The Flashes lost to Minnesota 85-73 but defied all sorts of odds in an exciting and ultimately positive game.
Let’s play percentages (all are my opinion):
Chance Kent State would beat the Gophers, one of the better teams in the Big Ten: less than 5 percent.
Chance Minnesota, which won its first two games by an average of 35.5 points, would go ahead by 17 points in the first quarter: 55 percent.
Chance Kent State would then come back within a point at halftime: less than 2 percent.
Chance Kent State would then take an eight-point lead late in the third quarter: less than 5 percent.
Chance Minnesota’s preseason all-American, Rachel Banham, would have a great fourth quarter and make the difference: 60 percent.
Chance Kent State would shoot 3 for 27 on three-pointers: less than 10 percent.
Chance Kent State would force 20 turnovers against a Big Ten team with three experienced guards (while committing just 14): less than 15 percent.
All that happened — except, sadly, the victory — in what was, at times, one of the best games Kent State has played in years.
Minnesota, which was leading the nation in three-pointers per game, made six of eight in the first quarter as it took a 29-16 lead. The Gophers out rebounded Kent State 15-6. It looked like a rout.
Then the Flashes outplayed Minnesota just as badly in the second quarter. They held Minnesota to just six baskets and one three-pointer. They outrebounded the Gophers 13-6. They had eight second-chance points (Minnesota had two.) They forced seven turnovers and had four steals.
Kent outscored Minnesota 25-13 in the quarter, and the halftime score was 42-41.
“We showed great resolve when it was tough in the first half,” coach Danny O’Banion said in her postgame radio interview. “They figured out how to do what we knew we needed to do on defense.”
The Flashes took the lead on the first possession of the second half and led 56-48 with 1:46 to go in the period. They continued to play great defense — Minnesota made just 3 of 11 shots in the first eight minutes and had four more turnovers. At that point Kent State had allowed the Gophers just three foul shots for the entire game.
And then Minnesota ran off six straight points to finish the quarter and the first four points of the fourth quarter.
It was tied 70-70 with four minutes to go. Minnesota led 76-72 with 1:49 left.
But as Kent State had to foul to get the ball back, Banham made nine free throws.
Banham, a fifth-year senior who is the leading active career scorer in Division I, had 17 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter. She also had four rebounds, two assists, a steal and a blocked shot in the quarter. She is now 31 points away from becoming Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer.
- Kent State is 1-3. Minnesota is 3-0.
- Kent State made just 3 of 27 three-point shots (0 of 9 in the fourth quarter.) It had been shooting about 34 percent and shot about 31 percent last season. 27 is also far more three-pointers than Kent usually takes.
- Junior Larissa Lurken, KSU’s best shooter, was 1 of 10 on three-pointers. Redshirt freshman Tyra James, who had been Kent’s leading scorer, was 0 for 6. Point guard Naddiyah Cross was 2 for 7. “There were a lot of good looks that rimmed out,” O’Banion said. Lurken did seem to be forced to shoot from longer range than usual.
- Kent State has had a turnover margin of at least minus-five for the last four seasons. So far this season, it’s better than plus-two per game. It’s been more than plus-five in three of its four games. The Flashes had 12 steals; they were second in the MAC going into the game.
- Freshman Alexa Golden had four steals, seven rebounds and seven points in 23 minutes. She leads the team in steals with 11 through four games, playing less than 20 minutes a game. “Alexa did what she came here to do — play great defense,” O’Banion said.
- Sophomore forward Jordan Korinek had a career-high 22 points on 7 of 13 field goals and 8 of 9 foul shots. Lurken and Cross each had 13 points and junior college transfer Chelsi Watson 10. Those four also all scored in double figures against IPFW last week.
- James had a rough second game in a row. She was 3 of 14 for six points. She did have six rebounds and two steals.
- Kent State made 18 of 21 free throws.
- The Flashes had 15 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points. Korinek and Watson each had four offense rebounds and seven overall.
- Freshman Megan Carter, one of Kent State’s top recruits, didn’t play. She was injured in the first half of the IPFW games, and it’s still unclear how serious it is. It didn’t sound good after last week’s game.
- Freshman Taylor Parker, who had been the No. 3 point guard (behind Cross and Carter), didn’t play. It wasn’t clear why. Walk-on freshman Paige Salisbury played point when Cross wasn’t in. She had an assist, a steal, a rebound and no turnovers in 13 minutes.
- Sophomore forward McKenna Stephens, who’s still recovering from knee problems, didn’t play.
The Flashes host Division II Malone at 2 p.m. Saturday and play home games next Wednesday against Cleveland State and next Saturday against North Dakota State.
Link to video highlights, including O’Banion comments, along with the KSU website story on the game.