When Kent State has played good defense…
When the Flashes have kept their turnovers under control…
When Jordan Korinek has been able to stay out of foul trouble and get the ball…
When the Flashes have been able to make more foul shots than their opponents…
Kent State has played some decent basketball this season.
All that came together in the Flashes’ final home game of the season Wednesday as they beat Miami, 59-53.
The win moves Kent State out of last place for the first time this season into a fifth-place tie with the Redhawks. Both teams are 3-14 in the MAC. Overall Kent State is 6-21 — one more game than it won last season with at least two to play. Miami is 9-19 overall.
Korinek, who has struggled with foul trouble throughout the conference season, had only two personals Wednesday and played 39 minutes, equaling a career high. She had 23 points on 7 of 10 shooting, 9 of 10 foul shots and eight rebounds.
The Flashes held Miami to 34 percent shooting and 5 of 25 three-point shots. The Redhawks are not a great offensive team – especially since they lost leading scorer Baleigh Reed to an ACL injury – but still it was the second-lowest point total allowed by Kent State this season. (Lowest was 50 in its win over Ball State.)
“I’m really excited for the players to have a chance to play and finish a close game,” coach Danny O’Banion said in her postgame radio interview. (Kent State is 2-6 in games decided by fewer than six points, and the only other close game it won was its opener against Colgate in November.)
“We’ve been knocking at the door…we’re still knocking at the door,” O’Banion said. “But it’s important for young minds to know they can win. It wasn’t easy. They had to earn it, and they got some confidence under their belts.”
Despite missing four foul shots in the last minute, the Flashes made 25 of 35. It was the most free throws Kent State had this year and was reminiscent of the start of the season, when KSU was outscoring opponents by 10 or 12 points at the foul line a game.
Twenty of the foul shots came from Korinek and Larissa Lurken, who made 8 of 10. Lurken struggled shooting at 2 of 15 but kept driving the ball to the basket to get to the foul line. She also had two assists and two blocks, including one at the end of the third quarter when Miami had rallied to within three.
Kent State was able to get the ball inside to Korinek as well as it has this season. The Flashes had 10 assists on 16 baskets and passes led to many of their foul shots.
Kent State outscored Miami 15 to 8 in points off turnovers – one more than the margin of victory. KSU had nine steals, including three by freshman defensive specialist Alexa Golden.
“Alexa had difficult job – she had to defend an active point guard – and did it in a disciplined way,” O’Banion said. “It’s a job she takes a lot of pride in.”
Miami point Leah Purvis – probably the team’s best player with Reed out – had eight points on 3 of 11 shooting, 1 of 6 on three-pointers. She had just two assists in 30 minutes.
- Kent State outrebounded Miami 38-35. Besides Lurken’s 10 and Korinek’s 8, sophomore forward McKenna Stephens had seven, which equaled her second highest of the year. Her 10 points were her third highest of the season.
- When Kent State lost to Miami 55-52 on Feb. 3, it made only 13 free throws and was outrebounded 42-36. It missed more than 10 layups. Korinek was 2 for 9 and only Lurken scored in double figures.
- Lurken now has 892 points in her three years at Kent State and is almost certain to become KSU’s first 1,000-point scorer since Jamilah Humes, who graduated in 2011. Korinek has 638 in two years (with two games to go). That’s about the same pace as Lindsay Shearer, KSU’s fourth leading all-time scorer, and Dawn Zerman, the team’s sixth leading scorer.
- All six games Kent State has won this season have been at home.
The Flashes finish their regular season at Buffalo Saturday. The Bulls are 7-10 and in third place in the MAC East. They lost at Akron 62-49 Wednesday and beat Kent State 77-66 in January. They’re also the only team in the league to beat Ohio this season, and they did that twice.
Other MAC scores:
- Ohio (23-5, 15-2) 75, Bowling Green (10-16, 6-11) 58, at Ohio.
- Ball State (20-8, 12-5) 76, Northern Illinois (11-17, 4-13) 68, at Ball State.
- Toledo (17-11, 12-5) 76, Central Michigan (19-9, 13-4) 72, at Toledo.
- Eastern Michigan (19-9, 10-7) 63, Western Michigan (15-14, 7-10) 52, at Western.
- Akron (16-12, 10-7) 62, Buffalo (7-10, 15-13) 49, at Akron.
Ohio, Central Michigan, Ball State and Toledo have clinched first-round byes in the MAC tournament.
Right now, Kent would be seeded 11th (if I’m figuring the tie-breaker with Miami right) and play Eastern Michigan. But Eastern is tied with Akron, so the result of their final games on Saturday will determine Kent’s opponent as much as Kent’s final game.
Akron hosts fourth-place Bowling Green. Eastern plays at first-place Central Michigan. It’s possible Kent State could be seeded 10th if it beats Buffalo and Northern Illinois loses to Western Michigan. In that case, KSU would probably play Buffalo again.