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The Mid-American Conference’s most explosive offense and most stingy defense will collide on Saturday when Kent State visits Bowling Green.
The host Falcons (11-9, 4-5 MAC) average a conference-leading 83 points per game, and have scored 78 or more points in every MAC contest but one this season. The Golden Flashes (10-9, 5-4) have only reached 75 points in one 2021-22 league game, but they’re allowing a conference-low 63.9 points per game against MAC opponents.
Something’s got to give on Saturday.
“They play at a really fast pace. They have a lot of offensive weapons,” said KSU coach Rob Senderoff of Bowling Green. “They play  guys 10-plus minutes per night. Their tempo is really fast. They're going to shoot early in the shot clock. They are looking to get the game in the 80s. We’re going to have to do a good job defensively because they are explosive.”
Bowling Green has nine players averaging over five points per game. The undisputed leader is Daeqwon Plowden, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who has played in 145 career contests for the Falcons and has earned All-MAC honors the past two seasons. Plowden leads Bowling Green in scoring (16.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.1), and it’s not close in either category.
“He’s a high motor, tremendously athletic and versatile forward who certainly is the engine of their team,” said Senderoff of Plowden. “On the glass, in transition, he’s certainly the key.”
Plowden and Kent State’s Danny Pippen staged many epic battles over the past several seasons, but Pippen is exploring professional opportunities overseas following a brief stint in the NBA G League.
Andrew Garcia, a 6-5 grad transfer from Georgia coming off a season-high 18-point performance in Tuesday’s victory over Western Michigan, will open Saturday’s contest guarding Plowden.
“Andrew [possesses] physicality, athleticism and versatility defensively,” Senderoff said. “He’s going to have to do a good job against Plowden as the primary defender. But we’ll run multiple guys at him — [6-9 senior forward] Justyn Hamilton, [6-7 senior forward Tervell Beck], even [6-3 guard] Malique Jacobs at times. Plowden will get his points, but we’ve got to try to make him an inefficient scorer. We’ve got to do a good job on the rest of their guys as well. They’re a deep team. They’ve brought in a lot of transfers that can really score the ball as well.”
Kent State has faced other elite offenses in the MAC this season and handled them all reasonably well. Toledo averages 80 points per game, but scored just 63 while suffering its only MAC setback of the season at KSU on Jan. 1. The Flashes held Buffalo 16 points below its season average of 80 on Jan. 21, but still lost by 13. Kent State won 66-65 at Ball State, which averages 74 points per outing.
The recipe for success on Saturday against the Falcons will be basically the same as it was against the MAC’s other top scoring squads.
“We’ve got to play great transition defense, keep them off the glass, and try to control the tempo the best we can,” said Senderoff.
The Flashes have defeated two of the top three teams and lost at home to two of the bottom three teams in the current MAC standings. They rest in fifth place, just ahead of Bowling Green and Miami (9-9, 3-4) — which they will play on the road in the next two games. Kent State is 2-2 on the road against MAC opponents thus far in 2021-22.
“We’ve got two straight games on the road against quality teams. We’re going to have to play well,” said Senderoff. “We certainly haven’t been perfect, but to this point I feel good about the way our team has competed on the road in conference play. We won at Ball State and Eastern Michigan, and we were in both games against Ohio and Buffalo.”
Starting sophomore guard Giovanni Santiago has missed the past two games due to a lower leg injury he suffered on Jan. 4, when he stepped on Ball State coach James Whitford’s foot after shooting a 3-pointer. The Flashes were 0-4 in games Santiago did not play in until they defeated the Broncos on Tuesday.
“He’s progressing,” said Senderoff when asked about Santiago’s status. “It’s going to be a game-time decision.”
Gabe O'Neal, a 6-7 junior forward who transferred to Bowling Green after playing at Kent State last season, is averaging 4.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 19 games for the Falcons. He has not scored since the Jan. 15 contest against Toledo.
What: Men’s Basketball
TV/Radio: ESPN3/GoFlashes app, Varsity Network
2020-21 records: Kent State 15-8, 12-6. Bowling Green 14-12, 10-8
Falcons leaders: Daeqwon Plowden, 6-6, Sr., F (16.5 points, 7.1 rebounds). Joe Reece, 6-9, Jr., F (11.8 points, 5.7 rebounds). Myron Gordon, 6-3, GS, G (10.1 points, 2.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds). Trey Diggs, 6-6, GS, F (9.3 points, 4.2 rebounds)
Flashes leaders: Sincere Carry, 6-1, Jr., G (17.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists). Malique Jacobs, 6-3, Jr., G (11.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists). Giovanni Santiago, 6-1, So., G (7.7 points, 2 assists, 2.9 rebounds). Justyn Hamilton, 6-11, Sr., F (8.8 points, 6.5 rebounds). Tervell Beck, 6-7, Sr., F (6.9 points, 3.4 rebounds). Andrew Garcia, 6-5, GS, G (6.5 points, 3.4 rebounds)
This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Kent State will visit Bowling Green on Saturday