A year ago Kent State swept Bowling Green for the first time since 2002.
The Falcons were the only team who finished behind KSU in the MAC standings.
A win over BG in Kent last January marked a turning point in Kent’s season — or as much of a turning point as a 5-25 season can have. Whatever the record, the Flashes played much better for the rest of the season after they beat 55-48 behind 16 points and 20 rebounds by Cici Shannon, the 6-4 center who graduated in May.
That win was Kent State’s first MAC win of the season. It broke a three-game losing streak and a string when KSU had lost seven out of eight.
This season Kent (3-13, 0-6) hasn’t won a league game. It has lost nine in a row.
So the Flashes hope history can repeat itself Saturday at BG. The Falcons (6-9, 2-4) are one of three teams (besides Kent) in the MAC with a losing record. (Miami and Northern Illinois are the others.) Their best player — preseason all-MAC selection Erica Donavon — left the team over Christmas.
With Donovan out of the line-up, BG has lost seven of nine games, all by 11 points or more. The two teams they beat were Miami and NIU.
BG has been a very tough place for Kent State to play. KSU had lost nine games in a row there before last year’s win, and BG holds a 25-11 all-time lead at home against the Flashes. Many of those victories came in BG’s dominance of the MAC between about 2005 and 2014, when the Falcons win nine conference titles.
And Bowling Green figured things out Tuesday — at least for a quarter. After NIU hit a three-point shot to start the second quarter, Bowling Green scored 21 straight points to finish the half on its way to a 58-43 victory at home.
BG is a low-scoring team that makes many of its points from outside. The Falcons are fourth in the conference in made three-pointers and fourth in three-point percentage (31.9 percent). But they’re last in the conference in total scoring (57.1 a game) and second to last in overall field goal percentage (38 percent).
Bowling Green is fourth in the conference in scoring defense (61.6), but aside from Tuesday’s Northern Illinois game, its best defensive games game early in the season when Donovan was in the line-up.
BG’s leading scorer is 6-4 center Lauren Tibbs, who averages 11.3 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game. She’s a transfer from Marquette under the NCAA rule that allows a player to transfer after they’ve graduated and become immediately eligible. Tibbs played sparingly at Marquette, averaging less than four points a game in four years there. (She missed almost all of her freshman season with an injury.)
The Falcons are an interesting match-up for Kent State, which has played well at times against three-point shooting teams but often has been hurt badly when opponents went inside against their match-up zone. BG fits the profile of a team that might be able do that.
Kent had a very rough time defending the three-pointer against league-leading Ohio Tuesday. The Bobcats, who are ninth in the country in three-point scoring, made a MAC-record 17 three-point shots on their way to a 93-54 victory.
The Flashes showed a new wrinkle Tuesday in that junior Larissa Lurken — a shooting guard and wing for her entire career — played at point guard when starter Naddiyah Cross was not in the game. KSU had gotten little offense out of freshmen back-up points Taylor Parker and Paige Salisbury, though Salisbury has been sure-handed running the offense.
But Lurken, Kent’s second leading scorer at 13.6 points a game, was 1 of 10 from the field against OH. She’s had games like that before, but it is a real question whether she can score and run the offense and not get worn down.
Sophomore forward Jordan Korinek continues to lead KSU in scoring (15.3 points per game) and rebounding (7.1). Tyra James averages 10.3. No one else averages more than six. Cross’s point production has dropped off substantially since early in the season. She averaged 10 points a game through KSU’s first seven but has scored only 17 points total in the Flashes’ six conference games.
The game is the first of a Kent at Bowling Green doubleheader. The men’s teams will play about a half hour after the women finish.
The women’s game starts at 2 p.m., with Audio for the game starts at 1:45 on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. Video is on ESPN3 and live statistics are on the Eastern Michigan website. You need to be a subscriber to ESPN to get the online-only broadcast.