchell. "We take a lot of pride in our defense, and in defending our home turf." Look for Kent State to slap 6-3 junior swingman Demetric Shaw, their most versatile defender, on Slay while 6-9 junior center Mike Perry and 6-5 senior forward Kyrem Massey will both butt heads with VanHoose inside. And look for the Flashes to be fired up about facing their stiffest MAC test to date, a Marshall squad considered the favorite to claim the conference crown. "I think everybody's been looking forward to this game," said Kent State junior point guard Trevor Huffman. "It's a good rivalry and a big game for both teams."