A last look back at 2017-18: Numbers and games that made the difference

This is the second and final part of our wrap-up of Kent State’s 2017-18 season.

Five key numbers

12.5 POINTS

That’s how many fewer per game Kent State scored in MAC games this season compared to last. KSU averaged 62.8 points, 11th in the 12-team MAC. In the end, you don’t win if you don’t score. Most of the loss, of course, was because of the graduation of Larissa Lurken, who led the conference in scoring in 2016-17.

37.6 PERCENT

Kent State’s field goal percentage. This is, obviously, one of the biggest reasons the Flashes didn’t score. It was second lowest in the MAC and 4 percentage points below the previous season, which was just fifth in the conference. Three-point percentage was even worse: 25.2. That’s two-and-a-half points below any other team in the league, and 12 points lower than Central Michigan, which led the MAC. KSU made 4.2 three-point shots per game, last in the league.

MINUS 3.61

Kent State’s turnover margin, tied with Bowling Green for worst in the league. KSU has been at or near the bottom of the league in turnovers and turnover margin for six years, going back to Bob Lindsay’s last season as coach. Even last year’s championship team was 10th in turnovers committed and seventh in margin.

(I used conference-only statistics for the first three categories because I think it’s the best comparison between the this season and last. KSU won eight of its last nine games on its way to a MAC East title in 2016-17. This year’s team lost eight of its last 10.)

238

That’s the average RPI of the seven teams Kent State beat in non-conference play. Compare that to the average RPI of KSU’s Mid-American opponents — 115. That may tell you why KSU’s 7-5 non-conference record was so much better than its 5-13 conference record. The Flashes had a strange non-conference of really good teams and pretty weak teams, with not much in the middle.

The highest RPI of a non-conference team the Flashes beat was Robert Morris’s 124. The only others better than 250 were Youngstown State (154) and Memphis (197). The average RPI of KSU’s five non-conference losses was 44, topped by No. 13 Stanford. The Flashes’ RPI, by the way, was 152 (of 349 teams).

634

The number of points Jordan Korinek scored this season, third most in Kent State history. I remember Korinek’s first game — an exhibition against Ohio Christian in 2014. She scored 23 points on 10 of 11 shooting and had 10 rebounds, You could tell she was going to be something special.

She ended her career as one of Kent State’s best players ever  — 1,786 points, fifth in school history, and in the school’s career top 10 in eight statistical categories. Add two that academic all-American and all-MAC honors and a 4.0 GPA in special education. I feel lucky to have gotten to know her a little in my time writing the blog.

Five key games

KENT STATE 46, ROBERT MORRIS 31 on Dec. 19

You might call this the high point of KSU’s season. It was the last game before Christmas and conference play, and the Flashes’ defense was overwhelming. Robert Morris’s 31 points were the third lowest allowed in Kent State history. The Robert Morris game came right after KSU led Michigan at the half in another great defensive effort. It looked as if the season might be coming together.

(RMU went on to finish the season 24-8, win the Northeast Conference and be ranked at times in the Mid-Major Top 25. But the Colonials played a soft schedule; their RPI of 124 was below six MAC teams.)

NORTHERN ILLINOIS 81, KENT STATE 79 on Jan. 3

Kent State had beaten Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti in its first MAC game and led by eight points with eight minutes to go in the third quarter. But the Flashes committed seven turnovers the rest of the way. This game may have been when the season turned. A win would have made KSU 2-0 with both wins on the road and given confidence that might have carried over to the rest of the season.

BOWLING GREEN 60, KENT STATE 50 on Jan. 17

Two weeks after the Northern game, we knew how bad the season might get. Four days after scoring 84 points against eventual-league champion Central Michigan, the Flashes scored 50 at BG, which tied for last in the MAC. Ten days later KSU would lose at Akron, the other last place team

MIAMI 58, KENT STATE 35 on March 3

We thought the Flashes had hit bottom. Starkey wondered in interviews whether the team had given up on the season. 35 points were the fewest the Flashes had scored in five years. Things went so bad so quickly that the coach substituted for all five starters three-and-a-half minutes into the game. I turned off that game feeling as down as I had in the worst of the bad years.

KENT STATE 80, TOLEDO 76 on March 5

This game gave us hope for the future. Just two days after that dreadful performance in Miami, the Flashes played their best game of the season in the first round of the MAC tournament. They beat Toledo at Toledo for the second time in the season — in overtime — behind 20-point games from Jordan Korinek, Naddiyah Cross and Megan Carter. Coupled with a decent performance against Buffalo in the tournament’s second round, Kent State went into the off-season with a much better feeling than had the year ended in Miami.

Here’s link to first postseason wrap-up post.

Next time, we’ll look at returning and incoming players and the outlook for next season. 

 

 

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Why MAC teams were so badly underseeded in 2018 NCAA tournament

Central Michigan and Buffalo are the first two Mid-American Conference teams to make the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in the same year since 1996.

Both were 11 seeds.

So far, each team has beaten a No. 6 seed and a No. 3 seed.

Their average margin of victory has been 17.5 points. Closest game was nine points. Buffalo, which finished second to Central Michigan in the MAC, has won by 23 and 21.

The numbers are beyond upsets. They’re really beyond the term “Cinderella team.”

Central finished the regular season 28-4, Buffalo 27-5 (with two losses to Central). Those of us in the MAC knew how good they were.

So how did the tournament selection committee get the seedings so wrong?

Two thoughts:

HISTORY: The conference has no record of success in the NCAA tournament. Before this season, it was 8-43. Only Bowling Green in 2007 had ever made it to the Sweet 16. Other MAC teams have had records as good as this year’s top teams — Ohio 27-5 in 2014-15, Bowling Green 30-5 in 2013-14 and 31-4 in 2006-07. But none have made any noise in the tournament.

QUALITY WINS: The RPI got it right this season on the MAC. Before tournament selections were announced, Central’s was 15th in the RPI, Buffalo 22nd. By themselves, those numbers should have meant substantially higher seeds.

But the RPI is somewhat out of favor these days. It is based 25 percent on a team’s record, 25 percent on its opponents’ record and 50 percent on its opponents’ opponents’ record. Road wins get a significant bonus; home losses are penalized.

So RPI rewards a tough schedule. But it doesn’t emphasize how well a team actually did against difficult competition.

And here’s where the MAC fell down. In the regular season, no Mid-American team beat an outside school with an RPI in the top 25.  Buffalo’s best win was over No. 64 Nebraska, Central’s against No. 109 Iowa State. The conference best was Toledo’s win over No. 31 Dayton.

Even Buffalo and Central Michigan’s losses weren’t to schools in the top 10. Other MAC schools played tougher teams — Toledo vs. Louisville, Ohio vs. Virginia, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois vs. Iowa, Kent State vs. Stanford. But they all lost. (Here are the conference RPIs from WarrenNolan.com, the site I use before it breaks things down by conference and team.

Buffalo and Central Michigan have more than made up for that in the tournament. Buffalo has beaten No. 19 South Florida 102-79 and No. 9 Florida 86-65. Central Michigan beat No. 28 LSU 78-69 and No. 7 Ohio State 95-78. (All rankings are RPI.)

***

At one point, I was going to write that the MAC didn’t get good seeding for lack for respect. But respect is earned. And the MAC record — before this March — hadn’t done a lot to earn it.

After Buffalo and Central Michigan’s run, next year may be different.

But it’s always been hard for MAC schools to schedule Power Five teams; the prestige schools have much more to lose than win in playing them. Getting a big school to travel to a MAC school is very difficult.

After this year’s NCAA tournament, it may be even more so.

 

 

 

An even greater day for MAC women’s basketball: Buffalo and CMU make Sweet 16

If, as we wrote over the weekend, Saturday was the best day in MAC women’s basketball history, what do we call today?

Perhaps 10 times as good.

Both Buffalo and Central Michigan pounded — just absolutely routed — No. 3 seeds and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Only one other MAC (Ball State in 2007) in history had ever made the Sweet 16.

How many times has any mid-major conference — men’s or women’s — placed two teams in the Sweet 16? (Never in the women’s tournament, according to ESPN, which didn’t mention the men).

And this is especially unusual in the women’s tournament, which has tended to have far fewer upsets.

Central beat Ohio State 95-78 in Columbus, though at St. John’s Arena, not Ohio State’s home court. That’s 17 points over the team ranked 10th in the country in the last AP Poll.  CMU only beat Kent State by four. Central won only one MAC game by more than 17 points.

Buffalo (29-4) beat No. 11 Florida State on FSU’s home floor by even more, 86-65. The Bulls shot near 50 percent from the field for the second tournament game in a row and held Florida State to 33 percent. Buffalo had led the MAC in field goal defense in the regular season. Cierra Dillard had 22 points after scoring 36 in Buffalo’s 102-79 victory over No. 19 South Florida in the first round.

FSU ends its season at 26-7.

Central Michigan (30-4) made a season-high 14 three-point baskets. Point guard Presley Hudson had five of them and 28 total points. That’s the same number as Ohio State all-American Kelsey Mitchell, who ended her career as the second-leading scorer in NCAA history. Her Buckeyes end the season at 28-7.

The four victories Central and Buffalo have achieved are half as many as the entire MAC had won in history before this tournament. Counting their wins, the conference is now 12-43.

Next?

For Buffalo, it’s defending national champion South Carolina. After that, it would be No. 1 Connecticut, assuming the Huskies beat 10th-seeded Virginia.

Central plays No. 6 Oregon. Then it would be first-seed and No. 5 Notre Dame, if Notre Dame beats fourth-seeded Texas A&M.

Both games are Saturday and on ESPN3.

Buffalo game story

Central Michigan game story

NCAA women’s bracket, with scores of all games.

 

 

The MAC’S biggest day ever? CMU and Buffalo win in the NCAA tourney

Today was the best day in MAC women’s basketball history.

Buffalo and Central Michigan both won first-round games over higher-seeded opponents. Both were clearly the better team on the court.

Buffalo was absolutely dominating. The Bulls beat South Florida, 102-79.  A hundred points. A 23-point margin. This from a team that was the MAC runner-up and got into the tournament with the league’s first at-large bid in 22 years.

Central Michigan beat LSU, 78-69. The Chippewas never trailed by more than two and led by at least seven throughout the fourth quarter.

Both Buffalo and CMU were No. 11 seeds. That means the selection committee thought 10 teams in their brackets were better. South Florida and LSU were six seeds. The only higher seed to win in the first round was No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast, which beat Missouri, 80-70.

The wins were the first ever in the NCAA tournament for Central and Buffalo.

Central Michigan (29-3) will play No. 3 seed Ohio State (28-6) in Columbus on Monday, and Buffalo (28-4) will play third-seeded Florida State (26-6). Buffalo’s game will be at Florida State. Ohio State’s will be St. John Arena, not on campus, because the Ohio high school state tournament is being held there. (To keep attendance up, the NCAA schedules first-round women’s games on the home court of the highest-seeded team in the four-team grouping. In the men’s tournament, all games are at neutral sites.)

Has the MAC ever had a better day?
Before today, the overall MAC record in the NCAA tournament was 8-43, best I can tell. (The conference record book lists all the games but didn’t total the record. I had to figure it.)

Toledo and Kent State won first-round games in 1996, Toledo by 12 over Mississippi and KSU by four over Texas A&M. Both MAC schools were 10 seeds. Kent State got in the tournament as an at-large team, the last MAC school to do so before Buffalo.

Bowling Green is the only MAC team to win a second-round game. In 2007, they were a 7 seed and beat No. 10 seed Oklahoma State 70-66, then No. 2 seed Vanderbilt 59-56. They lost in the Sweet 16 to Arizona, 67-49.

Ball State beat Tennessee as a 12 seed in 2009. Otherwise, today’s two 11 seed wins were the lowest seeded teams to win. Toledo was also an 11 seed when it beat Rutgers in 1991.

Stories on the two MAC games Saturday:
NCAA women’s bracket, which includes scores from all games.

 

Flashes knew they’d miss Lurken this season: six wins worth, it turned out

A year ago, Kent State’s magical season season ended with a good loss at Michigan in the WNIT.

The Flashes had won 13 more games than the previous year, jumped more RPI spots than any team in the country and won the MAC East for the first time in 12 years.

We knew the encore would be hard. 

I’m not sure we thought it would be this hard. 

Kent State finished this season with a 13-19 record — the reverse of last year’s 19-13. Picked second in the MAC East, the Flashes finished a distant fourth. Overall, they were 10th in the MAC.

This post will start to wrap up the 2017-18 season. We’ll look at players today; next we’ll look at numbers and games that made a difference.

Later we’ll look ahead to next season, check how the recruiting class did in their senior year in high school, and maybe get a year-end interview with coach Todd Starkey.

When Starkey became head coach in April 2016, he inherited a 6-23 team that had been mired in the depths of the MAC for five years. We’d have been happy with a .500 season. Heck, we’d have been delighted with 10 wins.

Instead we got a miracle season. Everything fell into place. Starkey instilled a new attitude and new offensive and defensive systems. Larissa Lurken went from the second-best player on Kent State’s team to the best player in the MAC. Jordan Korinek, McKenna Stephens and Megan Carter made major jumps as offensive players in the MAC season. (Despite Lurken’s 23 points a game, Kent State was a .500 team before those three came into their own.)

This season almost nothing fell into place. Every starter but Lurken returned, but all of them averaged within two points of what they did the previous season.

That’s not saying that group had bad years.

Korinek was all-MAC and academic all-American. She scored the third most points in a season in Kent State history. Every opponent built its game plan around stopping her. Not many did. She scored more than 30 points three times, more than 20 points 16 times, more than 15 points 24 times.

Who knows how many games Kent State would have won had Stephens not come back for a final year of eligibility? She got her undergrad degree in May but decided last summer to return as a grad student for her last year of eligibility. She led Kent State in rebounding in 11 games and averaged the same solid 10 points a game she did in the Flashes’ championship run.

Carter missed the first semester because of one of the strangest academic ineligibilities in  in college basketball; her pre-med major was too much, and tough lab classed killed her GPA. She became KSU’s second-leading scorer when she returned. While she was sidelined in fall, Starkey said he thought she could make a big difference in Kent State’s offense when she returned. That never happened; we probably expected too much for a sophomore. Carter’s scoring kept Kent State in some games, but in others she’d struggle terribly (two for 20 in Kent’s first game against Akron, for example). Carter averaged 10.2 points a game. How many points did Lurken average when she was a sophomore? 11.1.

Alexa Golden played her usual great defense and became an intense rebounder from her guard position. But Starkey said she played most of the season on legs that sometimes hurt so much that she didn’t practice. At the end of last season and in the non-conference season, Golden showed potential as a scorer, especially as a distance shooter. But she only scored more than eight points four times in 18 conference games. She scored fewer than five points 11 times.

Sophomore Ali Poole took Lurken’s spot in the starting lineup. Her defense was greatly improved and her scoring was up to 7.1 points a game — far from Lurken numbers (but, to be honest, not far from Lurken’s sophomore numbers).

Naddiyah Cross was an unsung starter — 91 of 123 games in her four years. She averaged four points a game for her career (5.1 this season). But the Flashes won three games this season because she did score — 19 points in an overtime win at Eastern Kentucky, 24 points in a seven-point win over Eastern Michigan, 20 points in KSU’s overtime upset of Toledo in the MAC Tournament. But the game I’ll remember is her brilliant defensive performance at Michigan, when she played the chaser in a box-and-one defense and held all-American guard Katelynn Flaherty to four points, second lowest in Flaherty’s career.

Tyra James returned after missing all last season with a knee injury, but her numbers weren’t anywhere near the 10 points a game she averaged two years ago. Her minutes were limited until the last six games of the season. I thought she made a difference once she played; I wish we had seen more of her earlier. That also would have eased the load in the rest of the guards, who played a lot of minutes and may have worn down.

A year ago, Starkey credited junior Merissa Barber-Smith with making the difference in the Flashes’ winning three games. KSU was counting on Barber-Smith, the tallest player on the team at 6-4, as its key post reserve. Instead, Barber-Smith went out with a medical issue on January. Senior Zenobia Smith stepped in, but she’s four inches shorter and couldn’t take over the backboards and block shots the way Barber-Smith could.

 

 

Kent State’s freshman class was recruited in the three months after Starkey arrived. By that time, most of the best high school seniors had been committed to other colleges for months. Starkey put together what looked like a solid class, but none of them really had an impact on this season. Erin Thames, who had the least impressive high school statistics of the group, actually played the most minutes as a serviceable back-up point guard. Monique Smith, who had the most impressive high school record of the group, showed some potential, leading the team with six rebounds at Miami.

Kent State won the MAC East last season because Lurken averaged 10 points a game more than she did as a junior in a classic breakout season.

To do as well this year, the Flashes needed a breakout season from someone else.

They didn’t get it.

 

 

2 MAC teams in NCAA, 3 in WNIT

MAC champion Central Michigan and runner-up Buffalo are both 11th seeds in the NCAA tournament.

Central (28-4) will play No. 24 LSU (19-9) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ohio State’s Value City Arena. Sixth-seeded LSU finished fourth in the SEC and has an RPI of 29 (out of 349 Division I teams). Central’s RPI is 15. RPI is a rating system that takes into account a team’s record and strength of schedule.

Buffalo (27-5) will play sixth-seeded South Florida (26-7 and ranked 19th in the latest AP poll) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Florida State in Tallahassee. South Florida finished second to No. 1 Connecticut in the American Athletic Conference. Its RPI is 14; Buffalo’s is 22.

Central made the NCAA by winning the MAC Tournament with a 96-91 victory over Buffalo in Saturday’s finals. Buffalo received an at-large bid; this is the first time the MAC has had two teams in the NCAA tournament since Kent State and Toledo made it in 1996. (That was the year KSU beat Texas A&M for its only NCAA tournament victory.)

WNIT

Three MAC teams made the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Ball State (24-6), playing in its sixth straight WNIT, hosts Middle Tennessee (18-12) Thursday. Middle Tennessee tied for third in Conference USA and has an RPI of 112. Ball State finished third in the MAC and has an RPI of 44.

Toledo (17-14) will play at Wright State (23-10) Friday. Wright State finished third in the Horizon League and has an RPI of 84. Toledo’s RPI is 85. Kent State knocked Toledo out of the MAC Tournament with an 80-76 overtime win at Toledo.

Miami (21-10) will host Duquesne (23-7) Thursday. The Redhawks finished fourth in the MAC this season. Under new coach Megan Duffy, Miami had 11 more wins than it did in 2016-17, the second best improvement in Division I. Duquesne finished second in the Atlantic 10 Conference and has an RPI of 74. Miami’s RPI is 78.

 

One more honor for Korinek: She’s KSU’s 3rd first-team Academic All-American

The capstone for Jordan Korinek’s basketball career came Monday.

She was named a first-team Academic All-American, the third in Kent State history.

The award wonderfully illustrates the contribution the senior from Cuyahoga Falls made to Kent State University.

  • She was a great athlete — fifth-leading scorer in KSU history (and a lot more we’ll talk about later).
  • She is a great student — a perfect 4.0 average in special education.
  • She is a great person, from everything I’ve heard about her and from my interaction with her in writing this blog for four years.

All the details are below, but first, let’s look as this Twitter thread from last week’s MAC Tournament

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Korinek joins Kate Miller, a 2002 graduate, and Lindsay Shearer, a 2006 grad, as the only Flashes to receive academic first-team honors. Shearer is 13 points ahead of Korinek in all-time scoring at 1,799. Miller played just her senior season for the Flashes after transferring from American University.

Korinek was a second-team academic all-American last season, along with teammate Larissa Lurken, who graduated in May. Kent State was the only school last year to have two academic all-Americans.

Some highlights of Korinek’s time at Kent State:

CAREER RANKS

  • Fifth in points with 1,786 points.
  • Sixth in scoring average at 14.6.
  • Fifth in field goals with 662.
  • Fourth in field goal percentage at 50.4.
  • Fifth in free-throw percentage at 81.1.
  • Sixth in free-throws made with 445.
  • Sixth in free throws attempted at 549.
  • Sixth in rebounds at 751.

SEASON RANKS

All for this season except as noted.

  • Third in total points at 634.
  • Seventh in scoring average at 19.8.
  • Second in free throws made at 197, which was fifth in Division I this season.
  • Fourth in free throws attempted at 234. 10th in Division I.
  • Sixth in field goals at 208.
  • Sixth in field goal percentage at 54.3 (in 2107-17).

HONORS

  • Second leading scorer, MAC East championship team, 2016-17.
  • All-MAC first team 2018, second team 2017, honorable mention 2016. (Preseason all-MAC East 2016-17 and 2017-18)
  • First-team Academic All-American 2018, second team 2017. Academic all-district 2016, 2017, 2018.

She started 113 of her 122 games at Kent State.

Korinek was a first-team all-state player at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron.  Her parents, Stanton and Erin, rarely missed a game. Her older sister, Morgan, played basketball at Kenyon College and is an assistant coach there. Her younger sister, Sydney, is a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary, where she is a key reserve on the basketball team. Korinek’s older brother, Kori, was a baseball player at Buffalo.

Two other MAC players made the first academic all-American team: guard Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriot of Toledo and guard Carmen Grande of Ball State.

The all-academic teams is chosen by college sports information directors. To be eligible, players need a 3.3 GPA and be starters or key reserves.

Biography information at KSU women’s basketball website.

 

Buffalo’s 41 points off KSU turnovers end Flashes’ season in MAC quarterfinals, 72-50

Senior Jordan Korinek and coach Todd Starkey after she came out for the final time in a four-year career where she scored 1,786 points. (Photo by Henry Palattella the Kent Stater student newspaper and its sister website, KentWired.com.)

After 22 minutes, Kent State was at its high-water mark in its three games against MAC East champion Buffalo.

The Flashes had scored the first points of the second half and pulled within 32-31 of the Bulls, a team that had beaten KSU by an average of 34 points in two earlier meetings.

And the Buffalo’s defense took over.

Over the next eight minutes, the Bulls stole the ball 10 times and outscored KSU 24-2, then went on to a 72-50 victory in the MAC tournament semifinals.

Buffalo, the tournament’s second seed now with a 26-4 record, advanced to Friday’s semifinals to play sixth-seed Western Michigan, which upset No. 3 Ball State, 65-54.

The loss ends Kent State’s season with a 13-19 record.

“Defensively, they’re like sharks on blood,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame press conference. “They kind of sense that they have you and then they just swarm you.  They’re phenomenal at getting deflections to steals to points. They’re probably the best team in the MAC at turning your mistakes into immediate points.”

Buffalo scored a phenomenal (one of Starkey’s favorite words) 41 points off of 26 Kent State turnovers. The Bulls had 20 steals and committed just 13 turnovers themselves. Five of those came when reserves were playing in the fourth quarter.

In Buffalo’s earlier 80-42 and 81-51 victories over Kent State, the Bulls scored a total of 38 points off turnovers.

“There are certain teams that are just matchup nightmares for you, and Buffalo certainly was that for us this year,” Starkey said. “The way Buffalo really takes you out of your stuff. Our personnel makes it difficult.

“We played them closer than we did the first two games, but at the same time they’re just a better basketball team than we are.”

Jordan Korinek and McKenna Stephens, playing their last game in Kent State uniforms, each had 16 points. Stephens added 10 rebounds for a double-double. Korinek ends her four-year career with 1,786 points, fifth in school history.

Kent State started the game playing as well as it did when it upset Toledo 80-76 in overtime Monday. The Flashes led 16-14 after a quarter, shooting 50 percent from the field. Stephens had seven points and six rebounds.

But the Flashes made just 29 percent of their shots for the rest of the game against the Bulls, who lead the conference in field-goal defense.

“I thought we played our hearts out in the first half, but we couldn’t make some shots,” Starkey said.

Kent State outrebounded Buffalo, the MAC’s leading team, 11 to 4 in the quarter and 19-13 in the first half. For the game, Buffalo outrebounded the Flashes, 41-36.

In the first half, Stephens said, “We just weren’t playing scared. We were playing fast and aggressive, just like they were. We were scoring off of it, getting a offensive rebounds and putbacks.”

As Kent State pulled its four seniors — Korinek, Stephens, Naddiyah Cross and ZenobiaBess — in the last minute, Starkey gave each a long hug as they reached the bench.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Starkey, who guided the team to a MAC East title in his first season last year. “When I got here, I just asked them to trust me, that we would try to get things turned around.

“I asked them to change their mindset, to change to the expectation to winning rather than hoping to be in the game. They embraced that.”

Megan Carter is OK

Starkey said guard Megan Carter should be all right after a frightening moment in the third quarter. Carter fell to the floor after a collision guarding a Buffalo player’s drive in the third quarter. She lay on her back for more than 10 minutes and was taken from the court on a gurney as a precaution for a possible head or spinal injury.

Carter’s injury came in the middle of Buffalos big third-quarter run. Both teams had to regroup while medical personnel treated her, with Starkey standing next to them.

“I think it’s kind of hard to be focused on what’s going on on the court and the game plan with tears in your eyes,” Starkey said. “So we’re looking at some of the players, saying, ‘Are you going to be okay? Are you going to make it?'”

Korinek and Stephens said that as seniors, they tried to steady their teammates.

“We have to try and keep the rest of the team focused and try to come out strong after a five-minute break of worrying about our teammate,” Stephens said. “We just tried to gather everybody together and push through it without Megan.”

On the Buffalo side, junior guard Cierra Dillard said, “You say a quick prayer and got back into the game.”

From Buffalo’s Stephanie Reid: “We obviously feel really bad for her, but it’s something that happens in the game. We had to keep the momentum that we had, and I think we did a good job of coming back on the court and not letting it affect us.  We pray for her recovery.”

Buffalo came out of the play stoppage for Carter’s injury with a press and scored the next 13 points.

Box score

Buffalo ends Kent State’s season with 72-50 win in MAC quarterfinals

Buffalo outscored Kent State 24-2 over an eight-minute span in the third quarter and beat the Flashes Wednesday in the MAC quarterfinals.

The 72-50 defeat ends Kent State’s season with a 13-19 record. Buffalo, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, advances to Friday’s semifinals with a 26-4 record. The Bulls will play Ball State or Western Michigan, which were playing the final game at Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday night.

The Flashes played better than they had in two regular-season blowout losses to Buffalo. They were within five points at halftime and scored the first four points of the second half to make it a 32-31 game.

That’s when Buffalo’s defense took over. The Bulls forced 10 turnovers for the rest of the quarter and scored 15 of their 24 points off of them.

Steals and scoring off turnovers have been Buffalo’s strength and Kent State’s weakness all season. KSU coach Todd Starkey called the Bulls “a very hard matchup” for Kent State.

For the game, Buffalo scored an incredible 41 points off of Kent State turnovers. (I’m never seen a number that high.) They stole the ball 20 times, with only three coming in the fourth quarter when reserves were playing.

The Bulls themselves committed 13 turnovers (five in the fourth quarter). Kent State scored seven points off of them, and only two in the first three quarters.

Jordan Korinek and McKenna Stephens, playing their last game in Kent State uniforms, each had 16 points. Stephens had a double-double with 10 rebounds. Korinek finishes her career with 1,786 points, fifth highest in Kent State history.

Stephanie Reid, Buffalo’s senior point guard, played a near-perfect game to lead the Bulls. She had 22 points of 10 of 15 shooting, 11 assists five steals and no turnovers in 33 minutes.

Starkey said Kent State guard Megan Carter should be all right after a frightening moment in the third quarter. Carter fell to the floor after a collision guarding a Buffalo player’s drive in the third quarter. She lay on her back for more than 10 minutes and was taken from the court on a stretcher as a precaution for a possible head injury.

Box score

DETAILED STORY WILL FOLLOW, WITH QUOTES FROM STARKEY, KORINEK AND STEPHENS

Think winning at Toledo was hard? Next is 25-4 Buffalo in MAC quarterfinals

KSU in Cleveland

The KSU team at midcourt at practice at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday. (Photo from Flashes’ Twitter feed.)

In his radio interview before Kent State’s surprise win in the MAC Tournament at Toledo on Monday, coach Todd Starkey ticked off things that had to happen for the Flashes to win:

  • Keep turnovers down.
  • Have two players in double figures besides leading scorer Jordan Korinek.
  • Follow the game plan on defense.
  • Shoot well.

Perhaps for the first time this season, the Flashes executed it all very well in their 80-76 overtime victory.

Now they have to do it again — against an even better team.

The Flashes play No. 2 seed Buffalo in the tournament quarterfinal at Quicken Loans Arena at about 5 p.m. Wednesday. Buffalo is 25-4 on the season, the best record in school history. They’re 20th in the latest RPI ratings, the highest a MAC team has ever been ranked this late in the season. They were 16-2 in the conference and beat Kent State twice by at least 30 points.

The Kent State plan will be the same.

THE TURNOVER STORY

The Flashes gave up 28 points off 18 turnovers in their 81-51 loss to Buffalo a week ago. Meanwhile, Kent State scored just nine off of 11 Buffalo turnovers. The Flashes have been last in the conference in turnovers and turnover margin most of the season,

Against Toledo, KSU had fewer turnovers than the Rockets (15-14) and scored more points off of them (15-13).

SCORERS BESIDES KORINEK

All season long, Kent State has been looking for scoring to complement Korinek, who is second in the MAC at 19.9 points per game. In Kent’s first game with the Bulls, Korinek had 22. No one else on the team had more than five in an 80-42 loss.

Against Toledo, Korinek had 21 points (16 in the fourth quarter and in overtime). But guards Megan Carter (24 points) and Naddiyah Cross (20 points) had two of their best games of the season.

FOLLOWING THE PLAN

When the Flashes lost to Buffalo a week ago, they were outscored 26-8 in the third quarter, many of the points on steals and fast breaks. After the game, Starkey grumped that his team didn’t follow the plan to limit such “live-ball turnovers.”

In both of their wins over Toledo this season, Kent State set out to mix up its defenses. On Monday, the Flashes played their base match-up zone, a 1-3-1 zone, a 2-3 zone and a man-to-man. Starkey praised his players for talking on defense, something they slip on when they’re playing poorly.

SHOOTING

In conference games, Kent State was 11th in the league in field goal percentage at 37.6 percent. In the two Buffalo losses, Kent State shot a combined 29.9 percent, including just 21 percent in Buffalo.

In Toledo, the Flashes made a season-high 48.3 percent of their shots. Key is the guards’ shooting. Korinek is ninth in the conference in field goal percentage at 51.7 in league play. Fellow forward McKenna Stephens makes 37.6 percent, and shot much better last season. No Kent State guard is above 35 percent. KSU is shooting just 25.2 percent from three-point distance, well below any other team in the league.

To make things even harder, Buffalo leads the MAC in field goal defense at 36.6 percent.

Three Bulls were named to the all-MAC second team announced Tuesday:

  • Junior guard Cierra Dillard, a transfer from Massachusetts who leads the team in scoring (14.5 points per game) and steals (2.8). She is second in assists (5.1, which would lead most teams) and three-point percentage (32.8). Dillard may be the biggest difference between last year’s Buffalo team, which finished second to KSU in the East, and this year’s division champion.
  • Senior center Cassie Oursler, a 6-3 player who is second in the MAC in blocked shots, including a number against Korinek when the teams played before. She averages 13.7 points and 7.2 rebounds. She had 19 points and 14 rebounds in just 18 minutes against Kent State on Feb.7.
  • Senior point guard Stephanie Reid, one of the best passers and defenders in the conference. She was a member of the MAC all-defensive team, averaging 2.5 steals per game, and makes 7.1 assists per game. She averages 11.2 points and leads the team in three-point shooting at 37.5 percent.

To follow the game

Action starts at about 5 p.m., or a half hour after the Miami-Ohio game ends.  Here are directions to Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. Driving time is about an hour. There are lots of nearby parking garages and surface lots. A $10 ticket gets you into all of Wednesday’s games, which start with the Central Michigan-Eastern Michigan game at noon. All seats are general admission.

Video is on ESPN3. You can follow it online if your subscribe to ESPN on cable or by  satellite.

Audio starts at about 4:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio and WHLO.

Live statistics will be available through the MAC website.

Here’s the MAC’s Tournament Central, which includes the bracket, recaps of all games and box scores. Capsule previews of all of today’s games.

Preview from Kent State website, including links to statistics, roster, schedule/results, record book and more. Detailed game notes for the media.

Preview from the Buffalo website, including links. Detailed game notes.

MAC statistics