By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer
KENT: The adage ''home sweet home'' may never have meant as much to the Kent State men's basketball team as it does Sunday with the team playing at home in the friendly confines of the M.A.C. Center for the first time in nearly month.
Home court has truly been an advantage for the Golden Flashes, who average 10 more points at the M.A.C. Center (72.5) than they have so far this season on the road (61.4).
Sunday's homecoming is also special in that it's a part of a doubleheader with the KSU women's team, which tips off the event with a 5 p.m. matchup against visiting University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The 5-4 men's team follows by hosting Texas A&M Corpus Christi (4-4) at 7:30 p.m. in a game that pits the two teams for the third time in four years. Kent State, which leads the series 2-1, won the the previous matchup 61-50 on Jan. 9, 2008.
The evening of basketball is full of additional values. Not only does one ticket get fans into both games, but also hot dogs and soft drinks are just $1 each. Those who donate nonperishable food at the door gain entrance for $5 for both games, thanks to a food drive benefiting the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Looking for win
The Kent State men's team looks Sunday to snap a two-game losing streak that saw the Flashes fall 77-61 at Xavier and 71-59 to Pittsburgh in two tough road matches the last two weeks.
''They are the kind of games that maybe we don't win, but the lessons learned from them pay off later in the season, when we're in the middle of conference play,'' coach Geno Ford said. ''It's a tough stretch being gone so long, but we'll definitely benefit from the experience.''
Like the Flashes, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is looking to break a two-game skid in returning to the court for the first time since a Dec. 6 loss at Houston. Senior guard/forward Kevin Palmer has already recorded four 20-point games this season, leading the team with 19.8 points per game.
The Islanders also found out Friday that senior guard LaMarr Drake regained his eligibility and will play for the first time this season against Kent State. In 16 games at point guard last season, Drake averaged 6.6 points and a team-best 3.2 assists.
''Having LaMarr [back] is huge for this team,'' Islanders coach Perry Clark said in a release on the team's Web site. ''He provides us with more leadership and more depth in the backcourt.''
While returning home has to feel good for the road-weary Flashes, the layover is temporary. Sunday's game marks the team's only action at the M.A.C Center this month.
Next up, KSU travels to Robert Morris on Tuesday before earning a break during the holiday season. Afterward, the Flashes travel to California for the Clara Cable Car Classic Dec. 29-30.
Women end homestand
With the men's team away for so long, the 5-3 women's team will wrap up a five-game homestand against UNCW on Sunday.
The Flashes are coming off a 68-63 loss to visiting Temple, having rallied from 21 points behind in the second half before falling short against the Owls in the final seconds of the game.
The action included a breakout performance for junior forward Taisia Jones, who scored a career-high 25 points.
Sunday's game will mark UNC Wilmington's second of a five-game road trip that spans 17 days and about 3,000 miles.
After enjoying a holiday break, the KSU's women's team heads to Hawaii for two games against the University of Hawaii Dec. 29 and 30th.