KENT: Kent State will be trying for its third consecutive home win tonight against Miami, and Chris Evans hopes to be involved.
Evans, who leads KSU in scoring (16.8 points) and rebounding (7.0 rebounds), sprained his right ankle in Saturday’s 87-72 victory over visiting Central Michigan. With 3:19 to go in the game and the Golden Flashes putting the finishing touches on the win, Evans came down awkwardly on teammate Bryson Pope’s foot and stayed down on the floor for several minutes.
When he was eventually helped off the court by trainers, Evans, a senior forward, could not put any pressure on the tender ankle. Although the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Evans didn’t practice with his teammates Monday, he participated in some of Tuesday’s practice, leaving coach Rob Senderoff to believe he’ll be in uniform tonight.
“I would be surprised if Chris doesn’t try to play,” Senderoff said of the Flashes’ leader in steals (46) and blocked shots (17). “How effective he will be, we’ll have to see.”
Evans isn’t the only player nursing a sore ankle. Pope twisted his ankle Monday and will probably be limited as well.
“Hopefully everybody’s a go for tomorrow,” Senderoff said. “But right now we’re like the wounded warriors.”
Whoever manages to play tonight for Kent State (13-11, 4-6 in Mid-American Conference) will get a different look from Miami (8-14, 3-7) than they’ve seen in the past. With longtime coach Charlie Coles retired, the RedHawks’ half-court, slow-it-down style of play is gone.
“They’re a much different team under [first-year coach] John Cooper,” Senderoff said. “They’re pressing and trapping and playing a much different style than they did under Charlie, much different than anybody else in the league. For somebody like [KSU senior guard] Randal [Holt], who’s been here a long time and gone through plenty of the scouting versus them, this Miami team is way different than the Miami he’s played in the past.”
Senderoff still thinks the Flashes, who prefer to play up-tempo, will be fine as long as they continue to share the ball and limit their turnovers.
“The way we play, the style won’t affect us,” he said. “But if we don’t take care of the basketball, we could be in for a long night because limiting our turnovers and making sure we get high-percentage shots will be key for us in this game. If we don’t, then they’re going to get layups — that’s their forte.”
That’s where Evans’ presence is crucial. The Flashes have won two of their past three games by finally grasping the importance of playing team basketball and making the extra pass, averaging 80 points per game during the stretch. Without Evans in the lineup, that dynamic might be thrown off.
“I think the reason we struggled is that we were taking too many one-on-one shots,” Senderoff said of the Flashes’ four-game MAC losing streak at the end of January. “We were a very good offensive team in the nonconference portion of our schedule, but in the beginning of league play we really struggled. I think we’ve gotten back to moving the basketball a lot better, and that’s helped us score more because we’re getting better shots.”
The players sense the shift as well.
“I see our team gelling,” Holt said. “Everybody is finding out what it is that they do well for us and bringing that every night. We’re trying to come together and play our best basketball heading into the MAC Tournament.”
A healthy Evans is key to finishing the regular season on a roll.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.