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.