Senior Alexa Golden had a career-high 22 points, seven rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocked shots. (File photo by Bill Howard for KSU website.)
Only one team has beaten Ohio University this season. No one else has come closer to the 14-1 Bobcats than Kent State did Wednesday.
The Flashes fell at OU 83-81, ending KSU’s seven-game winning streak. The Flashes are tied for first in the Mid-American Conference with Ohio, Buffalo and Central Michigan at 3-1. CMU lost its first conference game Wednesday, 70-67, to Miami at home.
The score wasn’t quite as close as it looked. Guard Alexa Golden, who had a career-high 22 points, hit a three-point shot at the buzzer. Even if she hadn’t, it would have been Ohio’s second closest win of the year. The Bobcats beat Buffalo 74-71 in overtime in Buffalo. Their only loss came to CMU at home, 88-70.
The game didn’t look remotely as close in the first quarter, when Ohio built a 25-12 lead. The Bobcats led 47-31 at the half.
But KSU outscored OU 19-11 in the third quarter and closed to 63-61 with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The game was played within six points for most of the rest of the game.
“Against a high-power offense like they have, you can’t be down 13 points at the end of the first quarter,” coach Todd Starkey said. “It’s really not a whole lot more complicated than that.
“We weren’t ready to play. Once we started trying to play more aggressively offense and communicate better on defense and box out on rebounds, things started going in our favor.
“We fought back really hard. But in the second half, we had a couple of key plays that went against us right when we needed them to go for us.”
Golden played perhaps her best game in four years in a Kent State uniform. She had eight of KSU’s 12 points in the first quarter and scored eight of the team’s last 10 points. She had seven rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocked shots.
“She was the only one who was really consistent from start to finish in her effort and energy,” Starkey said. “We had other players do well at times.”
Golden, the team’s only senior starter, “gets it,” the coach said.
“She knows how difficult it is to play on the road in this conference,” he said. “I was proud of the way she played, but she definitely needed more support, especially early on.”
Redshirt junior Megan Carter, the team’s leading scorer, had two points in the first quarter but ended with 20. Ali Poole had nine and Asiah Dingle, Merissa Barber-Smith and Lindsey Thall all had eight. Barber-Smith also had nine rebounds in 14 minutes of play.
Referees called 55 fouls in the game — 28 on KSU and 27 on Ohio. Three Ohio starters, including star guard Cece Hooks, played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls until she fouled out in the last minute. Key reserve Erica Johnson picked up four fouls in the last quarter to foul out. Four Kent State players had four fouls.
“At one point, we looked out and eight of the 10 players on the court had four fouls,” Starkey said. The refereeing, the coach said, was “confusing.”
Part of Kent’s strategy, assistant coach Morgan Toles said in a postgame interview with David Wilson on Golden Flash iHeart Radio, was to try to take advantage of Ohio’s aggressive defense and draw fouls.
Dingle, Kent’s second leading scorer, picked up two early fouls and played only 17 minutes, her lowest of the season. It was the first time in the conference she has played against guards like Ohio, who are quick enough to challenge Dingle’s speed on offense and defense.
“She’ll be fine,” said Toles, who coaches the point guards. “We’e got to keep her out of foul trouble, but we’ve got a long way to go this season, and she’s going to get better and better.”
Ohio plays a fast-paced game and is the fifth-highest-scoring team in the country But over the last five minutes, the Bobcats actually ran down the shot clock to protect its players in foul trouble and to keep KSU from coming back.
Ohio made its season average of 46 percent (best in the MAC) of its field goals. That was about 11 above Kent State’s defense average, which had led the league.
“Ohio is going to play the way they play and dare you to stop them,” Starkey said. “And we couldn’t do that early.”
- Kent State’s 31 points in the fourth quarter were the most the team has scored in any quarter since the NCAA women switched from halves in 2014. The Flashes have outscored every league opponent in the last quarter and after averaging 26.5 points in the last 10 minutes in conference play.
- KSU ended up making 41 percent of its shots (27 of 66) after going two for 17 in the first quarter. That’s about 2 points above their season average. They made six of 19 three-pointers for 31.6 percent and 21 of 27 free throws.
- Ohio had led the league in turnover margin by a huge amount (plus-eight, four ahead of anyone else. But KSU had five fewer turnovers — 17 to the Bobcats’ 22. Kent scored 21 off those turnovers, Ohio 19.
- Rebonds were almost even: Ohio 36, Kent State 35. The Flashes had 14 assists on 28 baskets.
- Freshman guard Mariah Modkins played 27 minutes, her season high besides the one game she started when Dingle was hurt. She had four points, three assists and a steal.
- Hooks, who was last year’s freshman of the year in the MAC, led Ohio with 23 points. Redshirt freshman guard Erica Johnson had 15 off the bench Amani Burks had 15 and Dominique Doseck had 14.
Next for the Flashes is Central Michigan, which is 12-4 after the loss to Miami (11-4, 2-2 in the MAC. The game starts at noon Saturday and is the first of a doubleheader with the men, who play Northern Illinois at about 2:30. The time of the games has been moved up because of an expected snowstorm.
Other MAC scores
- Eastern Michigan (9-6, 2-2) 72, Akron (11-4, 2-2) 60 at Akron.
- Buffalo (11-4, 3-1) 77, Ball State (6-10, 1-3) 65 at Buffalo.
- Northern Illinois (10-6, 2-2) 66, Bowling Green (7-8, 0-4) 52 at BG.
- Toledo (10-5, 2-2) 80, Western Michigan (7-8, 1-3) 57 at Western.