For the first 20 minutes of the game, Kent State did indeed play as well as any team in the MAC is playing right now.
Coming off five solid games and a big win over Ball State Saturday, the Flashes led Akron 37-26 at the half and dominated the Zips in just about every way.
But in the second half – especially from the middle of the third quarter on, Akron overwhelmed Kent State just as badly and took a 78-66 victory.
It was KSU’s 10th straight loss on the road, where it has yet to win a game. It was the Flashes’ seventh straight loss to Akron. KSU is 5-18 on the season, 2-11 in the MAC.
Akron is 13-11, 7-6 in the conference.
The Flashes did everything well in the first half. They scored 47 points – second most in a half this season. They shot 56 percent. They outscored Akron in the paint 18-2. They forced nine turnovers while committing only six. They held Anita Brown, the MAC’s leading scorer, to just three free throws.
In the last 14 minutes, everything reversed.
KSU led 54-44 with 4:39 to go in the third quarter after a three-point basket by Larissa Lurken.
The Flashes scored only 12 points for the rest of the game. Lurken and Jordan Korinek, Kent’s top scorers, scored only two points apiece. Akron had six steals, forced three other turnovers and scored 19 points off of them. The Zips made 12 of their last 21 shots and outscored Kent in the paint 14-8 and overall 34-12.
“It wasn’t a big secret Jordan was doing the damage (11 points in the first half),” coach Danny O’Banion said in her postgame radio interview. “In the second half, they gave her a tremendous amount of attention. We were desperately trying to get the basketball to Jordan, and she was not open. You saw us turn the basketball over with very, very good intentions.”
Akron had switched from a zone to a man-to-man defense late in the first half. That seemed to make a lot of difference.
So did Brown, who was doing her best to take over the game. After going 0 for 8 in the first half, she made 7 of 14 shots in the second half, had five rebounds, three steals and two assists.
And with all of KSU’s late turnovers, O’Banion said, “We didn’t make them earn it when they went on their run.”
- Korinek had 15 points and 9 rebounds, but 11 of those points game in the first half. She played a career-high 39 minutes; O’Banion agreed fatigue may have been a factor in her second-half struggles.
- Lurken had 16 points of 6 of 13 shooting (3 of 7 three-pointers).
- Tyra James had 12 in one of her best games of the conference season. “There was a stretch in the second half where she was very hard to guard,” the coach said. “We’ve talked all season about having three scorers . If we can get Tyra going, I like our momentum heading into the stretch.”
- McKenna Stephens had eight points, including two three-pointers. Alexa Golden had nine, second highest of her career and most since her fist game.
- Akron’s Hannah Plybon had a career-high 30 points – 21 in the first half – and scored the games’ last six points on foul shots. She made 6 of 11 three-point shots (5 of 9 in the the first half).
- Akron outrebounded KSU 33-30 overall and 18-11 in the second half. KSU had eight offensive rebounds in the first half, zero in the second. “They took Jordan away from the rim,” O’Banion said.
- Akron point guard Alex Ricketts had nine assists and five steals. Overall Akron had 21 assists on 27 baskets. Kent State had 13 assists on 28 baskets, led by Paige Salisbury’s four.
Kent State returns home to face Bowling Green at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Falcons beat KSU 71-49 Jan. 23. Wednesday, they (8-13, 4-8) lost at home to Toledo, 68-60, their fifth defeat in a row.
Other MAC scores:
- Eastern Michigan (16-8, 7-6) 70, Buffalo (12-12, 4-9) 55, at Buffalo.
- Ohio (20-4, 11-1) 72, Miami 9-15, 3-10) 44, at Ohio.
- Ball State (17-7, 9-4) 73, Northern Illinois (10-14, 3-10) 57, at Northern.
- Toledo (13-10, 8-4) 68, Bowling Green (8-13, 408) 60, at Bowling Green.