I was traveling most of the day yesterday.I was able to get a quick note up from the turnpike. But when I wrote this one at 11, I saved it as a draft instead of posting it. So here it is, finally.
It was a very big win — one of the top three, maybe even the top one of Danny O’Banion’s tenure as coach.
- Just this: It was the first win of the year after several disappointing games — a big blown lead in North Dakota State, a completely blown second half against Youngstown.
- It was game against what should be a quality team. Yes, Belmont is 0-4. But three of those losses have been on the road, two to Vanderbilt and Louisville. It has five starters back. It’s picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference. And it beat Kent State by 24 points last year.
- It was a hard way to win a game. Kent State was up 10 after five minutes of the second half, then down seven with four minutes to go. But the Flashes outscored Belmont 7-0 to close out the game, capped by Montia Johnson’s put-back with five second to go.
- It was a game where Kent State did right the things it has to do right to win games. It shot 48 percent in the second half. It made five three-point shots against Belmont’s zone. Its three seniors — Johnson (11 points, seven rebounds), Cici Shannon (17 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) and Mikell Chinn (10 assists) led the way.
- It was a game where they found a scorer — Larissa Lurken, who had a career-best 20 points. She hit four of five three pointers in the second half. Just as important, she hit four two-pointers in the first half when the Flashes were struggling to score.
- It was a game where Kent State actually had fewer turnovers (12) than Belmont (18).
Some highlights from the team’s post-game press conference:
- O’Banion: “Our players are capable of this kind of production on a consistent basis, and they proved to themselves that they’re tough enough” to do that.”
- Lurken: “At first of game, I wasn’t that hot, but I knew had to keep shooting. One first one went in, I got into a kind of rhythmn. I’ve been working on those shots for a long time now.”
- O’Banion: “I think there’s a difference between a shooter and an assassin, and larissa developing into an assassin. Last year she was a shooter. This year, I look at her, and she wants her number called. That’s an assassin. Larissa’s mindset is completely different. She knows she’s on evey team’s scouting report. She gets extra reps up in the gym and she wants the ball.”
It was the first time O’Banion and her players talked in public about her diagnosis last week of lymphoma. She had her first chemotherapy Monday.
Lurken said simply, “We’re playing this season for her.”
O’Banion said at this point, she “feels great.”
“I hope I’m doing everything our team needs me to do,” she said. “My goal is to never let them down. My goal to manage (herself) and be smart. I’m going to be on the sidelines as often as possible. I’ll probably show up some days when someone advises me not to. But I won’t put our team at risk. I’ll always be at 100 percent or (assistant coach Geoff Lanier) coach Geoff be on there.”
“This is part of life. I’m grateful God chose me to tell the story about it.”