KENT: Some NBA scouts were at the M.A.C. Center early Saturday to watch Ball State’s Jarrod Jones.
But the big man who stole the show was Kent State’s Justin Greene.
In front of the scouts, a sparse crowd and a national ESPNU television audience, Greene led all scorers with 18 points.
Greene was one rebound shy of a double-double and had a block, a steal and an assist in 32 minutes as the Flashes routed the Cardinals 77-54 in a Mid-American Conference game.
The 6-foot-8 Greene, a senior forward, thoroughly outplayed the 6-9 Jones, who scored just seven points on 2-of-12 shooting in 37 minutes.
“Kent really abused us in the front court, which is where we’re a little bit thinner,” Ball State coach Billy Taylor said. “I would have liked to see Jarrod Jones play a little bit better for us. Being a focal point of our offense and defense, we really need him to step up and be a presence for us in the paint. He’s not going to like watching this on film.”
The Flashes set the tone early, dominating under the basket. KSU scored 26 of its 38 first-half points in the paint en route to a 14-point halftime lead.
“We started to get [the post] under better control in the second half and then we started giving up wide-open jump shots,” Taylor said. “You know, fix one problem and another one jumps up on us.”
But the main problem for the Cardinals (12-11, 4-7 MAC) was how psyched Greene was to match up with Jones, who was MAC Freshman of the Year in 2009.
Former Kent State coach Geno Ford “used to mess with me a lot, try to motivate me by telling me, ‘Jarrod Jones has the Freshman of the Year in his hands, and it’s all his. He’s the best in our class.’ It used to motivate me, so I always take it personal when playing against him,’’ Greene said.
“I know he’s one of the best players in the league, one of the best bigs in the league as well. So I gotta try to match his intensity and try to outplay him, especially at home and then on national television, too.”
Greene’s battle with Jones was just a side note to what the game meant in the big picture for Kent State (18-6, 8-3). The victory gave the Flashes a sweep of the West Division for the fourth consecutive season. KSU has won 30 in a row over West Division teams, a streak that began in 2008.
“It’s unbelievable,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said of his team’s success against the West. “I didn’t want to talk about it until we were done playing the West, because like a baseball pitcher throwing a no-hitter, you don’t want to talk about it [while it’s happening]. But it’s a great accomplishment for our players, [especially for] Justin Greene. He hasn’t lost a game to the West in his college career.”
KSU extended its winning streak to six games and is in third place in the East, keeping the heat on first-place Akron and second-place Buffalo.
Senior guard Carlton Guyton added 14 points and eight assists, junior guard Randal Holt chipped in 13 points that included three 3-pointers and junior forward Chris Evans had highlight-reel dunks among his 11 points and six rebounds.
Up next is a final run through the much tougher East Division.
“We have a tough, tough stretch with the MAC East coming back up, beginning with Buffalo on Tuesday,” Greene said.