Flashes rally in 2nd half to win 1st road game, 54-46, over Robert Morris

Lex and mom (1)

Kent State senior guard Alexa Golden and her mother, Nancy Watts, after Friday’s game. Golden grew up 25 minutes away from the Robert Morris campus. More from her and her mother toward the end of this post.

 

Alexa Golden said the equation for Kent State’s comeback win over Robert Morris Friday was simple.

“It was just coming out and playing better,” the senior guard said after KSU’s 54-46 victory. “We already played our worst basketball. We were three for 23, we had 14 turnovers, and we’re still only down by two.”

Golden scored all of her team-high 11 points in the second half. She grabbed eight rebounds and led a defensive effort that shut down RMU’s three-point shooting, the mainstay of the Colonials’ offense.

The victory was Kent State’s first on the road this season and evened the Flashes’ record at 4-4. Robert Morris is 1-7. All but one of its losses have come by 10 points or less.

Kent State went on a 15-4 run in the first five minutes of the second half to take control of the game.

The Colonials came into the game scoring 48 percent of their points from beyond the arc. Their top three guards had averaged a combined 42 percent on three-pointers.

Friday RMU was five of 17 from distance. Those three guards were two for seven.

Kent State’s best defense was keeping the Colonials from getting the shot off.

“You just have to be there on the catch, hands over the ball,” Golden said “Coach always says if they can get the shot off, then we weren’t there. So we made sure that we were there.”

Coach Todd Starkey liked the defense but shook his head about the offense. The Flashes made 10 of 26 shots in the second half but still were 28.5 percent shooting for the game. In their previous game, they made 27.3 percent in a 61-55 loss at Wright State.

“We were trying to force stuff,” Starkey said of the first half. “Some of the shots came when we didn’t have great offensive flow, and others we were hesitating.”

In the second half, Starkey said, the Flashes adjusted their offense to improve ball movement. “And we just made more baskets,” the coach said.

“If we start shooting the ball, we may have a pretty nice little team here,” Starkey said. “At some point our offense is going to catch up, so we just have to stay the course. We’re a little bit disjointed offensively, and that’s typical with as many freshmen as we’re planning right now.”

Merissa Barber-Smith had 10 rebounds for the second game in a row and scored a season-high six points. Her 23 minutes were also a season high.

“In rebounds per minute, she’s got to be leading the country,” Starkey said. “If she could start scoring the ball a little — offensive putbacks and finishes, she’s going to keep playing more and more.”

Barber-Smith’s rebounds-per-minute average so far this season is, in fact, 0.42 in about 15 minutes per game. Central Michigan’s Reyna Frost, who leads the MAC in rebounding at 10.8 a game, is grabbing 0.31 rebounds per minute.

“It’s my role,” she said. “That’s what I have to do. ‘Stay in your role and star in your role.’ That’s what the coaches tell us.”

Offense, she says, is something she keeps working on. “I’ve got to prove to my guards that I’m reliable, and that I deserve the ball in the paint,” Barber-Smith said.

Box score

Golden’s last game near home

Golden grew up in Pittsburgh, about 25 minutes from Robert Morris. 

“We live close enough to Kent so that my family gets to come and see me a lot,” Golden said. “But to come home and play in front of my family and friends makes it mean a little bit more.”

Golden had a personal cheering section of about 15 Friday. One was her mother, Nancy Watts.

“Fourteen years I’ve watched her play,” Watts said. “There’s a lot of emotion as it comes to an end.”

She said she’s very glad her daughter went to Kent State.

“We’ve always had so much support there,” she said.

Golden got her undergraduate degree in criminal justice in two-and-a-half years, in part due to college credit she earned while at Charters Valley High School. Golden will get her masters in sports recreation and management in May. She was an Academic All-MAC selection her sophomore and juniors years. (Freshmen aren’t eligible.)

The view from Robert Morris

Coach Charlie Buscaglia, as quoted on the RMU website:

“We didn’t play a very clean game today. We needed a whole effort from everyone, and it wasn’t there from the very beginning. We  got off to a sluggish start, when we could have had a nice lead in the first half.

“And although we still had a lead at halftime, we came out and turned the ball over to start the second half.”

Notes

  • Golden was the only Kent State player to score in double figures. Lindsey Thall had nine points, Mariah Modkins eight and Asiah Dingle seven. All three are freshmen.
  • Dingle, Golden and Megan Carter all had three steals. The Flashes had 12 steals overall, one off their season high, and forced 23 Robert Morris turnovers. KSU had 21 turnovers of its own but cut its first half total in half to seven in the last 20 minutes.
  • In many ways, the game was won at the foul line. Kent State made a season high 23 free throws on 31 attempts. Robert Morris was seven of 10. RMU committed 29 fouls to KSU’s 16. Two Colonial players had four fouls by the third minute of the third quarter. Two more ended the game with four, and a fifth fouled out.
  • Carter, Kent State’s leading scorer, had a season-low three points and went 0 for 11 in field goal attempts. She led KSU with three assists but had six turnovers and played a season-low 26 minutes.
  • Robert Morris center Nneka Ezeigbo led all scorers with 18 points.

Kent State is off for nine days for final exams, then travels to Saint Bonaventure (3-6) for a Dec. 17 game. Then they’ll continue on to NJIT (1-8) for a Dec. 21 game, doing sightseeing in New York City as part of the trip.

 

 

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Flashes look for their first road win Friday at 1-6 Robert Morris

So far this season Kent State hasn’t won a road game.

It has its best chances over the next three games.

The Flashes, 3-4 so far this season, play at 1-6 Robert Morris Friday, then break for final exams. Then they play 2-6 Saint Bonaventure Dec. 17 and 1-8 NJIT Dec. 21. Both Robert Morris and Saint Bonaventure have played some good teams, so they probably are somewhat better than their records.

Robert Morris is the the favorite to win the Northeastern Conference, a league it has dominated for some years. Last year the Colonials were 25-8, the previous year 22-11. But in those years, RMU played among the softest schedules in the country — each time ranking above 300 in strength of schedule among the 349 Division I teams. Part of that is because the Northeastern Conference is one of the country’s weakest leagues.

So far this season, Robert Morris has lost to Youngstown State (5-2), Rhode Island (5-2), SMU (5-4), Loyola-Marymount (5-2) and No. 14 Iowa (6-2). The only game the Colonials lost by more than 10 points was on Sunday to Iowa (92-63), though they were within four points halfway through the third quarter. Kent State routed common-opponent Youngstown State 62-34 last month.

The Flashes beat RMU 46-31 on the road last season, allowing their fewest points in more than two decades. The previous year Robert Morris beat the Flashes 68-65 in overtime in Kent.

The Colonials have struggled to score this season, averaging just 56.9 points a game (307th in the nation). Their team shooting percentage is 34.6, 318th in the country.

RMU gets almost half of its points on three-point shots and makes about 36 percent  from that range. Leading scorer (10 points per game) is preseason all-NEC center Nneka Ezeigbo, a 6-2 junior. Top three-point shooters are guards Megan Callahan, Esther Castedo and Honoka Ikematsu, who combined average 42 percent shooting from distance.

Eight of RMU’s 14 players are from outside the United States.

Kent State is coming off a difficult 61-55 road loss at Wright State. Both teams made 8 percent of their three-point shots and less than 30 percent of all shots. Wright State (5-3) is ranked 18th in the latest CollegeInsiders Mid-Major Top 25.

The Flashes lost their other two road games to open the season, falling 73-60 at North Carolina (now 6-4) and 78-61 North Carolina State (9-0 and ranked 10th in the latest AP poll).

Kent State is sixth best in the MAC and 50th lowest in the country in turnovers, averaging 15 a game. The Flashes are plus-2.86 in turnovers margin. Kent hasn’t had a positive turnover margin for the season since 2010-11.

Best MAC rankings for the Flashes are third in blocked shots (3.43 a game) and fourth in field goal defense (36.5 percent). Top individuals are Megan Carter, seventh in scoring at 18.0 per game; Merissa Barber-Smith, 10th in rebounding at 6.6 and third in blocked shots at 1.4, and Lindsey Thall, fourth in blocked shots at 1.4. Carter is fourth in minutes played at 35.3.

How to follow the Robert Morris game

The game starts at 7 p.m. Friday last the North Athletic Complex at Robert Morris. It’s a little more than a 90 minutes drive. RMU is building a new arena, so this game is in the school’s rec center. The school recommends you park on campus and take a shuttle to the game. Here are directions to the RMU campus from its website. Information on the shuttle service. is here. Admission is free.

Audio broadcast starts about 6:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.

Video is through the Northeastern Conference.

Live statistics are available through the RMU website.

Links

Preview from Kent State women’s website, including links to statistics, roster and more.

Preview from Robert Morris website, including links.

MAC statistics, including standings.

Despite big 3-point shooting problems, KSU battles Wright State in 61-55 road loss

Merissa 2

Merissa Barber-Smith had 10 rebounds, two blocks and two points in 15 minutes against Wright State. She leads the Flashes in rebounds and blocks despite averaging just 15 minutes a game. (File photo from KSU website.)

 

Looking at all that didn’t go well, it’s somewhat remarkable that Kent State came within six points of beating Wright State on the road Sunday.

KSU lost 61-55 to the Raiders, who are 5-3 and ranked 21st in the latest CollegeInsider Mid-Major poll. Kent is 3-4.

  • The Flashes made just two-of-24 three-point shots, by far their lowest percentage and lowest total of the year. They made 27.3 percent of all shots (18 of 66), again the lowest of the season.
  • Kent was outscored 13-2 at the end of the second quarter and fell beyond 33-23 at the half.
  • The Flashes gave up 22 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.
  • Two starters fouled out and two more players had four fouls.

But Kent State’s defense was almost as good (or Wright State’s offense struggled almost as much). The Raiders, who had averaged 71 points a game, made only 29 percent of their shots, their lowest of the year. They made one-of-12 three-point shots.

Wright State’s zone defense — and Kent State’s poor shooting — was the biggest factor in the game.

“I thought we came out really passive against the zone,” coach Todd Starkey said in a phone interview from the road on his way home. “We didn’t look to make any interior passes, and nobody looked like they really wanted it on the interior.”

Still, the coach said, “We had good shooters taking good shots. Of the 24 threes that we took, I’d probably take 18 to 20 of them again. We knock some of those shots down, and it’s obviously a different game.”

Starkey thought his team played good defense for the most part, but he wasn’t happy with the game.

“I thought that was definitely a winnable game,” he said. “We didn’t play type of focus and intensity that we needed to start to finish. That’s continuing to be a little bit of a pattern for us.

“We’re playing good basketball at moments but not for long stretches. You’ve got to be able to sustain that for 40 minutes against good basketball teams if you’re going to win.”

After trailing by 10 at halftime, the Flashes came back to outscore WSU 12-6 in the third quarter and twice came within two points in the second half.

Two key plays that might have made a difference:

  • At the end of the third quarter, Kent State guard Alexa Golden was apparently fouled on an offensive rebound as the buzzer sounded. It would have been a two-shot foul that could have cut Wright State’s lead to two points. But after spending several minutes at the replay monitor, the officials ruled that the foul was called after the buzzer — even though the TV replay clearly showed the fouls occurred before the light above the backboard indicated the end of the quarter. “They said they have to go based on when she signals, which makes no sense to me,” Starkey said.
  • With the score 46-44 with 5:50 to go, Mariah Modkins missed a three-point shot, Lindsey Thall got the offense rebound and missed a put-back. The rebound came almost to half court, and Asiah Dingle was called for a foul on a floor scramble for the ball. Wright State got two offensive rebounds on the next possession, then made two foul shots.

Golden and Dingle fouled out in the fourth quarter, with most of their fouls coming on steal attempts or fights for loose balls. Merissa Barber-Smith and Megan Carter were both playing with four fouls at the end.

But so were Wright State’s Mackenzie Taylor, the Raiders’ leading scorer on the season, and freshman Angel Baker, who came off the bench to lead all scorers with a career-high 24 points. Wright State made 22 of 31 free throws off of 24 fouls. Kent State made 17 of 22 off of 22 Raider fouls.

Notes

  • That close statistical edge to Wright State was true in most numbers. The Raiders outrebounded Kent State 55-47 and scored 15 points off of 16 Kent turnovers. The Flashes scored 10 points on 15 Wright State turnovers.
  • Carter led the Flashes with 18 points, her season average and the sixth time in seven games she’s led KSU in scoring. She also had six rebounds. Her scoring average in fifth in the MAC.
  • Dingle, Thall and Ali Poole all had nine points. Merissa Barber-Smith had 10 rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes and Golden nine rebounds.
  • Golden had three assists and Modkins two. That was it: five KSU assists on 18 baskets. “A troubling sign,” Starkey said. Kent State is last in the conference in assists per game.
  • Modkins played 25 minutes off the bench, sometimes at the same time as fellow point guard Dingle. “We like that combo,” associate head coach Fran Recchia in her postgame interview with radio broadcaster David Wilson. “It makes a little more aggressiveness on the defensive end.” Modkins, who is very generously listed at 5-foot-1, put strong ball pressure on Wright State guards who were six and eight inches taller than she is.

Kent State next plays Friday at Robert Morris outside Pittsburgh. The Colonials are picked to win the Northeastern Conference but are 1-6 so far. Losses have been to Youngstown State, Rhode Island, Bowling Green, SMU, Loyola Marymount and No. 14 Iowa. Five have been by 10 points or fewer.

Box score

The view from Wright State

Coach Katrina Merriweather, interviewed on ESPN+ after the game.

“I’m happy with the effort, but we still have a lot of work to do. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

“Our defense has gotten better. I did tell them that they were the worst defense and worst rebounding team I had ever coach, and I think they responded to that conversation.”

Other MAC scores

Sunday

  • Central Michigan (7-1) 67, Quinnipiac (4-4) at Quinnipiac. CMU was ranked sixth in the latest mid=-major top 25. Quinnipiac was ranked 10th.
  • Butler (6-0) 64, Ball State (2-6) 47 at Butler. Ball State did beat Cincinnati (5-3) in Muncie Wednesday.
  • Northern Illinois (4-3) 98, Nevada (1-5) 69 at Lady Griz Classic at the University of  Montana.

Saturday

  • Ohio (6-0) 72, Cleveland State (3-5) 54 at Ohio.
  • Buffalo (6-1) 82, Central Connecticut (1-5) 69 at Central Connecticut.
  • Illinois (5-2) 72, Eastern Michigan (4-2) 69 in overtime at Illinois.
  • Akron (4-1) 63, Eastern Kentucky (0-7) 54 at Akron.
  • Toledo (5-2) 58, Memphis (2-5) 48 at Memphis.
  • Miami (5-1) 65, University of Illinois at Chicago (1-5) 56 at UIC.
  • Montana (2-2) 86, Northern Illinois (4-3) at Montana.

 

 

 

Flashes play Sunday at Wright State, which has averaged 24 wins for 5 years

The Flashes play their first of four straight road games Sunday at Wright State, the last and probably best of four Horizon League teams KSU plays this year.

Wright State was picked third in the Horizon and is ranked 21st in this week’s CollegeInsider Mid-Major Top 25. The Raiders are 4-3 and have won three in a row, including a win over previous unbeaten Marist last Sunday. Two losses were to Belmont, the No. 8 mid-major, and Michigan State, which is 5-1.

The Raiders have averaged 24.6 wins a season over the last five years.

Top WSU players are senior point guard Emily Vogelpohl, a preseason all-Horizon selection, and 5-8 senior guard Mckenzie Taylor, who led the league in three-pont percentage last season.

The Raiders are similar to Kent State in that they like to push the ball, drive to the basket and shoot three-pointers.

The Flashes lost to Wright State 72-60 in Kent last season but beat the Raiders on the road 79-69 in 2016-17. It was one of KSU’s best games in their 19-13 season.

This season’s Flashes are led in scoring by junior guard Megan Carter (18 points per game), freshman guard Asiah Dingle (12.8) and freshman forward Lindsey Thall (9.8). Thall had perhaps her best game in Kent’s 77-72 loss to Duquesne Wednesday with 15 points on five-of-eight shooting and three-of-six three points, six rebounds and a blocked shot.

Kent State is 3-3 on the season and lost its only two road games so far to ACC opponents North Carolina (5-3) and N.C. State (7-0).

To follow the game

The game starts at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Wright State’s Nutter Center. All tickets are $5. The drive is a little more than three hours. Directions from the Wright State website.

Audio broadcast starts about 1:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.

Video is through ESPN-plus, which costs $4.99 a month. The service covers about 85 percent of KSU men’s and women’s basketball games and some KSU events in other sports. It includes access to many other MAC games and those of other conferences, plus some unique programming. Here’s a Kent State Q&A on ESPN+ and a link to the  game, which will guide you through a purchase.

Live statistics are available here.

Links

Preview from Kent State women’s website, including links to statistics, roster and more.

Wright State website, including links.

MAC statistics, including standings.

Duquesne’s 4th-quarter rally carries it past Flashes, 77-72, in hard-fought game

Carter vs Duquesne

Megan Carter drives through traffic in the fourth quarter. Carter had 17 points to lead the Flashes for the fifth time in six games. (Photo by David Dermer for the KSU athletic department.)

 

Get ready, Kent State coaches told their team. This is what the Mid-American Conference season is going to be like.

The Flashes battled Duquesne, preseason favorite in the Atlantic 10 Conference, to the final minute Wednesday before falling 77-72 at the M.A.C. Center.

“Duquesne is right up there with some of the best teams in our league,” coach Todd Starkey said. “It’s great to be able to play with them, but ultimately we want to win. So we have to learn from this. I think we will. I think our young players will understand just how tough games are in our conference.”

The loss ends a three-game winning streak for Kent, which is now 3-3. Duquesne also is 3-3, with early season losses to No. 11 Texas and 4-1 TCU.

For the last half dozen years, Duquesne has been one to the best mid-major programs in the country. The Dukes were 25-8 last season and return all five starters (though one wasn’t dressed Wednesday).

All-Atlantic 10 guard Chassidy Omogrosso led a second-half charge by the Dukes that gave them the win. Omogrosso scored 20 of her 24 points in the second half in by far her best game of the season. She had averaged six points a game and scored no more than 15 points in a game.

Duquesne used screens to get Omogrosso free for drives to the basket, where she made layups or got to the foul line.

“We didn’t defend the ball screens the right way, and she got loose,” Starkey said. “We were focused so much on the interior and their shooters that she was able to score.”

The Flashes trailed 16-7 after Duquesne hit its first four three-point shots. Then after a time out, KSU turned up its defense. The Dukes made just three-of-15 shots for the rest of the half and turned the ball over 12 times, and Kent State built a 34-29 halftime lede.

Duquesne, however, scored 24 points in the third and fourth quarters.

“They’re good,” Starkey said, “and they made adjustments. A veteran ball club like that is able to do that.”

The Dukes outscored KSU 18-9 in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. The Flashes closed it to 74-72 with 25 seconds to play, but Duquesne foul shots clinched the game.

Kent State made only four of 14 shots in the fourth quarter.

“I thought we got tired,” Starkey said. “We really expended a lot of energy to get to that point. We missed some threes short and didn’t finish at the basket.”

Notes

  • Megan Carter led four Kent State players in double figures with 17 points but was six of 19 shooting. “They played her really physical,” Starkey said. “Megan had a lot of opportunities at the basket. They could have called some fouls there. They didn’t, She’s got to play through contact and finish those shots.” Carter also had five rebounds and four assists.
  • Freshman forward Lindsey Thall had a career-high 15 on five-of-eight shooting (three-of-three three-pointers). She led KSU with six rebounds and blocked a shot.
  • Freshman guard Asiah Dingle, back in the lineup after missing a game with an ankle injury, had 13 points and six assists. Junior guard Ali Poole had 10 points, including two three-pointers, and four rebounds.
  • Alexa Golden and Mariah Modkins also had two three-point baskets. Overall KSU made 10 three-pointers
  • Kent State scored 23 points off of 20 Duquesne turnovers. Duquesne scored 100 off of KSU’s 13 turnovers. That’s the widest margin in the Flashes’ favor in quite a while.
  • KSU made 38.5 percent of its shots and the same percentage of its three-pointers. Duquesne’s shooting percentage was 48; it made 26.9 percent of its three-point shots. The Dukes outrebounded Kent 39-33.

Kent State travels to Wright State Sunday for the first of four straight road games. The Raiders are 4-3 and ranked 21st in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25.

Box score

MAC update

  • Buffalo is 5-1 and was ranked second in this week’s College Insider’s Mid-Major Top 25. Senior guard Cierra Dillard scored a total of 53 points in wins over South Dakota State, another top mid-major, and Georgetown at the Southpoint Shootout in Las Vegas. Dillard leads the country in scoring at 26.6 points per game. The Bulls are sixth in the ESPN mid-major poll.
  • Central Michigan is also 5-1 and ranked fifth in the mid-major poll. The Chippewas beat the ACC’s Virginia (2-5) and Chattanooga (4-4) at Virginia’s Thanksgiving tournament. CMU is fourth in the ESPN poll.
  • Miami (4-1), Ohio (5-0), Northern Illinois (3-2) and Eastern Michigan (3-1) also got votes in the mid-major poll. Ohio coach Bob Boldon is on the panel that votes on the poll.

Results from Wednesday:

  • Youngstown State (5-2) 72, Akron (3-1) 61 at YSU.
  • Northern Illinois (3-2) 81, North Dakota State (2-5) 63 at NIU.
  • Ball State (2-5) 75, Cincinnati (5-3) 63 at Ball State.
  • Western Michigan (2-3) 64, Eastern Kentucky (0-6) 53 at Western.

Other Bowling Green (3-3) and Toledo (3-2) were idle Wednesday.

 

 

3-2 Flashes host Atlantic 10 favorite Duquesne on Wednesday

Starkey and bell

In honor of his 200th career victory, the women’s team insisted that coach Todd Starkey ring the victory bell after last week’s win over Youngstown State. (Photo by Austin Mariasy from the KSU website.)

 

Going into the season, it looked as if Wednesday’s game against Duquesne would be one of the toughest games on Kent State’s schedule.

The Dukes have five starters back from a team that was 25-8 and are picked to win the Atlantic 10 Conference.

But things aren’t quite as clear now. Duquesne is 2-3, with losses to TCU (4-1), Texas (6-0) and Toledo (3-2). The Dukes have beaten Mount Saint Mary’s (2-3) and Sant Francis of Pennsylvania (1-4).

Kent State is 3-2, on a three-game winning streak and coming off one of its best victories in years, a 62-34 beating of previously unbeaten Youngstown State on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The Flashes’ two losses were to North Carolina State (6-0 and 13th in this week’s Associated Press Top 25) and North Carolina (5-2).

So we could be in for a good game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center.

“They’ve gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but they’re a really good team,” coach Todd Starkey said in an interview with the Record-Courier’s Allen Moff. “They’re a balanced, veteran ball club that’s used to winning. We’ve got to make sure they can’t get into a rhythm because if they do, they can make you look real bad.”

Duquesne’s best player is 5-4 senior guard Chassidy Omogrosso, a preseason all-Atlantic 10 selection. She was the team’s leading scorer from a year ago and holds Dusquesne’s record for most three-point baskets in a season. But she’s off to a slow start, averaging 6.6 points a game and shooting just 20 percent from three-point distance.

The Dukes’ leading scorer and rebounder so far is 6-3 senior forward Kadri-Ann Lass, who averages 9.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. She was a second-team Atlantic 10 preseason choice. Senior Julijana Vojinovic was a first-team pick. She’s a 5-10 guard who’s averaging 5.6 points a game. Last season she averaged 10.9.

Duquesne has 10 players who average more than 9.8 minutes per game.

Kent State will get back one of its best players. 5-4 freshman point guard Asiah Dingle, who missed the Youngstown game with an ankle injury. Dingle averages 12.8 points a game. The woman who replaced her in the starting lineup, 5-foot freshman Mariah Modkins, played very well against YSU, scoring 14 points with two three-point baskets, three assists and two steals.

Other KSU starters are likely to be:

  • 6-4 senior center Merissa Barber Smith, who had 11 rebounds and five blocked shots in 15 minutes against Youngstown.
  • 5-9 senior guard Alexa Golden, eighth in the MAC in steals at 2.2 a game.
  • 5-7 junior guard Megan Carter, fifth in the league in scoring at 18.2 points per game.
  • 6-2 freshman forward Lindsay Thall, 16th in the MAC in three-pointers at 1.8 a game and  fourth in the MAC in blocked shots at 1.6 per game.

First player off the bench is likely to be 6-foot junior Ali Poole, who is averaging about as many minutes as any starter except Carter.

Starkey’s 200th victory

KSU’s win over Youngstown State was the 200th of Starkey’s career. He’s 35-34 in three years at Kent State and was 165-95 in nine years at Division II Lenoir-Ryne in North Carolina. He then spent two years as an assistant at Indiana. Here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s  really a tribute to the fact that I’m getting old and that I’ve coached a lot of good players. It’s a little bit sentimental to get against Youngstown State, which is kind of my hometown university.”

Starkey grew up in Canfield, and his father taught music at YSU.

The view from Youngstown

YSU coach John Barnes after the Kent State game:

“Nothing was falling. A lot of that has to do with the defense. [Kent State] is long and they’re physical.”

“At the start, they were super aggressive, and they were super physical. Usually, we’re physical ourselves. We weren’t tonight. We got pushed around.”

YSU lost its second straight to 3-3 Yale on Friday. Score was 58-56.

How to follow the Duquesne game

The game starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the M.A.C.C. Reserved seat tickets are $10, general admission $5.

Audio broadcast starts about 6:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.

Video is through ESPN-plus, which costs $4.99 a month. The service covers about 85 percent of KSU men’s and women’s basketball games and some KSU events in other sports. It includes access to many other MAC games and those of other conferences, plus some unique programming. Here’s a Kent State Q&A on ESPN+ and a link to the KSU-Duquesne game, which will guide you through a purchase.

Live statistics are available through the KSU website.

Links

Preview from Kent State women’s website, including links to statistics, roster and more.

Preview from Duquesne website, including links.

MAC statistics, including standings.

Flashes smother Youngstown State 62-34 in one of KSU’s best games

Modkins

In her first college start, freshman Mariah Modkins scored 14 points, had three assists and two steals. (Photo from KSU website by Austin Mariasy)

Kent State played its best game of the season — perhaps its best game of the decade — as it routed previously undefeated Youngstown State 62-34 Tuesday at the M.A.C. Center.

It was Kent State’s third win in a row. It came over a team that had beaten Pittsburgh from the ACC, Loyola from the Missouri Valley Conference and Robert Morris, the preseason favorite in the Northeastern Conference, by an average of 10 points.

KSU’s defense smothered a YSU offense that had averaged 74.2 points a game. The Penguins made 17.2 percent of their shots, and that includes three three-point baskets in the last three minutes. YSU went 0 for 17 shooting in the third quarter and scored only on two foul shots.

“I can’t say enough about our defensive effort,” said coach Todd Starkey, who recorded his 200th career victory and had his team insist he ring the victory bell afterwards. “I knew we had it in us. We’d seen moments of that, in the North Carolina game, in brief moments in our games over the weekend.

“This was a good sustained 40 minutes. We paid attention to our defensive game plan, and our interior defense was really good.”

Starkey said the plan was to try to play Youngstown one-on-one in the post so the Penguins couldn’t kick the ball out for open three-point shots.

Freshman forward Lindsey Thall and 6-4 senior Merissa Barber-Smith, with help from Ali Poole and Sydney Brinlee, frustrated YSU all game. Sarah Cash, a fifth-year senior and preseason all-Horizon League selection, got off only seven shots and made one of them.

“People don’t realize what a difference it meant when we lost Merissa (to a medical issue) last year,” Starkey said. “”When you don’t have to double team, it settles everything else down around it. She can contest shots, rebound and block shots.”

Barber-Smith blocked five shots and had 11 rebounds in 16 minutes. Thall blocked two shots — giving her six in two games — and had a season-best nine rebounds. “Her best post effort,” Starkey said.

Youngstown State made made six of 31 shots and two of 17 three-pointers in the first half. Kent State seemed to be able to contest every shot.

The Flashes’ offense in the first half was its best of the year. KSU made 48 percent of its shots and 63 percent of its three pointers to take a 35-16 lead at halftime.

Leading scorer Megan Carter led the team with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Kent State got a big boost from freshman Mariah Modkins, who started at point guard in place of the injured Asiah Dingle, KSU’s second leading scorer. Modkins scored 14 points on six of 12 shooting in 35 minutes. She made two three-point shots, had three assists and two steals.

“I’m not surprised by it,” Starkey said. “She’s a really good player. She did a great job picking her spots, really hawking the ball. I think her energy intensity really lifted the whole team.”

Modkins said it was “exciting to hear her name called” after playing so much less than she had in high school.

“I knew that I had to bring energy, especially on defense,” she said. “We knew that their guards were not as steady with the ball. So we had to really pressure the ball and make them uncomfortable.”

Offensively, Modkins said that after two early turnovers, she “slowed my mind down to make the right reads and get the ball where it needed to go.”

Starkey said he “wasn’t exactly happy” after the weekend victories over Northern Kentucky and Oakland.

“I knew we had better than that in us,” he said. “Our younger players didn’t get that. But Megan, Ali, Lex (senior Alexa Golden), they get it. They understood, they were nodding their heads. And I think our young players saw how bought in they were and said, ‘OK, maybe there’s something to this.'”

Starkey, Carter and Poole had all criticized the team’s toughness in interviews Sunday.

“That was the No. 1 point today — to be tough from start to finish,” Starkey said. I thought we were,” the coach said.

Box score

Notes

  • The 32 points were the lowest Kent State had allowed since it beat Robert Morris 46-31 last season. That score was the lowest in more than two decades. But the Flashes’ offense was far better than in this game.
  • Kent State’s offense fell off to 29 percent shooting in the second half. “In the second half, playing three games in four days caught up to us,” Starkey said.
  • The Flashes  scored 12 points off of 11 YSU turnovers. Youngstown had six off of 11 KSU turnovers, Kent’s lowest number of the season. The Flashes had 20 points in the paint; Youngstown had six. KSU had 17 fast-break points, YSU five.
  • Community college transfer Jess Wallis sank a three-point basket for the first points of her college career. Sophomore Monique Smith got her first points of the season on an offensive putback, one of three rebounds she had. Freshman Annie Pavlansky saw her first collegiate action.
  • Everyone on the roster but Dingle played.

The Flashes are off for Thanksgiving and return to play their fourth straight home game Tuesday, Nov. 27, against Duquesne. The Dukes have all of their starters back from a team that went 25-8 last season. But so far they’re 1-3, with losses to TCU, No. 11 Texas and Toledo. After that game, Kent State travel on Dec. 3 to play their fourth Horizon League opponent, Wright State, which was picked third in the conference. (YSU was picked fourth.) Wright State also is 1-3 with losses to three good teams.

Flashes host 4-0 Youngstown State in first game of Tuesday doubleheader

Asiah vs Youngstown

Freshman Asiah Dingle is KSU’s second-leading at 12.8 points per game. Her status for the Youngstown State game is unclear because of an ankle injury suffered Sunday. (Photo by Melanie Nesteruk/Kent Stater)

 

Kent State plays third straight Horizon League team Tuesday, but this one is likely to be a lot harder than the two the team beat last weekend.

The Flashes host Youngstown State at 5 p.m. at the M.A..C.C. in the first game of a doubleheader with the KSU men’s team, which plays Savannah State a half hour after the women end.

YSU is 4-0, with wins over Pittsburgh (2-2), Loyola (2-1), Robert Morris (1-3) and Carlow University, an NAIA school. All of the Penguins victories over Division I schools were by about 10 points.

Youngstown has won 11 of its last 12 games going back to last season. Kent State beat the Penguins 55-44 in Youngstown in its second game last year.

The Penguins have four players back with starting experience, including 6-1 redshirt senior forward Sarah Cash, who has scored 1,059 points in her career. Cash was a Horizon League preseason first-team selection. A second-team member was 5-10 point guard Chelsea Olson, who is averaging 11.8 points and 9.5 rebounds through four games.

Kent State beat Eastern Kentucky 62-61 Saturday and Oakland 75-65 Sunday in the the initial Kent State Classic tournament. Both are Horizon League members, picked to finish sixth and seventh in the league. Youngstown is predicted to finish fourth.

The Flashes may be without a key member of their lineup. Starting point guard Asiah Dingle hurt her ankle late in the Oakland game and was on crutches after the game.

If she can’t play, point duties will go to freshman Moriah Modkins and junior Megan Carter. Modkins played 15 minutes — her most of the season — against Oakland and had six points on two three-point baskets.  The 5-foot guard played for Solon High School’s state runner-up team last season.

Carter is Kent’s leading scorer at 17.8 points a game, ninth in the MAC. She’s averaged 34.5 minutes a game this season; senior Alexa Golden played 35 Sunday.

“I’d like to play Lex and Morgan for a few less minutes,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said Sunday, “but right now some of our freshmen and transfers aren’t quite ready to be in the heat of the battle.”

Freshman guard Hannah Young averages 16 minutes and six points a game. No other shooting guard has played more than a minute.

Carter and 6-4 senior Merissa Barber-Smith lead the Flashes in rebounding at 5 per game. Barber-Smith has done it in only 14 minutes per game, but she’s also scored only four points.

Golden is fourth in the conference with 2.5 steals a game. Dingle (1.8) is 14th, Ali Poole (1.5) 19th and Carter (1.3) 27th.

Thall is fourth with 1.5 blocks per game, heavily influenced by her four blocks against Oakland.

Preview from Kent State women’s website, including links to statistics, roster and more.

Preview from YSU website, including links.

MAC statistics.

To follow the YSU game

The game starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the M.A.C.C. Reserved seat tickets are $10, general admission $5. The men’s game at Savannah State follows a half hour after the women finish. One ticket gets you in both games.

Audio broadcast starts about 4:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.

Video is through ESPN-plus, which costs $4.99 a month. It covers about 85 percent of KSU men’s and women’s basketball games and some KSU events in other sports. The service includes access to other MAC games and those of many other schools, plus some unique programming. You can watch it through your cable or satellite company or the ESPN app. Here’s a Kent State Q&A on ESPN+  and a link to the KSU-YSU game. When you try to watch it, it will guide you through a purchase.

Live statistics are available through the KSU website.

 

 

 

 

 

Flashes win 2nd straight, but coach, players say ‘toughness’ is needed

Carter vs Oakland

Megan Carter had 18 points for Kent State. She leads the Flashes so far this season in scoring, assists and minutes played and is tied for the most rebounds. (Photo from KSU website.)

 

The Flashes came out of their home-court weekend with two victories, but the team still has much to work on.

Kent State beat Oakland 75-65 Sunday after a 62-61 victory over Northern Kentucky Saturday. Both teams are predicted to finish in the lower half of the Horizon League. Neither has beaten a Division I team yet. Northern Kentucky is 1-2 and Oakland 1-4.

The Flashes are 2-2. They lost games at North Carolina and North Carolina State on their opening weekend.

Kent State coach Todd Starkey and juniors Megan Carter and Ali Poole all said the team needed to show more toughness.

“I thought we did a few things better,” Starkey said, “but one of the things that we’re going to have to get solved is winning loose balls and rebounds. And we fell asleep defensively a couple of times especially in the second half.”

“We need to have a lot more toughness,” Carter said. “The teams we play are going to get better. So we’ve got to step up.

How Poole defined toughness: “The nitty gritty. Not getting beat on defense, not letting them get the offensive rebounds, crashing for the offensive rebounds, stepping up and taking the charge.”

“We have the talent to win games,”Poole said. “We have the athleticism to win games. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We hurt ourselves more this weekend than the other team doing anything spectacular against us. So as soon as we get us figured out, I think we’ll be all right.”

One more thing that shows how far KSU needs to go:

Akron, predicted to finish behind Kent in the Mid-American Conference, beat both Oakland (85-65) and Northern Kentucky (77-60) far more easily. 

For Kent State, the biggest differences between Saturday and Sunday’s wins were (1) Oakland isn’t as experienced as Northern Kentucky or as good, especially on defense, and (2) Poole, who had only four points Saturday, had 15, including three three-pointers.

“She knew she didn’t play well yesterday,” Starkey said. “Her coming back and playing with that type of intensity is important to us. We need to have that type of consistent effort from her.”

Poole said her game strategy was “crashing the boards.”

“That’s sort of my mantra,” she said. “If I get rebounds, everything else seems to kind of follow, and it helps keep my defense focused.”

Poole had seven rebounds to lead Kent State.

Carter had 18 points, leading the Flashes in scoring for the third time in four games. She also had six assists, five rebounds and a steal against one turnovers. She is averaging 17.8 points a game. Last year she averaged 10.2.

Freshman point guard Asiah Dingle, the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.8 points a game, had 15 points before going down with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Trainers worked on her for the rest of the game, and she met her team on crutches at center court afterwards.

Starkey said they’re still evaluating the injury, but he didn’t seem to indicate it would be a long-term problem.

Notes

  • Freshman Lindsey Thall scored 11 points and blocked four shots, both career highs. She made three of 11 three-point shots and leads the team in three-point baskets (8) and attempts (25). Her six blocks also lead the Flashes. Thall’s entire old Strongsville High School team was at the game. Her mother, Dawn, is the school’s ninth grade coach and was one of the top scorers in Strongsville history as a player there.
  • Back-up point guard Moriah Modkins, also a freshman, played 15 minutes, her most of the season and scored six points on two-of-three three-pointers.
  • Community College transfer Sydney Brinlee, a 6-foot forward, played 13 minutes, by far her most of the season, and scored six points. “She’s a live body in there and can run the floor. She can rebound, she’s got a great voice on defense. So as she grows in confidence, I would assume that her minutes are going to increase.”
  • Merissa Barber-Smith started her second game of the season with Dingle, Thall, Carter and Alexa Golden. The 6-4 senior center had six rebounds in 12 minutes.
  • Starkey’s goal for the season is for the Flashes to average 75 points. This was their first game they scored in the 70s. The Flashes made 26 of 62 shots for 41.9 percent and nine of 26 three-pointers. Oakland made 36.7 percent of its field goal attempts and 47.6 percent of its three-point shots (10 of 21). The Grizzlies outrebounded Kent State 39-38 and outscored the Flashes 22-8 on second-chance points.
  • KSU had six steals — its lowest total of the season — but scored 21 points on 21 Oakland turnovers. The Flashes committed 14 turnovers, equaling their lowest total of the year.
  • The games were part of the “Kent State Classic,” in which the Flashes and Zips played the same teams on alternate days. Next year they’ll do the same thing at the JAR in the “Akron Classic.”
  • Attendance was 821, down from 1,273 on Saturday but still more than any non-conference game in the last two years.

Kent State returns to action Tuesday with its third-straight home game against an Horizon League team. This time it’s Youngstown State, which is 4-0 and picked to finish well ahead of Oakland and Northern Kentucky in their league. The game is a first of a doubleheader with the KSU men at the M.A.C.C. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.

Box score

Other MAC results

SUNDAY

  • Mississippi (3-1) 69, Western Michigan (1-3) 66 at Mississippi.
  • Toledo (2-1) 65, Duquesne (1-3) 52 at Toledo.
  • Ohio (3-0) 100, Eastern Kentucky (0-3) 60 at Ohio.
  • Northern Illinois (2-1) 80, Northern Iowa (1-3) 59 at Northern Illinois.
  • No. 3 Oregon (4-0) 1-2, Buffalo (2-1) 82 at Oregon.

SATURDAY

  • Central Michigan (2-1) 108, Western Kentucky (0-4) 90 at Central.
  • Eastern Michigan (2-0) 50, Illinois State (1-2) 41 at Eastern.
  • Bowling Green (2-1) 61, Robert Morris (1-3) 60 at Bowling Green.
  • Missouri State (1-2) 74, Ball State (1-2) 54 at Missouri State.

FRIDAY

  • Miami (3-0) 78, Detroit Mercy (1-3) 59 at Detroit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashes lose big lead but pull out 62-61 win over N. Kentucky in home opener

Poole free throwJunior guard Ali Poole hit two foul shots with five seconds left to clinch the victory. (Photo by Austin Mariasy from KSU website.)

Three minutes into the second half, Kent State was rolling.

Leading 28-23 at halftime against Northern Kentucky, the Flashes scored the first 10 points of the second half on two three-point baskets by Alexa Golden and two steals that led to layups. They led 38-23.

Then, coach Todd Starkey said, “they took their foot of the gas.”

Northern Kentucky battled back to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but the Flashes made enough plays at the end of the game to escape with a 62-61 victory in their home opener.

Kent State is now 1-2 on the season; Northern Kentucky is 1-1.

“That’s part of a young team,” Starkey said. “They don’t get how relentless some teams in college are. They’re not going away.”

Starkey delayed our postgame interview while he talked to his team. His message?

“W’ve got to be better than that,” he told them. “I thought Northern Kentucky played with better focus and intensity for most of the game. They had a really good game plan and executed it better than we executed ours.

“We’ve got a long way to go before we’re ready for the rest of our non-conference season and MAC play.”

How did the team respond?

“They owned it,” Starkey said. “They know they didn’t play particularly well. I’m proud of them for that.

We’ll get better, without a doubt, and fix some of those mistakes.”

After KSU led by 15, Northern Kentucky outscored the Flashes 27-10 to take a 50-48 lead with six minutes the play. Kent tied the game on the next possession, and the teams were within three points of each other until junior guard Ali Poole hit two free throws with five seconds left to give KSU a 62-58 lead. NKU hit a three-point shot with less than a second left.

At their best, the Flashes showed some nice things. Freshman point guard Asiah Dingle takes the ball to the basket without fear. She and junior Megan Carter provide a strong perimeter punch. When the Flashes get steals and push the ball the way they did at the beginning of the third quarter, they’re very exciting.

KSU had 13 steals and forced 27 Northern Kentucky turnovers. That led to 23 points for the Flashes. But Starkey said that’s not enough.

“We force 27 turnovers, we have to score more than 61 points,” he said. “Steals are great. But if the steals lead to empty possessions, then it’s pointless.”

Kent State made 20 turnovers of its own. (A “horribly sloppy game,” Starkey said.)

Golden, KSU’s only senior starter, picked up two first-quarter fouls and played just six minutes in the first half. But she scored 11 with three three-pointers in the second half, her most points in a game this season.

“I let the team down in the first half,” she said in a postgame radio interview. “In the second half, I did what I could to help us win.”

“We got better ball movement.” Starkey said, “and Lex did a good job of finding space and knocking down good shots.”

“Lex is our heart and soul,” said assistant coach Mike McKee, who did the postgame interview on Golden Flash iHeart Radio while Starkey was being interviewed for ESPN3. “She brings us energy and focus and doesn’t care if she gets three threes or is scoreless.”

KSU’s rebounding, Starkey said, “was horrible.“The Norse outrebounded the Kent State 35-24.

“That’s got to get fixed,” Starkey said. “We did a lot better job of rebounding against ACC teams (in North Carolina) than we did today. That was an effort thing.”

Attendance was listed at 1,273, the biggest crowd since Starkey became coach.

“] wish we would have played better,” Starkey said, “I didn’t think we showed what we’re capable of. I hope they’ll come back and give us another chance.”

A triple header Sunday

The women should have a good crowd, at least toward the end of game, when they play Oakland Sunday in their second game of the Kent State Classic. The game starts about 1:30 p.m. Kent State’s men play Alcorn State at the M.A.C.C. a half hour after the women finish.

It’s actually a triple header. Akron’s women will play Northern Kentucky at 11, One ticket gets you in all three games.

Notes

  • Akron (2-0) beat Oakland 85-65 Saturday. Oakland, which lost all five starters from last year’s 15-16 team to graduation, is 1-3.
  • Dingle led the Flashes with 15 points, four assists and four steals. But she also had also six turnovers. Carter had 14 points, Golden 11 and freshman Lindsey Thall nine. Golden also had three assist and three steals. Thall, Dingle and Carter had four rebounds.
  • Both teams made 43 percent of their shots. Kent was eight of 23 (34.8 percent) on three-pointers. Northern Kentucky was six of 19.

Box score

To follow the Oakland game

The game is scheduled to start about 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C.C. Akron plays Northern Kentucky at 11 a.m. The KSU game will start a half hour after that game finishes.

General admission tickets are $10 at the M.A.C.C.

Audio broadcast starts 15 minutes before the game — likely sometime between 1:15 AND and 1:30 on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.

Video is through ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. It gives you access to Kent State events not on regular ESPN or other networks, including men’s and women’s basketball, football and some wrestling and gymnastics. That would include more than 85 percent of KSU men’s and women’s basketball. The service includes access to other MAC games and those of many other schools, plus some unique programming. Here’s a Kent State Q&A on ESPN+ and a link to the KSU-Oakland game. When you try to watch it, it will guide you through a purchase.

Live statistics are available through the KSU website.