We find out a great deal about the women’s basketball team this week.
The Flashes have two very winnable home games. They play Cleveland State, which is off to an 0-5 start, Wednesday and North Dakota State (2-4) on Saturday. Both games are at 7 p.m. at the MACC.
Kent is 2-3, having beaten Colgate (now 0-4) in its opener and Division II Malone on (2-3) Saturday. The Flashes played well in home losses to Wright State (6-2) and Minnesota (4-1) but not so well on the road at IPFW (3-3).
Now they play two teams of comparable ability. Last season KSU lost at Cleveland State, 69-67, after leading by seven with 2:46 to go. The Flashes lost last year’s opener at NDSU, 74-68, after leading by nine with seven minutes to go.
Cleveland State was 19-13 and third in the Horizon League a year ago. The year the Vikings were picked sixth in their conference. They lost leading scorer Imani Gordon but have gotten back redshirt freshman Ashanti Abshaw, who had suffered a season-ending injury before last year’s KSU game.
Abshaw, a 5-9 guard, leads CSU in scoring at 15.0 points a game and is second in rebounding on the team at 6.3 per game.
Cleveland State has forced 18.5 turnovers a game with a defense that uses full- and half-court traps. The Vikings have made 36 percent of 92 three-point shots.
The Vikings have lost four of their five games by less than 10 points. They lost to Bucknell (4-2) by two at home and lost in overtime at Niagara (1-4) on Friday. (CSU women’s website.)
Kent State has defended the three-pointer well in four of its five games and is handling the ball better than it has in five seasons. The Flashes are plus-1.2 in turnover margin, fourth best in the MAC. They lead the conference in steals per game (10.5).
KSU’s weaknesses have been two-point defense, often on the fast break, rebounding (a minus 3.4 per game average) and three-point shooting (just 24 percent).
Cleveland State has an even worse rebounding margin (minus nine).
Kent State is within two-tenths of a point of having all five starters average in double figures. All — forward Jordan Korinek (17.4), guard Larissa Lurken (13.4), guard Tyra James (11.2), guard Naddiyah Cross (10.0) and forward Chelsi Watson (9.8) — are in the top 30 in the MAC. (Full MAC statistics)
There have been times in the last five years when KSU had zero scorers in the MAC’s top 30.
The Flashes 71.2 scoring average is fourth in the MAC. But they’ve given up 74.8 points a game — second worst in the league.
Coach Danny O’Banion says that sophomore forward McKenna Stephens, who hasn’t played so far this season because of a knee injury, is likely to be available this week. Stephens averaged about five points a game last year.
O’Banion was expecting definitive word Tuesday on freshman guard Megan Carter, who was injured against IPFW. I don’t expect Carter to play; she may be out for the season.