Who: Kent State (12-10, 3-5 MAC) vs. Western Michigan (14-7, 6-2 MAC)
When/Where: Tonight, 7 p.m./University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Radio: WHLO 640 AM.
Head Coaches: Rob Senderoff, Kent State (33-22, 2nd season); Steve Hawkins, Western Michigan (173-139, 10th season).
2011-12 Records: Kent State 21-12, 10-6 MAC; Western Michigan 14-20, 6-10 MAC.
Series: Kent State leads 59-53.
Last Season: The Flashes defeated the Broncos 78-73 in overtime in Kent during the regular season, then knocked off Western Michigan 76-72 in the MAC Tournament.
Kent State Leaders: Senior forward Chris Evans ranks among the top six in the MAC in scoring (4th, 16.5 ppg), rebounding (6th, 6.9) and steals (4th, 2.0 spg). Senior guard Randal Holt is second on the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) and leads the MAC in 3-pointers made (53), while sophomore guard Kris Brewer is third in scoring (8.6 ppg).
Scouting Western Michigan: After losing their first two league games to MAC powers Akron and Ohio, the MAC West Division-leading Broncos have reeled off six straight victories with four of those coming by 11 points or more. However, they have lost seven straight to Kent State. Western Michigans formula for success has featured defense and rebounding. The Broncos rank second in the MAC in scoring defense (62.3 ppg) and first in rebounding margin (+7.1). Rebounding has been an issue of late for the Flashes, especially on the defensive end. Western Michigan is led by 6-foot-10 junior center Shayne Whittington, who averages team-highs of 12.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He ranks second in the MAC in rebounding. Nate Hutcheson, a 6-7 senior forward, is second in scoring at 11 points per game, while 6-8 freshman forward Darius Paul checks in at 10.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Paul also grabs three offensive boards per outing. The Broncos are 61-16 at home against MAC teams under Hawkins.
Flash Facts: The Flashes snapped a four-game losing streak with last Saturdays 77-62 home victory over Eastern Michigan, and will have a chance to string some wins together if they can escape Kalamazoo with a victory. Their next two games are at home against Central Michigan and Miami. Kent State is currently locked in a four-way tie for third/last place in the MAC East at 3-5 along with the RedHawks, Buffalo and Bowling Green. Akron leads at 9-0, followed by Ohio (6-1). KSU freshman forward Chris Ortiz scored his first points in seven games since returning from a foot injury on Saturday, finishing with five points and four rebounds in 15 minutes. Ortiz did not play in the Flashes previous two games, but is now back in the rotation according to Senderoff. Junior forward Darren Goodson has emerged as a consistent third scorer for Kent State in the past six games, averaging 11.5 points during that stretch. The Flashes learned on Tuesday that they will visit Loyola University Chicago in the final BracketBuster on Feb. 23. The Ramblers are currently 13-9 overall and 3-6 in the Horizon League.
Senderoff on Western Michigan: Theyre playing very well. Theyre defending as well as anyone in the league and theyre the best rebounding team in the league. They play very, very hard. Theyre very good at home. Its gonna be a big challenge for us. Were gonna have to match them on the glass, and were gonna have to do a good job of pressuring their guards and trying to create turnovers. Were gonna have to move the ball offensively and get good shots. One thing they dont do is create a lot of turnovers, so we should get our shots up, but were gonna have to do a good job of taking care of the basketball and not have 10-plus turnovers. Theyre big at a lot of positions. (Whittington) is physical, big, strong, just a workhorse-type guy. Were gonna have to play physical. Were gonna have to be ready for a dogfight.
Next: The Golden Flashes will host Central Michigan (9-13, 2-7) on Saturday at 7 p.m.