The Big Ten comes to town

The Flashes Tuesday host Minnesota, only the fifth Big Ten team ever to play in Kent and the first since 2003.

It will be a tough task. The Gophers are 2-0 and have outscored two mid-major opponents by an average of 35.5 points a game. They were 23-10 and sixth in the Big Ten last season.

They bring a preseason all-American in guard Rachel Banham, who is 44 points away from becoming Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer. She is Division I’s leading active scorer with 2,231 points and was on ESPN’s second-team preseason all-American team. She was the Big Ten’s preseason player of the year by both league coaches and media.

Banham has amazing shooting statistics. She has a career .857 free-throw percentage, best in Minnesota history. Her career three-point perentage is .396, second in school history. She has scored 19.5 points per game in her five years at Minnesota (she was injured in her 10th game last season and got a medical redshirt).

In her first two games this season, she has scored 52 points. She had 30 against Maine, including six three-pointers and 10 of 15 field goals.

Minnesota had a school-record 16 three-pointers against Wofford and 13 against Maine. That 14.5 average is first in the nation.

The Gophers’ point guard, Shayne Mullaney, is fourth in school history in assists. 6-3 center Jessie Edwards had a 15 points and 16 rebounds against Maine, and 5-9 guard Mikayla Bailey had 26 points and 13 rebounds against Wofford.

Kent State, which is 1-2, held Colgate and Wright State to just over 20 percent three-point shooting but gave up 12 of 24 when it lost 86-68 at IPFW Thursday.

Redshirt freshman Tyra James leads Kent State in scoring at 15 per game. Junior guard Larissa Lurken averages 14, sophomore forward Jordan Korinek 12.3 and sophomore point guard Naddiyah Cross averages 10.3. It’s just three games, but it has been many, many years since KSU had four players average in double figures. Lurken is the only player to average above 10 in the last four years (11.1 last season).

KSU coach Danny O’Banion was an assistant at Minnesota from 2002-2007,

The Flashes will make a return visit to Minnesota next season during Lurken’s senior year. She is from outside Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The last time Kent State played a Big Ten team at home was Dec. 6, 2003, when the Flashes lost to Michigan State, 55-48. They beat Indiana here in 2001 and lost to Purdue in 1989.

In 1980 — the sixth year of the women’s program here, Kent State beat Purdue and lost to Ohio State in Kent. In 1981, the Flashes beat Michigan State.

Last season KSU lost to the Big Ten’s Northwestern in Evanston.

It lost to Minnesota 70-67 at a neutral site in 2006.

It’s hard for a mid-major to get a “name” school like Minnesota to come to its home court. I spent some time in the KSU record book to see when that’s happened. I included regional teams like Xavier, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. (We also could debate whether Temple, Wichita State, Rice, TCU, Old Dominion and DePaul are truly name schools.) Here’s what I found (I don’t guarantee I got everyone):

2012: Cincinnati.
2011: Temple (won 71-62).
2009: Rhode Island (won 64-46), Wichita State.
2008: New Mexico State (won 84-82).
2006: Washington (won 81-78).
2005: Auburn (won 68-64 in overtime).
2003: Rice (won 61-55) , Rhode Island (won 69-64), Michigan State.
2002: Arizona State.
2001: Indiana (won 77-66).
2000: Pittsburgh, Boston College (won 72-68).
1999: Kansas State (won, 63-55). No. 23 Virginia (won 85-74 — January 200 game)
1995: Nebraska
1993: Arkansas (won 86-81).
1992: Pittsburgh, TCU (won 106-90).
1989: Purdue.
1988: West Virginia, Old Dominion.
1987: Pittsburgh.
1986: DePaul, Cincinnati.
1985: Pittsburgh.
1984: West Virginia, Xavier (won 62-58).
1982: West Virginia, Pittsburgh.
1981: Michigan State (won 74-69), Cincinnati.
March 1981 (previous season): Ohio State.

The Minnesota game is the first of a double header with the men’s team, which plays St. Francis (Pa.) at about 8 p.m.

The women’s game starts at 6:30, with audio on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio  at 6:15. Video and live statistics can be seen at the KSU website.

(This post is corrected to include the 2003 Michigan State game and the 2006 Minnesota game.)

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