Carter’s first double-double helps Kent State past Miami 80-75 on Senior Day

Seniors ring the bell

Seniors Megan Carter (foreground), Sidney Brinlee (to her left) and Ali Poole (to Brinlee’s left) ring the victory bell to celebrate Kent State’s 80-75 win over Miami. (Photo by Jeff Glidden from team Twitter feed.)

Megan Carter saved one of her best games for her Senior Day.

Carter had the first double-double of her five-year career with 21 points and 10 rebounds as she led Kent State to a 80-75 win over Miami at the M.A.C. Center Saturday.

The victory keeps the Flashes in a fourth-place tie in the MAC with four games to go in the regular season. Kent State, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan all have 8-6 records. Fourth place earns a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament next month.

“A heckuva game, a really gutsy performance,” coach Todd Starkey said of Carter, who has played sick the entire conference season. She missed three games with mononucleosis.

“She’s battling,” Starkey said. “I don’t think you can recover from mono full strength in midseason. She’s probably not going to fully recover until she has two or three weeks of rest.”

Carter says it doesn’t matter.

“I want to empty the tank,” she said, “for the team, for myself. I want to have no regrets.”

Carter also had five assists and two steals.

The Flashes had to overcome 10 missed free throws in the fourth quarter and saw Miami take its lead of the game — 75-74 — with 1:15 to go.

But Lindsay Thall drove strongly to the basket on the next possession and drew a fifth foul from Miami freshman Peyton Scott. She made both free throws.

Miami didn’t score again.

Its senior star, 5-3 guard Lauren Dickerson, certainly tried. Dickerson had already made two 3s in the fourth quarter and scored 12 points to lead the Miami comeback.

As Starkey shouted, “No 3s,” Dickerson was hounded by Carter. Dickerson got off a shot from behind the arc, but it was an air ball. 15 seconds later, when Kent had a 78-75 lede, she got another off under pressure from Hannah Young and missed again. Dickerson missed a third at the buzzer when KSU had its 80-75 lead.

“That’s always a tough guard,” Carter said. “She can drive, shoot the 3, pull-ups.”

On Dickerson’s last 3-point attempts:

“I just wanted to get into her vision,” Carter said. “She’s 5-3, a small guard — just get in her way.” (Carter is all of 5-7.)

The Flashes, Starkey said, had no answer for Dickerson.

“We tried a couple of different thing,” he said. “But when she’s feeling it, she’s as tough a guard as there is in the conference.”

It did take Dickerson 33 shots to get her 29 points. She made 11, including five of 14 three-pointers. She also had four assists and a steal.

For Kent State, it was Carter, Thall (20 points), Katie Shumate (18 points) and Asiah Dingle (12) doing the most damage on the scoreboard.

 

Thall is best known as one of the conference’s top 3-point shooters, but 17 of her 20 points came on inside shots or fouls drawn inside.

“She’s starting to play in a lot of different areas than before,” Starkey said. “We’ve had to do that, especially with Nila out. It’s been nice to see her play some mid-range, she had a really nice finish at the basket for an ‘and one’ and had a couple of really nice dump-offs underneath, too.”

Thall has seemed more and more comfortable with the role.

“Having somebody on the inside helps our guards with spacing offensively,” she said. “We’ve gotten some good looks on the perimeter and inside.”

Miami chipped at at KSU’s 10-point lead as the Flashes missed its last two fouls shots of the third quarter and first six of the fourth quarter. Kent State would miss two of its next four before Thall sank the pair that gave her team the lead for the last time.

Even when they can barely walk, seniors start on Senior Day

Ali Poole shares a hug with coach Todd Starkey after playing the first eight seconds  of the game.

Carter, Sidney Brinlee and Ali Poole all started for the Flashes.

Poole is just a few weeks off of ACL surgery. She was hampered by a knee injury suffered in summer practice for the first half of the season, then tore her ACL diving for a ball in January. She had started 48 — now 49 — games for Kent State, and the Flashes have missed her scoring, court presence and leadership.

In an obvious pre-arrangement with Miami, Brinlee jumped the opening tipoff against the 5-3 Dickerson. She tapped it to Carter, who walked the ball over to Poole, who was standing wearing her knee brace just in front of the KSU bench. Carter handed her the ball, and Poole handed it to Starkey, who stood out of bounds. Many fans stood and applauded.

Both Carter and Poole graduated in December, though they’re still taking classes. They became classmates when Carter was redshirted after she blew out her own ACL early in her freshman year.

“I feel for her,” Carter said. “I tell her to keep her head up. She’s going off to P.A. (physician’s assistant) school, and I’m proud of what she’s done and what she’s doing.”

On Brinlee:

“She’s been a big presence, a very big voice. And great jokes. She’s always the life of the party.”

Thall on Carter:

“She leads so great by example. Every game she plays really hard. We’re going to hate to let her go.”

Box score

Video highlights

They include Senior Day ceremony, opening tip sequence, key Kent State scoring and Dickerson’s missed 3 in final seconds.

Notes

  • Officials called a total of 53 fouls — 32 on Miami, 21 on Kent State. The Flashes shot 46 free throws — highest of the season by 10. They made only 28 of them. Miami was 19 of 23. Two Miami starters fouled out, and three other players had four fouls. “I don’t think either coach was happy,” Starkey said.
  • Hannah Young had a career-high nine rebounds in a career-high 33 minutes. “She rebounds the ball like crazy in practice, and it’s showing up in games,” Carter said. Both teams had 41 rebounds.
  • Kent State made 24 of its 61 shots for 39% but only four of 18 three-pointers (22%). Miami shot 37% from the field and 32% from 3-point distance.
  • Attendance was 1,872, the third highest of the season. Last week’s doubleheader with Toledo drew 5,300, but only abut 2,500 stayed for the women’s game. Top attendance this season was 4,272 against Ohio State, which we think is the most in KSU history. Records from before 1990 are sketchy.

The Flashes stay at home to play Akron at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Zips upset second-place Ohio 79-76 at home Saturday and have won three in a row since losing to Kent State two weeks ago.

Other MAC scores

  • Eastern Michigan (8-6, 13-12) 61, Ball State (10-4, 18-8) 58 at Eastern.
  • Western Michigan (8-6, 15-10) 70, Toledo (6-8, 11-14) 58 at Toledo.
  • Akron (6-8, 13-12) 79, Ohio (10-4, 17-8) 76 at Akron.
  • Central Michigan (14-0, 21-4) 70, Northern Illinois (4-10, 8-17) 66 at NIU.
  • Buffalo (5-9, 14-11) 62, Bowling Green (1-13, 8-18) 56 at BG.

MAC standings

At Saturday’s Senior Day, Flashes will fight to hold on 4th place against Miami

Senior Day

KSU seniors (from left) Ali Poole, Megan Carter and Sydney Brinlee. (Graphic from KSU Twitter feed.)

Miami (4-9 and tied for 9th in MAC. 11-14 overall)

at Kent State (7-6 and tied for 4th. 14-10 overall)

Game starts at 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 22, at the M.A.C. Center.

It’s Senior Day for the Flashes, honoring Megan Carter, Ali Poole and Sydney Brinlee.

Carter has scored 1,079 points in her career, 20th in school history. Poole started 48 games for the Flashes, but partially tore her ACL last summer, then tore it completely against Western Michigan in January. She played only 68 minutes this season. Brinlee was a junior college transfer from Highland Community College in Kansas. She played in 26 of KSU’s 32 games last season of 20 of its 24 this year. She is one of the first two post player off the bench.

General admission tickets are $5.  Kent State’s average home attendance would be about 1,800, fourth in the MAC and Kent State’s highest in decades.

What’s at stake

Kent State is locked in a three-way tie for fourth place in the MAC with Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. Toledo is just a game behind them, Akron two games. There are five games to go in the regular season.

Kent State can’t afford to lose at home and stay in contention, especially to a team it beat 78-75 at Miami.

Miami is tied for ninth in the MAC, a game out of eighth. A move up would be significant; eighth place is the last spot that gets a home game in the first round of the tournament.

When the teams met in January, Kent State led most of the game but trailed by a point with eight seconds to go. The Flashes stole two inbound passes and scored both times.

 


REPORT CARD ON KSU’s 71-58 LOSS TO CENTRAL MICHIGAN: Central dominated almost every statistic.


What to watch

Miami has two all-MAC seniors and a candidate for the league’s all-freshman team. But the Redhawks haven’t been able to jell under new coach DeUnna Hendrix.

They went 9-7 in conference play but beat only one team with a winning record. Miami started conference play 1-5, then won three in a row. Since then they’ve lost three in a row — to first-place Central Michigan and second-place Ohio, and in overtime at Northern Illinois.

Savannah Kleusner, a second-team all-MAC selection a year ago, leads Miami in scoring (17.9 points per game, eighth in the league)  and rebounding (8.5, fourth in the conference). Preseason all-MAC East selection Lauren Dickerson is ninth in the league in scoring at 17.7 pointer per game and leads the MAC in assists at 6.1 per game. (Statistics are for conference games only.)

Freshman Peyton Scott averages 12.9 points and 4.9 rebounds assists per game. That’s fifth highest in the league among freshmen, behind Buffalo’s Dyaisha Fair, Central Michigan’s Molly Davis and Kent State’s Nila Blackford and Katie Shumate.

Miami has struggled defensively for the last four games, giving up an average of 88 points.

Kent State has played good defense for the month of February, allowing opponents to score more than 70 points only in Wednesday’s 71-58 loss to Central Michigan. The 75 points Miami scored against the Flashes in January were the most points they’ve given up in a MAC game.

Once again, a question hanging over the Flashes is the status of freshman forward Nila Blackford, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Blackford has been in concussion protocol since a hard fall to the floor in the Akron game nine days ago. She’s being evaluated daily.

With Blackford out, point guard Asiah Dingle has been KSU’s leading scorer. She had 16 against CMU and 22 against Toledo last Saturday. She’s done it as the first person off the bench, averaging 16 points a game and 61% shooting in the five games since she came back from a two-game suspension. Her 53% shooting percentage is third in the MAC and highest among guards.

To tell how the game is going, look at defense. 

If KSU’s defense is close to the 61 points it’s allowed over the last five games, the Flashes should be all right.

If Miami’s defense gives up something close to the 84 points it’s given up in the last five games, things should be even better for Kent State.

Team comparisons

All statistics are for conference games only, which are more current and reflect similar competition.

  • RPI: Kent State 102 of 351 Division I teams. Miami 187. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
  • Power rankings: Kent State 112. Miami 213. (Adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries.)
  • Kent State home record (MAC games)4-2. Miami road record: 1-5.
  • Scoring average: KSU 11th in MAC at 66.1 points per game. Miami third at 72.6.
  • Defensive average: KSU first at 65.2. Miami 12th and last at 77.8.
  • Field-goal percentage: KSU 10th at 40.3 (ninth on 3-pointers at 30.3%). Miami sixth at 41.8 (11th on 3s at 38.6%).
  • Field-goal defense: KSU third at 38.9 (last on 3s at 36.8%). Miami lost at 47.8 (11th on 3s at 35.8).
  • Free throw shooting: Kent State fourth at 69.6%. Miami fifth at 68.6.
  • Rebounding margin: KSU ninth at -2.5. Miami 11th at -3.0.
  • Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +1.6. Miami third at +2.5. KSU sixth in steals at 6.7, Miami third at 8.3.
  • Assists: Kent State 11th at 10.6. Miami first at 14.5.
  • Blocked shots: Kent State first at 4.6. Miami third at 3.4.

Top players

Kent State

  • 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (14.4 points, 52.7% on field goals, third in MAC. 12.0 steals per game, sixth in MAC; 2.9 assists).
  • 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (13.4 points, 7.7 rebounds).
  • 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (12.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 44.4%  shooting).
  • 5-7 senior guard Megan Carter (10.5 points, 3.4 rebounds).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (9.6 points, 1.9 three-point baskets a game, first in MAC in blocked shots at 2.7 per game).

Miami

  • 5-3 senior guard Lauren Dickerson (17.7 points, eighth in MAC; 6.1 assists, first; 1.4 steals).
  • 6-2 senior Savannah Kluesner (17.9 points, eighth; 8.5 rebounds, fourth; 1.7 blocks, third).
  • 5-8 freshman guard Peyton Scott (12.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists).

Following the game from home

Video stream on ESPN3 starts at game time at 1 p.m. It’s free if you have a subscription to ESPN on cable, satellite or on the ESPN app. David Wilson does play-by-play.

Audio starts at about 12:45 p.m. on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. Dan Griffin is the announcer.

Live statistics will be on the Kent State website during the game.

Links

Kent State website, with links to roster, statistics, schedule and more.

Miami website, with links.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

Central Michigan outplayed KSU in almost every category

Carter vs. BSU

Megan Carter had 14 points against Central Michigan, her first time in double figures in four games. (File photo by Nick Cammett from KSU Twitter feed.)

Kent State did about as poorly on its report card categories against Central Michigan as it did well against Toledo. The Flashes hit only one of eight benchmarks — they had 19 points fromm their bench. Against Toledo, they hit seven. Of course, a lot of that is the difference between 13-0 Central and 6-7 Toledo.


GAME STORY: After first quarter, KSU offense dries up against first-place CMU.


Central Michigan 71, Kent State 58

Score 70 points on offense: 58. Flashes had great start with25 points in first quarter, but didn’t score more than 12 in a quarter the rest of the game. NOT ACHIEVED.

Hold opponent under 70: 71. Nine points below CMUK’s average, but still above 70. NOT ACHIEVED.

Make 40% of shots: 34.6. Just 29 percent over last three quarters. NOT ACHIEVED.

Hold opponent under 40%: 50.0. Worst of the MAC season. (Central leads the MAC in shooting percentage.) NOT ACHIEVED.

Outscore opponent by five on free throws: Central made 9 of 11, Kent State 8 of 11. NOT ACHIEVED.

Outscore opponent by five points off turnovers: Kent State forced more turnovers (16-9). But teams were even at 12-12 in points off of them. NOT ACHIEVED.

Have 14 assists: Seven, tied for second lowest of season. (Central, second in the league in assists, had just eight.) NOT ACHIEVED.

Get 10 points from the bench: 19, led by 16 from Asiah Dingle. Her move to the first reserve into the game has made this category less meaningful. ACHIEVED.

BOTTOM LINE: Even considering the competition, a D+.

Kent State statistics

Around the MAC

Akron was the only team to win on the road and gain “golf” points. Western Michigan’s win and Kent State’s loss dropped the two teams into a tie with Eastern Michigan for fourth place in the regular standings. KSU and Eastern are tied for fourth in the “golf” standings.

Akron beat Buffalo 69-63, sending the Bulls to their sixth straight defeat. The last time Buffalo lost six in a row was 2012-13. A 7-1 run toward the end of the third quarter gave Buffalo a brief lead, but Akron finished the quarter with seven straight points, then outscored the Bulls 20-17 in the fourth quarter. Haliegh Reinoehl had 24 points and 13 rebounds for Akron; Jordan Dawson had 13 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Theresa Onwuka had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Buffalo.

Western Michigan led by as many as 17 points in beating Bowling Green 69-55. Breanna Mobley had 23 points and 13 rebounds for her 16th double-double of the season. Redshirt junior guard Caterrion Thompson had a career-high 23 off the bench for BG.

Ball State went to 7-0 at home with a 97-89 win over Northern Illinois. Oshlynn Brown had 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinals, who had five players score in double figures. Courtney Brown led four players in double figures for NIU with 18 points.

Ohio went on a 28-1 run over 12 minutes in the third and fourth quarter and beat Toledo 86-58. OU’s Erica Johnson, the MAC’s leading scorer in conference games, had 31 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and four steals. Cece Hooks had 20 and fur steals. Tanaya Beachkam had 20 and 14 rebounds for Toledo.

BEST GAMES THIS SATURDAY: Ball State at Eastern Michigan. Western Michigan at Toledo.

The ‘golf’ standings

They give a team -1 for a road win (a “birdie”) and adds a point for a home loss (a “bogey.” A home win or road loss gets zero (“par”).

-6

  • Central Michigan (13-0, 20-4)

-3

  • Ball State (10-3, 18-7)
  • Ohio (10-3, 17-7)

-1

  • Kent State (7-6, 14-10)
  • Eastern Michigan (7-6, 12-12)

Even

  • Western Michigan (7-6, 14-10)
  • Toledo (6-7, 11-13)

+1

  • Akron (5-8, 12-12)

+2

  • Northern Illinois (3-9, 7-16)

+3

  • Buffalo (4-9, 13-11)
  • Miami (4-9, 11-14)

+5

  • Bowling Green (1-12, 8-17)

Regular MAC standings

MAC statistics

KSU’s offense slips backward, and Flashes fall to 1st-place CMU 71-58

Dingle drive v Toledo dks

Asiah Dingle had 16 points, near her average in the last five games, when she’s come off of the bench. She made six of 11 shots and continues to shoot about 60% in that time. (File photo by John Conley from KentWired.)

The Kent State offense that scored 87 points against Toledo Saturday looked just as good in the first quarter against Central Michigan Wednesday.

Then it vanished, and first-place Central Michigan went on to a 71-58 victory over the Flashes to stay unbeaten in the Mid-American Conference.

The Flashes made 50% of their shots in the first quarter and were tied 25-25 with CMU, which has the MAC’s best offense statistically.

Central is now 13-0 in the MAC, 20-4 on the season and has won 20 of its last 21 games. Kent State is 7-6 in league play and 14-10 overall. The Flashes are tied for fourth with Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan with five games to go in the conference season.

“We were missing a lot of shots,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame radio interview with David Wilson. “We weren’t finishing around the basket. I don’t think we were very tough around the basket to finish.

“You get an opportunity to hold a team like Central Michigan nine points under their season average, you have to be tough enough to keep coming at them and finish plays.”

Central Michigan coach Heather Oesterle saw Kent State’s struggles on offense as her team’s good defense.

“After that first quarter, our defense won us the game,” she said. “We played a little zone, tried to press a little, but in the end it was our man-to-man.”

Kent State made only 29% of its shots after the first quarter. It made one of 15 three-point attempts after making three of five in the first quarter. Central led by eight at halftime and by double digits through most of the second half.

“I thought we allowed missed shots to affect us way too much,” Starkey said. “We have to be more mentally tough than that. Sometimes young players think that their value as a player is based on whether they made or missed their last shot.”

Starkey said his team missed leading scorer and rebounder Nila Blackford, who missed her second straight game because of a concussion.

The Flashes were able to score without her Saturday because of good matchups for KSU’s other players, Starkey said.

“It worked favorable for us against Toledo,” the coach said. “But throughout the season, you want your most talented players available to play. We need Nila to be a complete team. She’s so strong around the basket, maybe we finish a lot of those closer baskets.”

CMU point guard Molly Davis, looking like a freshman-of-the-year candidate, scored 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and had seven assists. She averages about 16 points a game in conference play.  Buffalo’s Dyaisha Fair, who seemed like the only possible candidate early in the season, averages 18, and her team has lost six straight games.

“(Davis) is a very talented player,” Starkey said. “We made her look really good tonight. We were undisciplined and tried to reach (for the ball) and not make her take tough shots. We’re trying to gamble for steals, and she did a really good job of getting by us and score a lot at the basket.”

CMU guard Micaela Kelly, the MAC’s leading candidate for player of the year, had 16 points and 11 rebounds. She had led the MAC in assists; she had zero against the Flashes. Kent also held Bowling Green’s Katie Hempfling, then the MAC leader, to zero assists.

The Flashes were led by sophomore guard Asiah Dingle, coming off the bench for the fifth straight game. Dingle had 16 points on six-of-11 shooting and had two steals.

Lindsey Thall had 14 points, eight in the first quarter, and blocked three shots. Megan Carter also had 14. along with three steals.

“As well as we’ve been playing lately, we played without composure and without mental toughness,” Starkey said. “Sometimes that happens with a young team on the road, but against a team like Central Michigan, the margin for error is so small.

“It was disappointing. But at the same time, nobody else has been able to (beat CMU) either.”

Box score

Notes

  • Central Michigan shot 50% from the field (28 for 56) for the game. In the first half, it was 60%. KSU was 23 of 66 for 35%.
  • Kent State had nine steals, its second highest in MAC play. That contributed to Central’s 16 turnovers. Kent State had 10. But the teams were 12-12 in points off turnovers.
  • Central had 42 rebounds to KSU’s 32, though much of that was due to Central getting a lot more chances for rebounds because of Kent’s 43 missing shots. Katie Shumate led the Flashes in rebound with seven.
  • Blackford didn’t travel with the team. Starkey said trainers evaluate her in concussion protocol daily but that it’s impossible to tell when she will return.
  • Freshman Clare Kelly played 13 minutes for Kent State, her most in six games. She had five points, her third highest of the season. Sophomore Annie Pavlansky played six minutes, tying her second most of MAC play.
  • The victory made Central the first team to clinch a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament next month. The Chippewas are closing in on their fourth-straight overall league championship and have won at least 20 games in nine of the last 10 seasons.
  • Central remains the only MAC team Starkey hasn’t beaten in his four years in Kent. CMU has won eight straight games against the Flashes, going back to 2013,  Kent State hasn’t won at Central since 2007.
  • Attendance was 1,817. Central is second to Toledo in attendance this season. (Toledo has been first for 25 years.)

Kent State plays at home Saturday afternoon against Miami, a team it beat on the road 78-75 in January. It will be Senior Day, honoring Carter, Ali Poole and Sydney Brinlee.

Other MAC scores

  • Ohio (10-3, 17-7) 86, Toledo (6-7, 11-13) 58 at Ohio.
  • Akron (5-8, 12-12) 69, Buffalo (4-9, 13-11) 63 at Buffalo.
  • Western Michigan (7-6, 14-10) 69, Bowling Green (1-12, 8-17) 55 at Western.
  • Ball State (10-3, 18-7) 97, Northern Illinois (4-9, 8-16) 89 at Ball State.

Eastern Michigan (7-6, 12-12) and Miami (4-9, 11-14) had byes.

MAC standings

A very tough task: Flashes travel to CMU, which hasn’t lost a MAC game

Shumate v Toledo dks

Katie Shumate had a career-high 24 points to lead Kent State in its 87-68 win over Toledo Saturday. (Photo by John Conley from KentWired.)

Kent State (7-5 and 4th in MAC. 14-9 overall)

at Central Michigan (12-0 and 19-4 overall)

Game starts at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19, at McGuirk Arena at the John G. Kulhavi Events Center in Mount. Pleasant, Michigan.

It’s about a 4 1/2-hour drive. Address is 300 E. Broomfield Road Mount Pleasant, Michigan, if you need it for GPS. Here are directions from the Central Michigan website. and here is parking information.

Tickets are $10 to 12. Parking is $5. Average attendance for CMU’s women’s conference games has been 1,922, second in the MAC. Kent State home attendance is fourth in conference games at 1,870, but that is using the total attendance of 5,200 at Saturday’s doubleheader with the KSU men. There were probably about 3,000 left for the women’s game, which would make KSU’s average about 1,400. That still would be the best in in the 35 years I’ve followed the team.

What’s at stake

Central Michigan is 12-0 and at least three games ahead of everyone else in the Mid-American Conference. About the only thing at stake for the Chippewas is a perfect conference season.

A upset by Kent State would be a really big deal for the Flashes. It would mark them as a threat in the MAC Tournament next month, solidify their hold on fourth place in the league and give them a key tie-breaker in seeding in the tournament. First tie-breaker is head-to-head results; second is record against the best teams in the conference.

Is it possible?

“Sure,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said after his team’s 87-68 win over Toledo Saturday. “We can also be the next loss to them. They’re very good at home. We’re going to have to play our best game to beat them up there.”

Central’s record is terrific — and interesting. The Chippewas lost their first three games of the season — to consistently strong mid-majors Green Bay and Western Kentucky and No. 9 Louisville. Since then, they are 19-1, losing only to Central Florida, another good mid-major.

CMU’s RPI is 18th of 351 teams, extremely high for a MAC team this late in the season. But the highest RPI team the Chippewas have beaten is No. 46 Ohio, which they did by two points twice. Next highest is No. 51 Dayton.

Almost every MAC game CMU has played (and won) has been close. Eleven of its 12 wins have been by 12 points or fewer. Eight have been by seven or fewer. The Chippewas have had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to win six league games.

Does that mean they’re vulnerable or know how to win? They certainly aren’t as dominant as they were as conference champions in 2018 and 2019, when they won a total of 22 MAC games by at least 10 points.

Kent State is coming off of its best win of the season, an 87-68 rout of Toledo Saturday at the M.A.C. Center. The 87 points were the most the Flashes have scored this season against a Division I team (they scored 92 against Division III Hiram).

No team has scored 70 points against KSU in a month. The Flashes held their three opponents before Toledo to an average of 55 points, though they only averaged 58 themselves.


REPORT CARD ON KSU’s WIN OVER TOLEDO: Flashes did most everything very well.


What to watch

Central has the league’s most productive offense, the league’s best player and two other players who average at least 14 points in MAC play.

The Chippewas have averaged 80.9 points a game in the MAC, three more than second-ranking Ohio.

Junior guard Micaela Kelly is second in the conference in scoring (21.0 points a game), seventh in rebounding (7.9), seventh in 3-point baskets per game (2.3), second in assists per game (6.0), eighth in steals (1.9) and third in minutes played per game (36.8).

Freshman point guard Molly Davis averages 15.6 points and has scored more than 20 six times. She’s fifth in the league in field-goal percentage (51.1), sixth in 3-point percentage and sixth in assists. 6-1 junior forward Kyra Bussell averages 14.1 points per game and is second in rebounding at 6.8.

Two other players — 6-foot senior forward Gabrielle Bird and guard Maddy Watters — have scored 20 points at least once this season.

The Chippewas shoot and make the most 3-point shots in the league. They average 10.4 three-point baskets per game, two ahead of second-ranking Ohio.

Kent State held Ohio to five of 21 three-pointers two weeks ago, but the Flashes are last in the conference in 3-point defense. In the last five games, however, they’ve been much better.

Central’s defense is as close to a weakness as it has. The Chippewas allow 72.1 points a game and are seventh in the conference in field goal defense at 41.2%. (They’re second in 3-point defense at 28.1.)

For Kent State, the key to the game is simply and hard:

The Flashes need to play their best on offense and defense.

And, Starkey told Allen Moff of the Record-Courier this week:

?We’ll need a little help (to win). If they shoot a high percentage, we won’t beat them. We’ve got to play our best transition defense of the season, and we’ll need them to miss some shots.”

It’s questionable whether Nila Blackford, Kent State’s leading scorer and rebounder, will be able to play against Central. She missed Saturday’s game with a concussion suffered in the Akron game last week. Starkey said her status depends on daily evaluations by trainers using the benchmarks of concussion protocol.

Without Blackford, Kent State still scored a lot of points Saturday. Freshman guard Katie Shumate had a career-high 24 Saturday and is ninth in the league in field goal percentage. Sophomore guard Asiah Dingle had 22 and six assists against Toledo. She has played some of the best basketball of her career since she returned from a two-game suspension four games ago. Dingle is third in the MAC with a 52.9% shooting percentage. That’s 15 points higher than it was a year ago.

Sophomore forward Lindsey Thall is among the MAC’s leaders in 3-point shooting, and sophomore guard Hannah Young, who started in Blackford’s place Saturday and scored 12 points, is placing her best basketball.

Team comparisons

All statistics are for conference games only, which are more current and reflect similar competition.

  • RPI: Kent State 104 of 351 Division I teams. Central Michigan 153. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
  • Power rankings: Kent State 116. Central 19. (Adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries.)
  • Kent State road record (MAC games)3-3. Central home record: 6-0.
  • Scoring average: KSU ninth in MAC at 66.8 points per game. Central first at 80.9.
  • Defensive average: KSU second at 64.7. Central ninth at 72.9.
  • Field-goal percentage: KSU ninth at 40.8 (seventh on 3-pointers at 31.5%). Central first at 45.7 (second on 3s at 34.1%).
  • Field-goal defense: KSU second at 38.0 (last on 3s at 36.9%). Central seventh at 41.2 (second on 3s at 28.1).
  • Free throw shooting: Kent State fifth at 69.4%. Central first at 75.6.
  • Rebounding margin: KSU seventh at -1.8. Central sixth at +1.3.
  • Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +1.2. Central ninth at -2.0. KSU seventh in steals at 6.5. Central sixth at 6.7.
  • Assists: Kent State 11th at 10.9. Central third at 14.2.
  • Blocked shots: Kent State first at 4.7. Central fifth at 3.1.

Top players

Kent State

  • 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (14.4 points, 52.8% on field goals, third in MAC. 12.0 steals per game, sixth in MAC, 2.9 assists).
  • 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (13.4 points, 7.7 rebounds).
  • 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 41.9% three-point shooting).
  • 5-7 senior guard Megan Carter (10.1 points, 3.6 rebounds).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (9.3 points, 1.8 three-point baskets a game, first in MAC in blocked shots at 2.7 per game).

Central Michigan

  • 5-6 junior guard Micaela Kelly (21.0 points per game, second in MAC, 7/9 rebounds, seventh; 2.3 three-point baskets per game, seventh; 6.0 assists, second).
  • 5-7 senior freshman guard Molly Davis (15.6 points, 51.5% on field goals, fifth in MAC; 39.5 on 3-point shots, sixth; 3.9 assists, sixth.)
  • 6-1 junior forward Kyra Bussell (14.1 points, 52.6 on field goals, fourth in MAC, 36.6% on 3-pointers; 6.8 rebounds.)
  • 6-foot senior forward Gabrielle Bird (11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds)

Following the game from home

Video stream on ESPN+ starts at game time at 7 p.m. Service costs $4.99 a month and includes about half of all MAC men’s and women’s games. It will include all men’s and women’s MAC Tournament games except those broadcast on network TV This link takes you to to the game, where you can sign up.

Audio starts at about 6:45 p.m. on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.

Live statistics will be on the Central Michigan website during the game.

Links

Kent State website, with links to roster, statistics, schedule and more.

CMU website, with links.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

Flashes definitely brought their A game against Toledo

Toledo pregame huddle

Junior Monique Smith always greets the Kent State starters as they’re announced and leads  them when they huddle immediately afterwards. (Photo by David Dermer from team Twitter feed.)

Scoring 87 points and winning by 19 against a good MAC opponent is worth an A on any report card. Other numbers back that up: The Flashes met benchmarks in seven of eight categories for the first time this season.


GAME STORY: Flashes best offensive games moves it into fourth place in MAC.


Kent State 87, Toledo 68

Score 70 points on offense: 87. Tied for their most in four years in MAC play. ACHIEVED and then some.

Hold opponent under 70: 68. Not as good as recent games, but  ACHIEVED.

Make 40% of shots: 49.3. Second best in MAC play, third best of the season. ACHIEVED.

Hold opponent under 40%: 39.7, Close but still ACHIEVED.

Outscore opponent by five on free throws: The one benchmark not achieved. It was Toledo 13 out of 13, Kent 12 out of 15. Still far better than Toledo’s 26-6 margin the first time the teams played. NOTACHIEVED.

Outscore opponent by five points off turnovers: In a big, big way. Kent State 30, Toledo 4. ACHIEVED.

Have 14 assists: On the dot. 14 on 33 baskets, led by Asiah Dingle’s six.  ACHIEVED.

Get 10 points from the bench: A season-high 29, led by Dingl’e 22. ACHIEVED.

BOTTOM LINE: A clear A.

Kent State statistics

MAC 2-15Around the MAC

Akron, Ohio, Ball State and Western Michigan all won on the road.

Akron knocked off Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti 64-53 and knocked the Eagles out of fourth place in the regular standings. Kent State’s win over Toledo leaves it alone in fourth in regular standings and tied with Eastern in the “golf” standings, which emphasize winning on the road and not losing at home.

But Toledo, Eastern, Kent State and Western Michigan are all within a game of each other in the race for the last bye in the conference tournament.

Akron held Eastern to two of 16 shooting in the fourth quarter in its victory. Senior forward Haliegh Reinoehl had 13 points for the Zips, including the 1,000th of her career. Shaunay Edmunds, who scored her 1,000th in January, led Akron with 15 points. Areanna Combs had 23 for the Eagles.

Ball State sent Buffalo to its fifth straight defeat with a 69-58 win. Buffalo, picked as the third best MAC team in the preseason coaches’ poll, hasn’t lost five in a row since 2016. Sophomore guard Thelma Dis Agustdottir led Ball State with a career-high 26 points.

Ohio’s 84-70 win at Miami was its third victory in a row. Erica Johnson led five Bobcats in double figures with 23 points. Johnson leads the MAC in scoring in conference play at 21.4 points a game. Lauren Dickerson had 16 for Miami, which has lost three in a row after winning three in a row.

Central Michigan ran its unbeaten record to 12-0 with an 82-75 win over last-place Bowling Green at home. Central lost its first three games of the season to good opponents. Since then, the Chippewas are 19-1. Kyra Bussell hit five 3-point baskets and scored 23 points to lead CMU. Angela Perry had 19 points and 10 rebounds for BG.

Western Michigan got 18 points and 11 rebounds from Breanna Mobley and edged Northern Illinois 68-65 in DeKalb. The game saw five ties and six lead changes. Courtney Woods had 18 points for NIU.

BEST WEDNESDAY GAMES: Toledo at Ohio, Kent State at Central Michigan.

The ‘golf’ standings

They give a team -1 for a road win (a “birdie”) and adds a point for a home loss (a “bogey.” A home win or road loss gets zero (“par”).

-6

  • Central Michigan (12-0, 19-4)

-3

  • Ball State (9-3, 17-7)
  • Ohio (9-3, 16-7)

-1

  • Kent State (7-5, 14-9)
  • Eastern Michigan (7-6, 12-12)

Even

  • Western Michigan (6-6, 13-10)
  • Toledo (6-6, 11-12)

+2

  • Buffalo (4-8, 13-10)
  • Akron (4-8, 11-12)
  • Northern Illinois (3-8, 7-15)

+3

  • Miami (4-9, 11-14)

+5

  • Bowling Green (1-11, 8-16)

Regular MAC standings

MAC statistics

Kent State’s best offensive game sends it past Toledo 87-68 and into 4th place

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Hannah Young reaches for a rebound against Toledo. Young, a sophomore making only the third start of her career, led the team in rebounding with seven and had 12 points. (Photo by David Dermer for Kent State women’s basketball.)

Kent State’s second quarter wasn’t good, but the Flashes played nearly perfectly during the rest of its 87-68 rout of Toledo at the M.A.C. Center Saturday.

The Flashes scored their most points of the season against a Division I team. (They scored 92 against Division III Hiram.) The 87 points tied for the most points against a MAC team since a 98-97 loss to Northern Illinois in 2017.

The win moved Kent State into fourth place in the MAC. If the Flashes finished the season there, they would get a coveted first-round bye in the MAC Tournament next month. Toledo is a game behind KSU; Eastern Michigan, which lost at home to Akron Saturday, is a half game behind.

The Flashes are 14-9 overall.

The Flashes produced all their offense without leading scorer and rebounder Nila Blackford, who was out with a concussion. Four other KSU players scored in double figures.

“It’s kind of a crazy thing in sports psychology,” coach Todd Starkey said. “Sometimes teams play better with their best player out. For some reason, it kind of galvanizes people. It brings them together.

“It doesn’t mean Nila’s not an important part of what we’re doing moving forward. But it was a good game for it to happen. They play a lot of four-guard stuff. So we just went to four guards. The matchup was favorable.”

The Flashes ran to a 24-11 lead in the first quarter, then saw the Rockets outscore them 24-15 in the second. Toledo closed it to 41-40, but Kent State closed the third quarter on a 21-6 run, including the last 10 points of the period.

Look at Kent State’s numbers for the first, third and fourth quarters:

  • SHOOTING PERCENTAGE: 59% (26 of 44).
  • 3-POINT PERCENTAGE: 57%: (eight of 14).
  • FREE THROW PERCENTAGE: 93% (14 of 15).
  • POINTS OFF TURNOVERS: 26. (Toledo had two.)
  • POINTS IN THE PAINT: 34. (Toledo had 12.)

Was it Kent State’s best game of the season?

Freshman guard Katie Shumate: “All together, it’s one of our best. We had the fewest turnovers, we were moving the ball well. It’s hard to beat that.”

Sophomore guard Hannah Young: “I think we almost put four quarters together, and that’s been the goal for the whole season.”

Starkey didn’t like his team’s defense in the second quarter. Otherwise, “Offensively it was really good,” he said. “Defensively we weren’t quite as good as we’ve been in the last three games” when they allowed an average of only 55 points a game (and scored just 58).

Katie Shumate and her perfect 1st  quarter

Shumate, a freshman guard, made all seven of her first-quarter shots — two three-pointers, two layups, a jump shot and two foul shots. Asked if she had ever had a quarter when she hadn’t missed a shot, she laughed and said, “Not miss a shot? I think I always miss a shot.”

Shumate finished with a career-high 24 points, six rebounds, an assist and two blocked shots. She drew four fouls on Toledo players.

“It was good to see Katie set the tone,” Starkey said. “She’s hard to guard. She can shoot the 3, she can get to the basket, she’s got a nice pull-up game, she’s a good offensive rebounder. “With Katie, it’s just a matter of making sure she doesn’t disappear. Sometimes in the flow of the game, she steps back, and she needs to step forward right into the action. Like we’ve said all year, consistency is the most important thing.”

Asiah Dingle, the shooter

Dingle, a sophomore point guard, came off the bench for the fourth-straight game and continued to play some of her best basketball. She scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half, mostly on her trademark drives to the basket.

“She did some really nice things getting to the basket and getting down in transition,” Starkey said.

Dingle made eight of 13 shots — almost exactly on her 62% average over the last four games. She averaged 38% a year ago. She also made her second 3-point shot of the season. She’s taken 18.

Dingle also had six assists, equaling her career high against a Division I team, and only one turnover. 

Hannah Young, the third-time starter

Young, a sophomore guard, started just the third game of her career (in place of Blackford), led the team in rebounding with seven, scored 12 points, hit two 3-point shots and blocked a shot.

She was playing in front of most of her family, who made the 5 1/2-hour drive from Brookville, Virginia, in a trip planned long before they knew Young was going to start.

Young has been one of the first guards off the bench for her two seasons but averaged just 1.8 point a game last season and 2.8 this year. She has played an average of 20 minutes in conference games and averaged six points and six rebounds over the last four.

“She was a highly recruited player, and she’s very talented,” Starkey said. “Everybody’s timeline is a little bit different. It’s nice to see her starting to assert herself. She’s just been some confidence and game reps from having good things happen to her. She’s gotten better defensively. She’s rebounding the ball and letting her shot come to her instead of forcing it.”

Young knew the team needed her with Blackford out.

“Someone had to step up, and I felt like, ‘Why not me?’” she said. “I wanted to do my part and stay within the offense, and it worked out. Knowing Nila wasn’t here, I knew we needed to someone to pick up the rebounding role.”

On her increased playing time:

“It’s being more confident and knowing my role. I’ve been getting in the gym extra and working hard in practice. If I can do it in practice, why not in a game?

Lindsey Thall becomes the third of a kind

 

Thall, a sophomore forward, became just the third MAC player to get 100 3-point baskets and 100 blocked shots. The others did it in four years. Thall hasn’t finished her second.

Saturday she scored 13 points, making three of seven 3-point baskets and blocking three shots.

Thall leads the MAC in blocked shots by a substantial margin at 2.8 a game. She led the league last year, too, at 1.6 a game. Her 33% average on 3-pointers ranks ninth in conference games. In all games, she has shot at a 37.9% rate and is fourth in the MAC.

Turnover turnaround

Kent State struggled with turnovers over the last three games after being one of the league’s best for most of the season. Over the last three games, KSU had a minus-six turnover margin. But its performance Saturday was spectacular. The Flashes committed a season-low six turnovers. Toledo committed 19. Kent State outscored the Rockets off turnovers 30-4.

Box score

Notes

  • As it did Saturday, Kent State led Toledo by three points at halftime in Toledo two weeks ago. In that game, the Rockets outscored KSU 22-11 in the third quarter and went on to a 69-60 win. Saturday the Flashes outscored Toledo 26-13 in the third quarter. “We wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again,” Starkey said.
  • In their first game, Toledo outscored Kent at the foul line 26-6. Saturday it was still Toledo, but 13-12. Both teams shot free throws well. Toledo was 13 of 14, Kent State 12 of 15. The Flashes had made only 56% of their foul shots over the last four games.
  • In his pregame radio interview, Starkey said one of KSU’s strategies would be to try to force Toledo senior guard Mariella Santucci to guard without fouling. She couldn’t. Santucci spent 17 minutes on the bench with foul trouble and eventually fouled out. Santucci still led Toledo with 13 points, but she had averaged 20 over her last four games.
  • Starkey said Blackford was in concussion protocol, and there is no way to tell how long it would last. He said she was doing well, but wasn’t at the game because the noise of the game is not good for someone recovering from a concussion.
  • Senior Ali Poole is back on the team’s bench wearing a knee brace. She had surgery after a season-ending ACL tear in January.
  • All 11 players in uniform got in the game. Eight scored.
  • I estimated attendance at between 2,000 and 2,500, which would be second only to the Ohio State game the season. Official attendance was the same as the men’s game — 5,218. I promise they didn’t all stay.

Kent State’s next task is its toughest of the season. On Wednesday the team travels to first-place Central Michigan, which is 12-0 in the conference.

Other MAC scores

  • Akron (4-8, 11-12) 64, Eastern Michigan (7-6, 12-12) 53 at Eastern.
  • Central Michigan (12-0, 19-4) 82, Bowling Green (1-11, 8-16) 75 at Central.
  • Ohio (9-3, 16-7) 84, Miami (4-9, 11-14) 70 at Miami.
  • Ball State (9-3, 17-7) 69, Buffalo (4-8, 13-10) 58 at Buffalo.
  • Western Michigan (6-6, 13-10) 68, Northern Illinois (4-8, 8-15) 65 at NIU.

Video highlights

 

Flashes, tied with Toledo in MAC, host Rockets in big game Saturday

Shumate vs. Akron

Katie Shumate has averaged 13.5 points and 10 rebounds in Kent State’s last two games. (Photo from team Twitter feed.)

Toledo (6-5 and tied with KSU for 5th in MAC)

at Kent State (6-5 and 13-9 overall)

Game starts at about 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, at the M.A.C. Center. It’s second game of doubleheader with KSU men, who play Ohio at 1 p.m. Women’s game will start a half hour after men’s game ends. One ticket gets you in both games

Women’s game is Kent State’s annual “Play4Kay” game that honors cancer survivors and raises money to fight women’s cancers. Kent State is asking fans to support its fundraising by donating for every free throw the Flashes make in February. Here’s link to donation page. The event is named after Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame coach at North Carolina State, who several battles with cancer. Most college teams have such a game.

Men’s tickets range from $12 to $37 and will get you in both games. Women’s general admission tickets are $5. There is free admission for cancer survivors. Kent State women’s home attendance averages 1,200, seventh in the MAC.

What’s at stake

This is a very big game for both teams.

Kent State and Toledo are tied for fifth place in the MAC, a half game behind Eastern Michigan. The top four teams in the league get a first-round bye in the conference tournament next month.

Kent State lost at Toledo last month. If they lose again, Toledo will get the higher seed if the teams tie at the end of the season. If Kent wins, the teams will go to a secondary tie-breaker, which can get complicated and won’t be clear until the end of the season.

In the teams’ first game, Kent State led 31-28 at halftime, but Toledo made 15 more free throws than the Flashes did in the second half and won 69-60.

It was the first of four games that have seen Kent State struggle to draw and make free throws. Earlier in the season, KSU led the MAC in free throw percentage. In their last four games, they’ve shot only 43 free throws and made only 24. That’s 56%.


REPORT CARD ON KSU’s WIN OVER AKRON: Flashes played good defense for third game in a row.


What to watch

The game at Toledo was third in a string of six games in which Kent State has found its defense but lost its offense.

The Flashes have held those teams to an average of 57 points but scored an average of 58.5. Kent State has made only 27% of its 3-point shots in that time. Add KSU’s troubles at the foul line.

So the big things to watch are:

  • Is Kent State’s defense holding up?
  • Are Kent State’s shots — especially long-range shots — falling?
  • Are the Flashes getting their share of free throws?

Toledo’s Mariella Santucci, a senior point guard, has been on a tear over the Rockets’ last four games, averaging 20 points. That’s double her season average. She scored her 1,000th point Saturday in Toledo’s 60-58 loss at home to Ball State. Santucci also is third in the MAC in assists.

Nakiah Black leads Toledo in scoring at 13.6 points per game in MAC play.

Asiah Dingle didn’t play against the Rockets in the first game because she was finishing a suspension. Since then, she’s come off the bench and averaged almost 14 points a game, making 64% of her field goal attempts.

KSU coach Todd Starkey said it was questionable whether freshman forward Nila Blackford, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, could play Saturday. Blackford hit her head hard on the floor after a battle for a rebound in the last 30 seconds of the Akron game. She lay on the floor for more than a minute before she was helped off.

Blackford’s backup, junior Monique Smith, turned her ankle early in the Akron game. She returned for a few minutes in the second half.

Team comparisons

All statistics are for conference games only, which are more current and reflect similar competition.

  • RPI: Kent State 105 of 351 Division I teams. Toledo 153. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
  • Power rankings: Kent State 115. Toledo 162. (Adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries.)
  • Kent State home record (MAC games)3-2. Toledo road record: 2-3.
  • Scoring average: KSU 12th and last in MAC at 64.9 points per game. Toledo sixth at 69.6.
  • Defensive average: KSU first at 64.4. Toledo fourth at 68.3.
  • Field-goal percentage: KSU 10th at 40.0 (eighth on 3-pointers at 30.2%). Toledo second at 42.6 (third on 3s at 33.8%).
  • Field-goal defense: KSU second at 37.8 (last on 3s at 35.7%). Toledo ninth at 42.7 (ninth on 3s at 33.5).
  • Free throw shooting: Kent State sixth at 68.6%. Toledo second at 72.5.
  • Rebounding margin: KSU seventh at -1.3. Toledo third at +3.5.
  • Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +0.3. Toledo 11th at -3.0. KSU seventh in steals at 6.5. Toledo 11th at 6.2.
  • Assists: Kent State last at 10.6. Toledo third at 14.0.
  • Blocked shots: Kent State first at 4.6. Toledo eighth at 2.0.

Top players

Kent State

  • 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (13.6 points, 2.6 assists, 1.7 steals per game).
  • 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (13.4 points, 7.7 rebounds).
  • 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (11.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 41.0% three-point shooting).
  • 5-7 senior guard Megan Carter (10.8 points, 3.5 rebounds).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (8.9 points, 1.6 three-point baskets a game, first in MAC in blocked shots at 2.6 per game).

Toledo

  • 5-10 junior guard Nakiah Black (13.6 points per game, 4.4 rebounds).
  • 5-8 senior guard Mariella Santucci (12.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists.)
  • 5-9 freshman guard Quinesha Lockett (10.2 points, 1.2 steals.)

Following the game from home

Video stream on ESPN3 starts at game time at about 3:30 p.m. It’s free if you have a subscription to ESPN on cable, satellite or on the ESPN app. David Wilson is the announcer.

Audio starts at about 3:15 p.m. on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. Dan Griffin is the announcer.

Live statistics will be on the Kent State website during the game.

Links

Kent State website, with links to roster, statistics, schedule and more.

Toledo website, with links.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

Once again, good defense means a good report card for Flashes

Dingle vs. AkronAsiah Dingle had 15 points and four steals against Akron Wednesday. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)

Kent State’s 60-55 win over Akron followed the pattern of recent games: good defense, less good offense, struggles with turnovers and foul shooting. Here’s the report card.


If you haven’t seen it, here’s Hannah Young’s offensive rebound and feed to Lindsey Thall for a critical 3-point basket in Wednesday’s game.

Kent State Women’s Basketball@KentStWBB

1:41 4Q | Kent State 54, Akron 53

Lindsey Thall for 3 and the lead!

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See Kent State Women’s Basketball’s other Tweets

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GAME STORY: Thall’s 5 blocks and key 3-point, Dingle’s 15 points an 4 steals lead KSU to victory.


Kent State 60, Akron 55

Score 70 points on offense: 60. Over last three games, they’ve averaged 59 (but won twice). NOT ACHIEVED.

Hold opponent under 70: 55. Over last three games, opponents have averaged 55. Kent held Bowling Green, Ohio and Akron 10 points below their MAC averages. ACHIEVED.

Make 40% of shots: 41.1. For the first time in conference play, KSU’s overall shooting percentage has hit 40 (exactly). Flashes’ 2-point percentage, among nation’s worst last season at 39.5%, is 44.4% in MAC play. Three-point center age is down from 33 to 30 in league play. ACHIEVED.

Hold opponent under 40%: 36.9, A good percentages even though it was highest of last three games. KSU’s 3-point defense has dropped from 45% to 35% over last five games. ACHIEVED.

Outscore opponent by five on free throws: Yes, but… Flashes made 11, Akron five. But Kent also missed 10 free throws. Akron missed zero. ACHIEVED.

Outscore opponent by five points off turnovers: Akron 15 off of 18 KSU turnovers. Kent State 14 off Akron’s 12. Second half was 13-5 Kent State on points. NOT ACHIEVED.

Have 14 assists: 12 on 23 baskets. Percentage is fine. Total is a little low. Part of that, I think, is Asiah Dingle’s 15 points. Dingle gets many of her points on steals and drives, not on assisted baskets. She made six of seven shots Wednesday. Over last, she’s 18 out of 28 for 64%. For season she’s shooting 46% about five percentage points better than last year.  NOT QUITE ACHIEVED.

Get 10 points from the bench: 21, Dingle’s 15 were the bulk of that, but Hannah Young had four and Sydney Brinlee two. ACHIEVED.

BOTTOM LINE: Quality of play: B+.

Kent State statistics

The view from Akron

Coach Melissa Jackson on Kent’s 60-55 win, quoted in the Beacon Journal:

Kent State is a good team, and we are a good team. We’ve shown that multiple times. We’ve been in every single game in conference play. When we put it together for a full game, we know what we’re capable of.”

“I’m so proud of our kids’ effort. They continued to fight and they worked their tails off. I can’t ask much more from them.”

“I think the game was really physical. I think that the refs allowed that. It’s a rivalry game. You can’t control the officials. You can’t control some of that stuff. You’ve got to play through it.”

“Dingle kind of just went through us. She’s quick, she’s tough to guard in transition.”

Akron senior forward Haliegh Reinoehl:

“You can’t beat a good team twice, and I think we’re a good team. We’re gonna go right into their house, and we’re gonna win. I have no doubt.”

The teams play in Kent Feb. 26.

A recruit’s troubled week

Casey Santoro, Kent State’s star recruit from Bellevue High School, made national news in a bad way this week.

A short video clip that went viral showed Santoro pulling the hair of a Norwalk High School player as the players were running upcourt after Santoro made a 3-point basket. The Norwalk player fell to the ground.  Officials didn’t call a foul; it was unclear whether they saw the incident.

The clip was retweeted hundreds, if not thousands, of times. It was written about by TMZ, the New York Post and the Washington Post, among others, and reported by local newspapers as well as Cleveland and Toledo television stations. Some people on Twitter and commentary websites castigated Santoro and, sometimes, Kent State, where she has signed a letter of intent to receive a basketball scholarship next year. She and her family have received threats.

Santoro apologized for the incident on her team’s Twitter feed. The father of Olivia Ward, the Norwalk player, posted on Facebook that her family accepted the apology. He strongly criticized “hateful, threatening comments” directed at Santoro and asked people to “please stop.”

Santoro’s apology, posted on Wednesday, read:

I would like to publicly apologize to Norwalk’s Olivia Ward, and all basketball fans in the area for this past weekend’s unfortunate incident. My intentions were never to hurt anyone.

“I know it’s brought a lot of negative attention to our area and the game I love. I will learn from this and become a better person because of it.”

The Facebook post of Jason Ward, Olivia’s father, said the two families would meet in the near future to discuss the incident. He said he had been in contact with Kory Santoro, Casey’s father, who is also the Bellevue girls coach. Ward’s letter read, in part:

“She (Casey) made a mistake, which we are all guilty of at some point, and she will have to live with the ramifications of that. That being said, my family, and more importantly, Liv, does not want to see Casey’s life and future ruined over this.

“We don’t want Casey or the Santoro family to be verbally or physically assaulted, threatened or otherwise harassed due to this lapse in good judgement. However one might view the events and subsequent video of the incident, this does not justify the hateful, threatening comments towards Casey or the Santoro family on social media.

“As a father, this is not something that I condone, and as a decent human being I find it disgraceful that this kid would be threatened on social media or otherwise….If you are guilty of posting anything hateful or threatening toward this kid, please stop….

“”Sonja and I do our best as parents, and this is a chance to for us and our family to forgive someone, however hard it may be, which we have done and will do in person very soon….

“Liv said to me, ‘Dad, I know how hard I have worked to get where I am at and set myself up for the future. I know that Casey has worked just as hard, and I don’t want to see her to lose everything over this.'”

The full statement was reported in a story in the Norwalk Reflector .

Ward suffered a concussion, her father said, and won’t play the rest of the season. She did start and score the first basket in Norwalk’s game this week, then went to the bench.

Bellevue officials suspended Santoro for Tuesday’s game against Shelby, which is Bellevue’s top rival in the Division II Ashland District. Santoro’s absence helped cost her team its undefeated record. Shelby won 56-43. The two teams could meet again in the district finals. Shelby is 20-1, Bellevue 21-1. Santoro also didn’t play in Thursday’s game against Sandusky, which Bellevue won 54-36. The Sandusky Register report on Thursday’s game said Santoro would return to action when Bellevue begins section play next week.

Santoro is averaging 25 points a game and recently scored the 2,000th point of her high school career. She has twice been district player of the year and twice been first-team all-state in Division II.

I’ve followed Casey online since she verbally committed to Kent State last February. I’ve never read anything negative about her before. An KSU assistant once described her to me as “tough as nails.” It was a compliment.

After the incident, Casey’s teammates tweeted about her as a great teammate and a good person. Ward’s friends and teammates at Norwalk tweeted the same things about her. Ward has a scholarship to play volleyball next year at Division II Tiffin University.

Kent State coach Todd Starkey declined to discuss the incident. On Twitter, he “liked” Casey’s apology.

Here’s the clip (incident is at center court at the bottom):

 

Here are some earlier stories about Santoro.

When she scored her 2,000th point

When she signed her letter of intent to play at KSU

 

MAC 2-13

Around the MAC

Kent State, Eastern Michigan and Ball State shook up the middle of the “golf” standings with road wins.

Eastern moved ahead of Toledo into fourth place in both the regular and golf standings. Kent and Toledo are tied in the regular standings; KSU is a point ahead in the golf standings.

Toledo and Kent State play Saturday afternoon in Kent.

Ball State beat Toledo 60-58 at Toledo as the Rockets missed a jumper at the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime. Graduate student Jasmin Sanz had 15 points for Ball State. Senior guard Mariella Santucci had 16 for Toledo, including the 1,000th point of her career.

Eastern Michigan won at Bowling Green 70-58, rallying from two points down at halftime with a 19-9 third quarter. Sophomore guard Jenna Annecchiarico led the Eagles with 22 points. Areanna Combs had 20. Angela Perry had 18 for BG.

Western Michigan handed Buffalo its fourth straight loss and broke a three-game losing steak of its own with a 74-62 win in Kalamazoo. Jordan Walker had 18 points for Western. Theresa Onwuka had 17 for Buffalo, whose losing streak is its longest since 2016.

Northern Illinois won its second straight game in overtime, beating  Miami 86-84 at home. Courtney Woods, who scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds, hit a jumper with five seconds to go in overtime to provide the margin of victory. Miami led by 18 in the first quarter. Savannah Kluesner had 28 points, 12 rebounds and seven steals for the the Redhawks.

First-place Central Michigan and second-place Ohio had byes.

BEST SATURDAY GAMES: Toledo at Kent State. Ball State at Buffalo.

The ‘golf’ standings

They give a team -1 for a road win (a “birdie”) and adds a point for a home loss (a “bogey.” A home win or road loss gets zero (“par”).

-6

  • Central Michigan (11-0, 18-4)

-2

  • Ohio (8-3, 15-7)
  • Ball State (8-3, 16-7)
  • Eastern Michigan (7-5, 12-11)

-1

  • Kent State (6-5, 13-9)

Even

  • Toledo (6-5, 11-11)

+1

  • Western Michigan (5-6, 12-10)
  • Buffalo (4-7, 13-9)
  • Northern Illinois (3-7, 7-14)

+2

  • Miami (4-8, 11-13)

+3

  • Akron (3-8, 10-12)

+5

  • Bowling Green (1-10, 8-15)

Regular MAC standings

MAC statistics

Thall’s 5 blocks, Dingle’s 4 steals and 15 points lead Flashes past Akron

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Nila Blackford makes a short jumper against Akron in photo shot from catwalk above the James. A. Rhodes Arena. Blackford had 10 points and nine rebounds but was hurt late in the game. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)

17 seconds in the fourth quarter showed how important Lindsey Thall was to the Kent State’s 60-55 victory over Akron Wednesday.

With 1:56 to go, Thall blocked a layup attempt by Akron. 11 seconds later Hannah Young grabbed an offensive rebound and passed to Thall, who was probably six feet beyond the 3-point arc. She hit the shot smoothly to give KSU a 54-53 lead.

35 seconds in the third quarter showed how important Asiah Dingle was to the win. Akron had outscored Kent 12-3 to start the third quarter and take its biggest lead at 40-33.

With 4:48 to go in the quarter, Dingle passed to Nila Blackford near the basket for a layup. On the next possession, Dingle stole the ball and drove three-quarters of the court for a layup. Then she stole the inbounds pass for another layup.

Dingle came off the bench to lead KSU with 15 points and four steals.

Thall had seven points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots.

“There were a lot of crazy plays down the stretch — a lot of intensity out there,” coach Todd Starkey said. “In that last time out, we brought them over and said, ‘Wd’ve got to be the calmer, more composed team. We’ve got to get stops and keep them off the offensive glass. And they did a really good job in the last two or three minutes doing just that.”

Thall’s 3-point basket was the first of those plays. The second was a steal by Blackford off of a press on Akron’s next possession, which led to the third, a driving layup by Dingle on a fast break. She was fouled and converted the three-point play and Kent State had a 57-53 lead.

On Thall’s 3-pointer:

“I was just trying to be aggressive and get the rebound,” Young said. “And then I saw Lindsey and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get it to her.'”

On Blackford’s steal:

“We wanted to look for opportunities to press,” Starkey said. “After Lindsey’s 3, we called time out and pressed out of that and got a turnovers. We had back-to-back presses off of made baskets, which we don’t usually do, and I think it caught them by surprise.”

On Dingle’s three-point play:

A bang-bang play and she finished,” Starkey said.

And what about Dingle’s back-to-back steals in the third quarter that got Kent State back in the game:

“That was huge — a huge turnaround for us,” Starkey said. “It gave us some life.

“Sometimes she drives me a little bit crazy, just playing with her hair on fire. But she has the ability to make big plays like that when you let her loose.”

Dingle said she knew the team needed a boost.

“Coach talked about not getting down…getting a pinch and just keep going,” she said. “So I recognized the play they ran and got the steals.”

It was the third straight game the Flashes had relied on their defense to carry them. The team is 2-1 in that stretch despite averaging only 59 points in that time. They  allowed an average of 55 in that time.

“Our defense has been our calling card lately,” Starkey said. “The beginning of the year, it was just the opposite.

“But we have to figure out a way to score the basketball. Thall’s 3 was so big for us because we couldn’t throw it in the ocean again. It might be the time of the year. The legs are getting tired and we’ve been missing some open looks that we didn’t miss earlier in the year.”

Kent State was three for 14 from 3-point distance. Over their last three games, the Flashes are 12 for 53 for 22.6%.

The Flashes also struggled for the third straight game on free throws (11 of 21) and turnovers (18 to Akron’s 12). Not long ago they were among the MAC leaders in both categories.

“We should have scored in the 70s,” Starkey said for the second game in a row. “We have to become a better team at not beating ourselves. Once again, defense bailed us out, but we have to be more efficient with the ball on our hands, and we’ve got to score at a higher clip.”

Thall the shot blocker

Thall leads the conference, averaging 2.6 blocks in MAC games. That’s one block a game more than last year, when she also led the league.

Her five blocks were her second highest of the season (she blocked seven against Eastern Michigan). She’s blocked four or more six times this year.

Thall is 6-2 but not a great leaper. KSU radio announcer David Wilson asked her about her rebounding strategy after the game:

“I just for areas where I can help off of my player,” she said. “If they’re not in a really threatening position offensively, I can kind of sneak off and help our  guards out when their players get to the hoop.”

Starkey called Thall “just a really smart defender.”

“She tracks the ball,” he said. “She plays great position defense, and she leaves the floor second, which all great shot blockers do.”

Young the defender

Young played 27 minutes for the second straight game. She had six rebounds and four points. She was guarding Alyssa Clay, Akron’s top 3-point-shooting-guard, when Kent State led by three points in the last minute.

“”Hannah did a great job of making sure she understood some of the actions that they run to try and get her open,” Starkey said. “She did a great job of chasing her and talking early when she needed help.”

Young said she knew it was important not to let Clay get away from her.

“I knew that if I did help off of her (to guard another player), they would kick out to her, and she’s going to shoot it right away,” she said.

Young said defense has helped her get playing time.

“I’ve been working on it practice,” she said. “In the beginning of the season, it wasn’t very great, and if I wanted to play more, I needed it to get better. It’s been working, so I’m gonna just keep trying to play aggressive.”

Starkey agrees that she’s playing better each game.

“She’s showed up at the right time of year and played some big minutes for us,  making some big plays. I think as she continues to grow in her confidence, she’ll continue to be a contributor for us.”

Blackford’s hard fall

Blackford, the 6-2 freshman who is KSU’s leading scorer and rebounder, had 10 points and nine rebounds. 

She got tangled with an Akron player going for a rebound in the last 30 seconds and hit the floor hard. She lay on the court until referees stopped play, then lay there another 30 seconds before she was helped off the court.

“She went down pretty hard, and she was hurting there a little bit,” Starkey told Wilson on the radio. “We’ll see what the trainers say and get her evaluated.”

The battle for fourth place

The win puts Kent State in a tie with Toledo for fifth in the MAC, a half game out of fourth place. The top four teams get a first-round bye to the quarterfinals in the MAC tournament next month.

Kent State and Toledo play Saturday at about 3:30 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center. The game is the second of a doubleheader with the men, who play Ohio at 1 p.m.

The Flashes and Toledo are 6-5. Eastern Michigan is 7-5. Toledo lost at home to Ball State 60-58 on Wednesday. Eastern won at Bowling Green 70-58.

Third place is starting to look out of reach for any of those teams. Ohio and Ball State are tied at 8-3. Central Michigan continues to lead the league at 11-0.

Kent State’s overall record is 13-9. Akron is 3-8 in the MAC and 10-12 overall. Seven of its eight losses have been by eight points or fewer.

Box score

Notes

  • The Flashes held Akron to 37% shooting, the third-straight game opponents have shot below 40%. Akron was two of 18 (11%) on 3-point shots. Three games ago, Kent State opponents had been making 45% of their 3-pointers. Bowling Green, Ohio and Akron made 10 of 42 from distance — 24%.
  • Kent State assistant coach Mike McKee wasn’t on the bench because of the death of his father Tuesday. McKee has been a part of Kent State basketball for 15 years, playing for the men’s team, then being a graduate assistant and director of basketball operations for the men before becoming a women’s assistant three years ago. “This one is for the McKee family,” Starkey said.
  • Akron’s forward Jordyn Dawson, the Zips’ second-leading scorer, didn’t play. “Coaches’ decision.” according to Michael Reghi, who broadcast the game on ESPN+. (“Coaches decision” often means a suspension of some sort.)
  • Kent State has won four straight against the Akron women and six out of seven under Starkey. The teams meet again in Kent Feb. 26.

Other MAC scores

  • Eastern Michigan (7-5, 12-11) 70, Bowling Green (1-10, 8-15) 58 at BG.
  • Ball State (8-3, 16-7) 60, Toledo (6-5, 11-11) 58 at Toledo.
  • Western Michigan (5-6, 12-10) 74, Buffalo 62 at Western.
  • Northern Illinois (4-7, 8-14) 86, Miami 84 in overtime at NIU.

Central Michigan and Ohio had midweek byes.

MAC standings.