Kent State’s first home opponent, Youngstown State, won its Saturday opener against Niagara at home, 83-61.
The Penguins return three starters but only five players from last year’s team, which was 15-16 and finished third in the Horizon League at 10-6. The team has seven freshmen and a newly eligible transfer.
They’re led by 6-foot senior forward Heidi Schlegel, an all-Horizon player last year. She averaged 20 points and 8.0 rebounds last year, scoring more than 20 points 19 times and having 10 double-doubles. She had had 18 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in the YSU victory over Niagara Saturday.
The other big news out of the opener came from YSU freshman guard Nikki Arbanas, who scored 25 points and made all five of her three-point shots.
Youngstown sophomore guard Jenna Hirschm, who scored 11 points against Niagara, made the Horizon all-freshman team last year, averaging 7.3 points per game. She hit 37 three-point shots, second most by a freshman in YSU history. She hit three of her eight three-pointers Saturday.
All five of YSU’s starters scored in double figures against Niagara, but only two reserves played more than six minutes.
The Penguins forced only about 13 turnovers a game last year (18 against Niagara). That’s good news for Kent State, which lost its opener because of 27 turnovers.
Senior forward Latisha Walker, a transfer from Xavier, is YSU’s tallest starter at 6-2. She averaged six rebounds a game last year had had two agains. Niagara. Nobody but Schlegel had more than three rebounds.
6-foot-4 Kent center Cici Shannon, who had 17 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in the team’s opening loss to North Dakota State, could give YSU problems on defense. But a player like Schlegel could give Shannon foul problems. Shannon had four fouls in the opener and played only 20 minutes. She averaged more than three fouls a game last year.
Kent forwards Montia Johnson and Jordan Korinek could match up well with YSU’s other post players. Kent’s more experienced guards will have to control Youngstown’s three-point shooters.
Kent State beat Niagara at home last year by about the same margin YSU beat it this year.
The teams look pretty evenly matched. The home court could make a difference for the Flashes.
The game is the first of a double header. The men plan Division 3 Malone in their home opener at about 8. KSU website men’s preview is here.
One ticket gets you in both games.
KSU women’s website preview is here.