January 1, 2008

Flashes set for test against No. 1 UNC

The last month has been very kind to the Kent State men's basketball team. After falling to Xavier Nov. 23 in Chicago, the Flashes have gone on a seven-game winning streak against a slew of mid-major teams. It is now time to see what the Flashes can do against stiffer competition. Better yet, what can they do against the very best?

Everyone will find out Wednesday when the Flashes travel to Raleigh, North Carolina to battle the No. 1 team in the nation, the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Smith Center.

"We set it up to test ourselves," Kent State coach Jim Christian said. "It's going to be an unbelievable test and we are going to learn a lot about ourselves down there."

At least the Flashes will know what they are up against. The Tar Heels rank first in the Associated Press Poll, the Coaches Poll and nearly every other poll out there.

Behind two-time All-American forward Tyler Hansbrough, the Tar Heels are a scoring machine that averages more than 92.4 points a game. Good enough for second in the nation behind Virginia Military (94.8 points a contest).
Hansbrough is a big reason for that with his 22 points and 9.8 rebounds a contest. Although the junior is on pace to become North Carolina's all-time leading scorer, don't think about this team as a one-man show.

North Carolina has plenty of pieces that can be just as dangerous if not more. Wayne Ellington (16.7), Danny Green (13.2) and Ty Lawson (12.4) create a triumvirate of guards who all average double-digit points and give the Tar Heels a balanced attack.

While these are names that are heard nightly on ESPN, Kent State forward Mike Scott isn't one who plans on being star struck. The senior said the Flashes must head into the game with confidence.

"As you get older you kind of realize nobody is better than you," Scott said. "You got to go out there and just play hard. They are the No.1 team in the country and they're known and they're on TV all the time. There is a big aura around the whole North Carolina thing and they earned it. They definitely earned it, a great team. We're going to have to go in there and play hard and, really, just out hustle them because they are very talented."

That same type of attitude is what nearly gave the Flashes an upset victory last season against the Tar Heels' most hated rival, Duke. Behind then-senior Omni Smith's 33 points, The Flashes fell just shy of the No. 6 ranked Blue Devils 79-72 in a nationally televised thriller.

Scott, who chipped in 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in that game, said the experience can do nothing but help the Flashes for this contest.

"I've been there, (Senior center Haminn Quaintance) has been there," Scott said. "We are definitely going to lead the team and show them it's just another game in the end."

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