First, the nice things:
Jordan Korinek is becoming a major force inside for the women. She’s had 50 points in the last two games, including a career-high 28 Sunday as KSU beat Division II Malone, 73-59.
Chelsi Watson, the junior college transfer who starts at forward opposite Korinek, is bringing some unexpected scoring punch. She had a career-high 18 on 9 of 10 shooting.
Redshirt freshman Tyra James, who has struggled to score since big games in her first two starts, had eight assists in as nice a passing job as we’ve seen from a wing in a while.
Freshman walk-on Paige Salisbury, the Flashes’ fourth-string point guard 10 days ago, played 22 minutes without a turnover.
But it was not a great game by the Flashes, who committed 18 turnovers and whose up-tempo style seemed a step slow. Only 5-of-27 three-point shooting by Malone, who had been shooting 38 percent from distance, kept it from being a dangerously close game.
“We were fortunate their efficiency wasn’t what it usually is,” coach Danny O’Banion said in her postgame radio interview.
Statistically Kent State’s three-point defense has been very good for all but five quarters of the season. The Flashes held Colgate, Wright State and now Malone to barely 20 percent. After Minnesota, one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams, made six of eight shots in the first quarter, it made only 1 of 11 for the rest of the game. Only IPFW hit three-pointers consistently, making 12 of 24.
Kent State has gone to a kind of extended zone defense this season, with its edges stretching well out in the court. Freshman Alexa Golden and junior Larissa Lurken have been effective at the top of the zone.
Korinek, an all-Stater at Akron’s St. Vincent St. Mary’s High School, now leads the Flashes in scoring at 17.4 points a game. Her 28 Sunday was a career high, on top of a previous career high of 22 against Minnesota.
“She’s playing like a junior despite the fact teams are starting to focus on her,” O’Banion said. “She wants the ball.”
Korinek started 23 games as a freshman last season — “on-the-job training,” O’Banion has called it several times. She was third on the team in scoring (7.2) and rebounding (4.6). This season she also leads the team in rebounding at just over eight a game.
Neither Malone or Minnesota were tall teams, so that will be a test to come.
Watson, who is just 5-10, has the highest vertical leap on the team. She worked hard to score after inside passes, several from James.
James had 37 points in Kent’s first two games but hasn’t been in double figures since. She made up for a lot of it Sunday with her passing. She also had five rebounds and three steals.
Salisbury joined the Flashes in early summer after a career at Brunswick, where she led the team in almost every statistical category. She played extended minutes when starting point guard Naddiyah Cross got in foul trouble.
“Paige has been huge ever since she got to campus,” O’Banion said. “She’s been rock solid in every drill, in every practice.”
Kent led for 98 percent of the game, according to the official statistics, but Malone hung around for the first half. The Flashes won it with a strong third quarter, when they outscored the Pioneers, 21-14.
- Kent State had a season-high 18 assists and a season-high 48 points in the paint. The Flashes outrebounded Malone 40-27, though the Pioneers were even with Kent on the boards in the first half.
- Though the Flashes shot 48 percent from the floor, they were only 3 of 14 on three-pointers.
- Lurken didn’t score in the first half but half eight in the third quarter and 12 for the game. She played only 25 minutes, a season low.
- Cross had five assists, four turnovers and two steals in 23 minutes. She had six points after three straight games in double figures.
- Megan Carter, injured last week against IPFW, didn’t play. She had been the back-up at point. Taylor Parker, who had been No. 3, has apparently been passed by Salisbury. Parker played two minutes in the first half.
- McKenna Stephens, still recovering from a knee injury, didn’t play.
The Flashes are home for two more games this week. On Wednesday, they’ll host Cleveland State (0-4), and on Saturday, they’ll play North Dakota State (2-3). Both games are at 7 p.m. in the MACC. Kent State lost to both teams on the road last season in games where the Flashes held the lead midway through the second half.
Kentstatesports.com story, which includes video highlights and interview with O’Banion.