A week in Michigan

Kent State headed to Michigan Tuesday for an almost weeklong road trip.

The Flashes play at Western Michigan Wednesday and Eastern Michigan Saturday.

The team will stay on the road. Because the university is still on semester break, players won’t miss classes. During the school year, they would come home after a midweek game, then go out on Friday.

“We’ll have team-building activities — movies, bowling, things like that,” coach Danny O’Banion said at this week’s coaches’ luncheon. “We’ll watch some film and be together. This team really likes each other.”

The trip will end a stretch in which Kent State played four of its first five MAC games on the road. The Flashes are 0-3 in the league and 3-10 overall. They lost 81-61 at Central Michigan, 73-67 at Toledo and 77-66 to Buffalo in their home opener Saturday.

Of the Buffalo game, O’Banion said, “I laughed and cried a lot.” She said the team played about as well as it could in taking a 28-17 lead after the first quarter. But foul trouble — especially to leading scorer Jordan Korinek — hurt in a second quarter that saw KSU score just five points. It was the third straight game in which Korinek sat out long minutes in the first half.

“It’s key to keep Jordan out of foul trouble,” the coach said. “She’s not getting fouls on defense so much as going for balls and rebounds that are out of her range. She’s also challenged because sometimes it seems that fouls being called on her on offense when she’s getting whacked on the same kind of play on the other end.”

She said the team will probably make adjustments so feeds to Korinek will come from more players than 5-foot-5 point guard Naddiyah Cross. (“Sometimes it’s hard for her to see in the post.”) Some may come from redshirt freshman wing Tyra James, whom O’Banion called the best passer on the team. James led the team with six assists on Saturday and is one of the leaders in the MAC . She’s tied for fifth in the conference overall in the first three MAC games, averaging 5.0 a game. All of the other leaders are point guards.

James has averaged 12.3 points in conference play after scoring fewer than 10 in every game except one after Nov. 19. O’Banion moved her out of the starting line-up to the first player off the bench.

“Tyra is tremendously gifted — and truly tough on Tyra,” the coach said. “She’s playing and producing like a starter, but coming off the bench, she doesn’t feel like she has to score every time she gets the ball.”

O’Banion said even though the team is last in the conference in points allowed at 72.3 points a game, it is capable of playing good defense. It’s a matter of better communication and adjustments in their match-up zone — new to the team this season — while play is going on, she said.

She said a curious statistic — Buffalo outscored KSU 35-17 in points off turnovers even though the teams were essentially even in turnovers themselves — was because Kent’s turnovers were mostly live-ball turnovers. Kent’s defense didn’t have chance to set up. “We also made some tired mistakes,” she said.

O’Banion said reserves like shooting guard/wing Keziah Lewis, forward Chelsi Watson and point guard Paige Salisbury are likely to see more playing time to keep players fresh. She said she especially wanted to keep point guard Cross’s minutes under 30, even as low as 25.

Western Michigan, Kent’s opponent Wednesday, is 9-6 on the season, 1-2 in the MAC, and  5-0 at home so far. The Broncos have beaten Bradley, IPFW and Toledo — all teams that beat the Flashes. WMU’s RPI is fifth best in the MAC and 100th best in the country (of 349 teams), according to RealTimeRPI. (Link is to all RPIs in MAC.) Its schedule is rated 114th hardest (fifth in the conference) .

Kent’s RPI is 323, lowest in the MAC, and its schedule strength is 243.

The Broncos are averaging 64.5 points per game (seventh in the league) and giving up 61.3 (fourth lowest). They have the best three-point field goal percentage (35.9) though they don’t take that many three points shots— 14 a game or ninth in the MAC. They make 5.0 a game.

They lead the conference in three-point field goal defense (25.9) and rank second in blocked shots (4.7 a game). Six-foot-three sophomore forward Teagan Reeves has blocked a conference-high 26 shots. Miracle Woods, a 6-foot senior forward, leads Western in scoring at 12.3 points per game.

Kent State is fourth in the conference in scoring (65.7), ninth in shooting percentage (39.7), second in steals (10.2 per game) and third in turnover margin (+0.85). The Flashes, though, are tied for ninth in the league by committing 18.7 turnovers per game. They’re last in in field goal percentage defense (43.9).

Korinek is ninth in the conference in scoring at 15.4 points per game, fourth in field goal percentage (56.4), ninth in rebounding (7.0) and 11th in free throw percentage (79.6). Junior guard Larissa Lurken is 10th in scoring at 14.8, Cross sixth in assists (4.2), and freshman guard Alexa Golden fifth in steals (1.9).

Wednesday’s game starts at 7 p.m., with audio beginning at 6:45 on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. You can get video on ESPN3 and live statistics through the WMU website. You’ll need to have an ESPN subscription to access the online-only broadcast.

Western Michigan team website

Kent State statistics

MAC statistics

MAC standings




  1. goldenflash101

    Interesting comments. She must be reading my posts. The team does look tired at the end of games. It’s tough to play that defense without liberal substitutions. Personally due to her weak bench I think she should back it off a bit but at least she is changing something. Also the comment on Cross was interesting. The only problem is Salisbury is even less of an offensive threat than Cross.

    As the season has progressed it is becoming obvious the talent level isn’t there for what she is trying to do. Some of the players that left after last year, (White, Mendolsohn, Rideout and Stubbs) cost them a lot of experienced depth. That can’t happen again.


  2. flashfanday1

    I’ve been a long time women’s flash fan.. I normally read your blog and choose not to comment, but i thought i’d offer an observation about this years team. I’ll begin with piggybacking off of @goldenflash101 ‘s comments. This team continues to fall apart in the fourth quarter and lacks the intestinal fortitude to close out games. Why? The offense heavily relies on 3 players and if one or two of these players are defended properly by the opposition or can’t find their shots, this team is done. The three are clearly obvious on scouting reports and film and they cannot carry this team all the way through offensively and defensively, while impressive sometimes often, but importantly not when it counts down the stretch! Why? there are no surrounding threats. Scoring is weak in the 3rd and definitely in the fourth. At this point in the game the opponent has torn the dragging slow zone defense apart ( It just moves too slow after the conditioning demons show up.) we’re in foul trouble, and there’s no offense. The dribble drive is exposed and there’s no room for improv and old school basketball sense from players who may be able use their talents which seem to be capped mentally.

    Exciting play to begin against Buffalo, probably yes the best they’ve looked.. but 11 3 pointers from Buffalo????? Joanna Smith the go to player was allowed to continuously expose the zone without adjustment or a man to man defense allowing your best defending guard to take her out of the game.

    I’m not convinced this team has a weak bench, because the bench isn’t used to its debt. I watched several teams along the way sub 5 in 5 out against an exhausted 6 – 7 maybe 8 man rotation at times. Most of which seem like they were told do not shoot unless you have too, while being exhausted by swing passing and dribble drive by the opponent (subs offering low production).

    Freshmen Golden has the potential to be really great, she shouldn’t be hesitant to shoot and needs to think smart about fouling unnecessarily! I also notice the speed of Taylor Parker a point guard who averaged I believe over 16 as a “shooting guard” in high school with high steals and the shot change\block availability of Marissa Barber-Smith being wasted as Korinek is exhausted and\or in foul trouble. The duo PG|SG of Cross and Parker is a wasted opportunity for the speed, attack and scoring factor. While the duo of Korinek and Barber-Smith continues to be a missed opportunity for scoring and shot altering height and floor stretching.. in fact Miller could also offer help in the paint. You have a young team so why not use its youth and speed? Seem’s to me like she doesn’t trust her bench, a young bench today becomes an experienced bench tomorrow. That should be the joy of having youth on your side.. There will be mistakes but I like on the Job training with hard work in practice.

    I’d like to see more from Salisbury if shes going to be on the floor, especially claiming more of Cross’s minutes???? I can only think she’s a great player to run plays for the 3 main scorers and wont get in their way. She has the most minutes as secondary PG but doesn’t cause a threat offensively or defensively due to speed and shot attempts at 11.8 min per game that’s questionable. I don’t blame her because she may very well be a scorer, but clearly she’s been told that’s not the job you’re here for. You wont win games if u can’t play inside and out and then outside in and reverse. That’s how you keep the defense guessing and stretched to the max. We saw this with last year. This makes the scouting report easy. Double down Korinek (bonus if she fouls us unnecessarily out of frustration defense) and keep the ball out of Lurken’s shooting hands or disrupt her shot. Sames goes for James.

    Watson deserves more looks as well and isolation plays, I find myself saying she’s a beast in the paint… the kind of player that cleans up the mess well and gets hungrier the more she’s fed and made to feel apart of the offense. Constantly being looked off for plays that surround Korinek, Lurken, and James. Lewis, deserves more shots as well. 9 Min a game and averages 2.0? No one really knows what a lot of these kids are capable of, including Stevens. She has to take the lid off and coach talents.

    This team has great potential, but they’re missing that “fire”.. That “we’re damn good and we know it”, “That we came to win and we plan on it” You have to have that in the 4th quarter to pull out games against experienced teams. Most of the time you can see in the late third, top of the 4th this team has quit from exhaustion and lack of belief.

    She needs to find out where the fire is and it just may be between full use of the team and mixing up the line up.

    The question I keep asking is. “Is she being out coached or out played”? I don’t see this as being a talent issue this year.

    *Last note: Why run a play with too many moving parts and passes when you need to go straight up the middle for a lay up or hopefully and 1 with less that 1 min in the game down by 5?

    “we’re all armchair quarter backs” 🙂 I love sports!


    • Carl Schierhorn

      Nice comments. Thank you.

      They’ve had a game since you’ve posted, so this is a little behind.

      As I wrote after the Western loss, they’re having more trouble in the second quarter than late in the game. Assistant Kylene Spiegel did say on today’s pregame show that they’re giving up an average of 22 in the fourth quarter. She didn’t talk about fatigue being a factor, but O’Banion said at the coaches’ luncheon this week that the team made “tired mistakes” late against Buffalo.

      I asked Danny about depth at the lunch. She said she thought the bench had talent but needed maturing (which, of course, could come if they played more, as you said).

      Early in the season, I thought they were playing Korinek, Lurken and James too many minutes. But now Lurken is the only one averaging more than 30. She’s their only upperclassman. That makes sense to me.

      To play the bench more, they’d have to play those three less. To me, they’re clearly their best three players. They’re all back next year; it’s not as if they’re seniors and we could write them off. James especially has only played 11 games.

      I’ve written a bunch of times that they’ve got to develop scoring from other people. Cross was aggressive and was scoring about eight a game early in the season but hasn’t done much lately. Golden definitely has the OK to shoot. Danny has said she wants her and Lewis to be three-point threats. Lewis has been a disappointment to me; she was a good scorer in junior college.

      Salisbury actually had four points tonight (sadly, fifth highest on the team). I have hopes for Parker, but she’s very turnover prone.(She was a point guard in high school, and I don’t see her playing shooting guard much.)

      I’d sure like to see Barber-Smith come along. They really need that size. O’Banion likes Chelsi Watson more. She’s actually averaging the most off the bench of anyone except James and more than Golden or Stephens. Stephens has had some decent games this year and last, but she’s never been steady. Still, she’s probably the second best post player, and she’s just a sophomore. She needs the playing time to develop, too.

      I’m not sure the team is dying in the fourth quarter. They came back against Toledo. They played Western even in the second half tonight.

      Is it talent or coaching? They team definitely has the most talent in four or five years. Part of it is no seniors. But Central and Buffalo have exactly the same number of freshmen and sophomores that we do, and they’re winning. I don’t know if Danny’s contract expires this year or next. I’m not a big Joel Nielsen fan, but I don’t know how long any athletic director can handle single-digit win seasons.

      I look at the MAC and wonder who we’re going to beat. BG’s best player quit the team over Christmas, and they’ve only won one game since. We beat them twice last season. Miami and NIU are 1-3 but won a lot more non-conference games than we did. Akron is inconsistent as hell, and we played them well last season.

      KSU really needs to win a game to gain some confidence. But now they play Eastern and Ohio back to back — perhaps the two best teams in the league.


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