It was an improbable win, not so much because it happened, but in the way it did.
We knew KSU had a chance to break its 10-game losing streak when it played Northern Illinois. The Huskies were 1-6, Kent State 0-7. Kent had beaten NIU here last season. The Flashes play better at home.
It’s the most points scored by a Danny O’Banion-coached team — by 19 points.
It’s the most points scored by a Kent State team since 2004.
It’s the fifth-most points scored by any MAC team this season.
Larissa Lurken’s 37 points are the most scored by a Kent State player in 20 years and the eighth most ever.
Her seven three-point baskets ties a school record.
Two Kent State players scored more than 20 points. (Jordan Korinek had 22.)
Kent made 22 of 24 foul shots.
It’s a big win for this team in what has been a tough year. Kent State is 4-14 overall.
“There are scores you see in the MAC that sometimes make you shake your head,” O’Banion said in her postgame radio interview. “Some other teams are going to be shaking their heads over this score.
But most important, O’Banion said, the team really needed this win.
“We felt it was a game we had to have, if only to prove to ourselves that we could do it,” she said.
Kent State had started the 2015-16 season pretty well with a team that looked and played very differently than the ones that had struggled through the last four years. The Flashes played close games against Wright State and Minnesota — both teams in the top 100 in RPI — and won convincingly against Colgate and North Dakota State.
And then The Streak started. KSU lost 10 straight after the North Dakota State game, including its first seven conference games by an average of 11 points.
But that ended Wednesday. Of course NIU isn’t a great — or even particularly good — team. But it is 8-11. Its RPI was 60 spots higher than Kent’s. It beat Akron at Akron in the MAC opener.
O’Banion, who all season has preached that the team would come along, sees hope.
“It sets us up to have a good month,” she said. “We have home games every Saturday for four weeks.”
The Flashes, who haven’t won a road game, actually play six of their final nine games at home.
“We knew we had it in us,” said Lurken, who beat her career high in scoring by 15 points. “It just took one game to get it out,”
Lurken made 11 of 14 shots and seven of eight three-pointers. She made 8 of 10 foul shots. She had 11 rebounds for the first double-double of her career.
“I wish I could tell you I’m surprised, but I’m not,” O’Banion said. “Larissa is our most experienced player, and she’s evolved into a player who wants her shot. And tonight her teammates did a great job of getting her the ball.”
Lurken hit three three-pointers in the second quarter to help Kent State move from a 22-22 tie to an eight-point halftime lead. She scored KSU’s first eight points of the third quarter with two three-pointers and a jump shot.
She and her teammates built a 20-point lead with 7:10 to go.
Then Northern made 9 of its next 10 shots, including three three-pointers. The Huskies pressed, and while KSU made only one turnover, it was a struggle at times.
And Northern Illinois fouled, and fouled, and fouled. The Huskies committed 11 in that last seven minutes.
But Kent State kept making, and making, and making its free throws — 16 of 18 in that time.
The Flashes haven’t been a great foul-shooting team, shooting 66 percent or ninth best in the MAC going into the game.
But 22 of 24 for the game is 92 percent. It’s not in the top five in KSU history — there have been four games when the Flashes took at least 12 foul shots and made all of them. But it’s awfully good.
Just like the team felt after the game — “really, really good,” Lurken said.
- KSU’s 95 points were 33 above its season average. NIU’s 85 points were 20 points above its average. Northern had been giving up 68 points a game.
- NIU and Kent State combined for 67 points in the fourth quarter — 37 for the Huskies, 30 for the Flashes.
- For the game, Kent made 33 of 63 shots for a season-high 52 percent. Its 50 percent three-point shooting (7 of 14) was also a season best. So was the 92 percent free-throw shooting.
- Northern made 44 percent of its 79 shots and 30 percent of 27 three-pointers. The Huskies had just seven foul shots.
- Kent State had a season-low 13 turnovers.
- Kent outrebounded NIU, 43-33. After Lurken’s 11, Tyra James had eight rebounds to go with 14 points, three assists and three steals.
- Korinek had six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block along with her 22 points.
- Freshman Paige Salisbury played a career-high 28 minutes.
Kent State returns to action at 2 p.m. Saturday against Western Michigan at the MACC. Western (12-8, 4-4) lost by two points Wednesday. The Broncos beat Kent State 73-52 in Kalamazoo on Jan. 13.
Other MAC scores:
- Ohio (16-3, 8-0) 75, Akron (10-9, 4-4) 55, at Ohio.
- Bowling Green (8-9, 4-4) 67, Eastern Michigan (13-6, 4-4) 63, at Bowling Green.
- Central Michigan (12-7, 6-2) 53, Western Michigan (12-8, 4-4) 51, at Central.