It was about as close as Kent State could come to winning its first road game of the year.
Tyra James’ three-point shot bounced off the front of the rim at the buzzer at Miami Wednesday night and the Flashes lost to the Redhawks, 55-52.
But the missed shot really didn’t cost the game. Missing six free throws in the fourth quarter did.
“I liked our effort, and I liked the bounce we had,” coach Danny O’Banion said in her postgame radio interview. “We took a step forward. But we have to remember that the 50-50 plays, the rebounds, the rotation on defense makes the difference in a close game.
“And we have to make layups, and we have to make free throws.”
The Flashes, who won their first MAC game last Wednesday when they made 22 of 24 free throws against Northern Illinois, made 13 of 22 at Miami. The misses didn’t come from the bench. Jordan Korinek, an 84 percent shooter, Larissa Lurken (78 percent) and Alexa Golden (74 percent) all missed.
KSU is now 4-15 on the season, 1-9 in the MAC and in last place in the East Division. Miami is two-and-a-half games ahead of the Flashes at 3-6 and is 9-11 overall.
It was one of Kent State’s best defensive games of the year, and it came when Kent State went away from the match-up zone defense it has played overwhelmingly. The Flashes played predominately man-to-man and held Miami to 37 percent shooting and 24 percent on three-pointers. KSU forced 22 turnovers and scored 24 points off of them with full-court and half-court pressure.
“We just need to keep clean up the rebounding if we’re going to keep using it,” O’Banion said.
Miami scored 18 second-chance points on 16 offensive rebounds.There’s a major difference in technique in blocking out on rebounds in a man-to-man versus in a zone.
One thing to remember, though, is that Miami isn’t a great offensive team (10th in scoring in the conference) and was missing its leading scorer, Baleigh Reid, who was out with an injury.
Miami threw an unexpected defense at Kent State, too. Usually a man-to-man team, the Redhawks played a 2-3 zone most of the night.
Kent State managed to shoot just 30 percent against it. The only player to make more than half her shots was freshman guard Paige Salisbury, who had a career-high eight points on three of four shooting. But Korinek, who makes 54 percent of her shots (fourth best in the MAC), was 2 for 9. Lurken, who was 11 of 14 against NIU last week, was 3 of 15.
Salisbury, a walk-on from Brunswick, made her third straight start.
“She’s one of the best walk-ons I’ve had a chance to work with,” O’Banion said. “We keep track of how players do in practice, and as long as Paige was on the floor, her team was winning. So we figured that if she could do it in practice, we should give her a chance to do it in a game.”
KSU has played some of its best basketball of the season in Salisbury’s three starts — the win against NIU, a first half in which KSU outscored 13-8 Western Michigan, and against Miami.
Salisbury isn’t particularly fast or smooth, but she handles the ball very reliably. She had one turnover in 32 minutes Wednesday and has just 10 turnovers in 248 minutes this season.
- Lurken was the only Kent player in double figures with 13 points. She led the team in rebound for the third straight game with seven. Chelsi Watson also had seven, including offensive boards. Korinek, KSU’s leading rebounder, had just three.
- KSU equaled Miami’s total of 16 offensive rebounds but scored five fewer second-chance points. Overall, Miami outrebounded the Flashes, 42-36.
- KSU’s Golden had five steals, which equals the highest for a Flash this season. The freshman from Pittsburgh leads the team and is ninth in the MAC in steals.
Kent State returns to the MACC center Saturday for a 5 p.m. game against Toledo. A men’s game against the Rockets will follow the game by about a half hour. One ticket gets you in both games.
Other MAC scores:
- Buffalo (11-9, 3-6) 51, Ohio (17-4, 9-1) 43, at Buffalo.
- Ball State (15-5, 7-2) 78, Akron (11-10, 5-5) 71, at Ball State.
- Central Michigan (14-7, 8-2) 66, Eastern Michigan (13-8, 4-6) 65, at Eastern.
- Toledo (11-9, 6-3) 80, Western Michigan (13-9, 5-5) 68, at Western.