Men's Basketball Preview: Kent State at Akron

By Allen Moff | Staff writer Published:

What: 2012-13 regular-season finale.

Who: Kent State (18-12, 8-7 MAC) vs. Akron (24-5, 14-1 MAC).

When/Where: Tonight, 7 p.m./James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron.

Radio/TV: WHLO 640 AM/ESPN2.

Head Coaches: Rob Senderoff, Kent State (39-24, 2nd season); Keith Dambrot, Akron (208-92, 9th season at Akron; 316-162 overall).

First Matchup: Akron defeated the Flashes 71-67 in Kent on Jan. 19. Kent State led 36-26 at the half, and the game was tied with 1:20 to play, but the Zips pulled it out after outrebounding the Flashes 31-13 in the second half.

Series: Kent State leads 69-67, but Akron has won the last five matchups between the backyard rivals.

Kent State Leaders: Senior forward Chris Evans ranks fourth in the MAC in scoring (16.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg), and third in steals (2.0 spg). Senior guard Randal Holt is second on the team in scoring (14.5 ppg). He leads the MAC in 3-pointers made (79) while shooting 38.9 percent from long range, and also leads the conference in free-throw shooting percentage (.860). Sophomore guard Kris Brewer is third on the team in scoring (9.4 ppg) and leads the MAC in 3-point field-goal percentage (45.2 percent).

Scouting Akron: Zips fans received stunning news Thursday night, when word broke that junior point guard Alex Abreu had been suspended indefinitely after being arrested earlier that day on charges of marijuana trafficking. He will not play tonight. Abreu averages 10.3 points per game and ranks second in the MAC in assists (6 apg). ... The Zips clinched their second straight MAC regular season championship with a 72-58 home victory over Miami on Tuesday. Two days earlier they suffered their first MAC loss, 81-67 at Buffalo, which snapped a 19-game winning streak and knocked them out of the Top 25 nationally. … Akron ranks second in the MAC in scoring offense (73.7 ppg), scoring defense (62.4 ppg), field-goal percentage (46.2) and rebounding margin (+5.8), and first in field-goal percentage defense (39.1), offensive rebounds (12.8 orpg) and blocks (5.7 bpg). … The Zips are led by 7-foot senior center Zeke Marshall, who ranks first in the MAC in blocked shots (3.6 bpg) and field-goal percentage (.667). He leads Akron in scoring (12.9 ppg) and ranks second in rebounding behind 6-7 junior Demetrius Treadwell, who averages 11.2 points and 7.5 boards per outing. ... The Zips are 15-0 at home this season.

Flash Facts: Kent State has won four straight games and seven of its last nine since starting the MAC season 2-5. … The Flashes can reach 19 wins for the 15th consecutive season with a victory tonight. … Kent State ranks first in the MAC in 3-point field-goal percentage (.373). … If the Flashes don’t win the MAC Tournament, they will still play in the postseason. Kent State has already received invitations to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.

MAC Tournament Update: The top four seeds for the tournament are set: 1. Akron, 2. Ohio, 3. Western Michigan, 4. Kent State. Buffalo, Ball State and Eastern Michigan are all vying for the fifth seed, and KSU is 4-0 against those teams. If the Flashes win next Thursday, they will face the Zips in the semifinals for the second straight year Friday at 6:30. Last year Akron defeated KSU 78-74 in the semis.

Senderoff on Akron: “We played really, really hard the first time that we played them. I don’t know that we played great, but we played hard. I think we’ll be ready to play for sure. They’re obviously a great team, and it’s gonna be a challenge. If we want to have any chance we’ll have to rebound and take care of the basketball. Over the last five games we’re plus-6 per game in rebounding, and we’re playing one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They killed us on the glass the last game, and they’ve done the same thing to a lot of other teams. They’re really good at pounding the ball inside, and when they make (outside) shots they’re almost impossible to beat because they’re great inside. We probably have to play a little bit better than normal and they probably have to play a little bit worse than normal for us to have a chance to win. As long as we compete and play together and scratch and claw, whatever happens, happens.”

Next: The Golden Flashes will open MAC Tournament play on Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.

— Allen Moff/R-C

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