As I attempted to clean up some of the old folders on my computer today I came across a few stories from my time as an assistant sports editor for Kent State's student run newspaper, The Daily Kent Stater. One of them happened to be the 2006-2007 meeting with the same Shawnee State Bears they are facing tonight. So I figured I would get a little nostalgic and post it as a bit of a primer for this evening's game. Enjoy...
With a little over 10 minutes left in the first half the Kent State men’s basketball team was off to a slow start against Shawnee State Friday night and were looking for a spark. With the score 16-13 their spark plug came alive in the form of senior guard Omni Smith.
Smith drained a 3-pointer and found sophomore Isaac Knight underneath the hoop a few moments later becoming the catalyst for a 70-47 Kent State romp over the outmatched Shawnee State Bears on opening night of the Kent State Classic.
“Omni was the not the best leader at the beginning of the year, but has now emerged as one and that’s what you have to do,” head coach Jim Christian said. “Some guys have it naturally and some guys lead just through shear concern for the program and shear concern to win.”
Through hustle and determination, Smith quickly changed the pace of Friday night’s game at the M.A.C. Center. The timely 3-pointer with 10:21 to play in the first half seemed to ignite the stagnant Flashes offense and propel them on a 12-0 run that ended nearly four minutes later.
The Flashes would never look back, increasing their scoring run to 24-7 by the half and eventually ending their two-game losing streak.
After the game Christian couldn’t say enough about his senior guard.
“Its obvious to everybody around, how much this means to him and how much he’s willing to sacrifice for himself; he just wants to win,” he said. “My hope is that it continues to stay infectious because that’s what you have to have to win.”
Finishing the game with 13 points, six assists and five steals — all game highs — Smith gave much of the credit to his coach.
“As long as you have coach on your side you can never lose,” he said. “The tradition that they (Kent State) have is winning and coach comes in every day with the same attitude, same enthusiasm knowing that we can win; and when you got that behind you your confidence level kinda goes up a little bit.”
Although Friday night’s romp was a good win for the Flashes it didn’t come without a few concerns.
Freshman guard Chris Singletary didn’t dress for Friday’s game and will not dress for today’s championship game against New Hampshire.
“He’s just got some issues right now and until we get those resolved we think it’s in his best interest that he not play right now,” Christian said. “In the long run its always more important for us to have our players develop as total people and basketball is just a small part of that.”
Christian said that it was “nothing major” and that Singletary is academically eligible and still enrolled in the university.
Another notable concern is the play of junior forward Haminn Quaintance. The 6-7 post player has only accounted for 6 points in the last two outings for the Flashes, a stat that does not concern Christian.
“He’s getting a lot of touches, he’s making a lot of plays,” he said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in.”