The women play their first road game of the season Thursday at Indiana Purdue at Fort Wayne.
The game continues coach Danny O’Banion’s strategy of mixing winnable games with games against good mid-majors. IPFW was 9-21 last season, ninth in the Summit League, and is picked ninth again this year.
The Flashes are 1-1, beating Colgate (9-22 last season) and losing to Wright State (25-9) at home this week. The only thing about the IPFW game outside the coach’s strategy is the fact that it is a road game. She scheduled only three non-conference games away from Kent to try to help a team that has 10 freshmen and sophomores, along with two junior college transfers.
IPFW is 2-0 but hasn’t played a Division I team. It beat Division III Trine University 82-62 and Grace College, an NAIA school, 91-39.
The Mastodons return two starters from last year’s team. Best is 6-1 sophomore forward Keana Gary, who averaged 8.9 points in 21 minutes a game last season.
5-7 freshman guard Josie Fisher, an all-Indiana player her senior year in high school, leads them IPFW with 41 points in two games, both off the bench. All but one of her baskets have been two-pointers. 5-4 junior college transfer has 33 points. Sophomore Keshyra McCarver, an all-Ohio player in high school who started four games last year, is the Mastodons’ leading rebounder at 7 per game.
Kent State is led by redshirt freshman Tyra James, who is averaging 18.5 points in two games. Junior Larissa Lurken is averaging 14.5 and sophomore Jordan Korinek 10. Korinek leads the team in rebounding with an 8.0 average.
Kent is averaging 72 points a game, 17 higher than last season’s team, and is giving up 72, six points higher than last year.
Though the Flashes have played well in their first two games, three question marks have appeared:
A fourth-quarter fade: The team has been outscored by a total of 34-11 in the last five minutes of their two games. Whether that’s a young team that hasn’t learned how to hold a lead or a lack of conditioning isn’t clear yet. James is averaging 35 minutes a game, Lurken and Korinek over 30. Sophomore point guard Naddiya Cross played 36 in the opener, though she got into foul trouble and played only 17 against Wright State.
Fast-break points: KSU has been outscored 46-22 on the break, according to the box scores. I’ve never seen a good definition, but two I could find online say it means scoring within eight seconds of getting the ball, or scoring while you have more players across half court than the opponents. (To make it more complicated, free throws off a fast break don’t count.) Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of fast-break points — far more than last year on both sides. Kent rarely had more than four or five in a game; opponents rarely more than 10. The Flashes are pushing the ball much harder this year, but they’re giving up a lot of points in transition.
Rebounding: Kent State has been outrebounded 104-86 in two games. The Flashes have been smaller than both teams they’ve faced, but they’ve been especially hurt at by the other teams’ shooting guards. Colgate’s Randyll Butler had 13 rebounds; Wright State’s Kim Demmings had 11. Both were senior returning starters; Demmings has been called an all-America candidate.