For 36 minutes, Kent State coach Danny O’Banion said, her Flashes executed their game plan “with all their hearts.”
They played 19-10 Eastern Michigan even for most of the game, but some lovely point guard play by the Eagles’ Cha Sweeney and a lot of missed three-point shots ended KSU’s season Monday.
The final score in the first-round MAC Tournament game was 73-60. The game was closer than that as Eastern pulled away with foul shots at the end.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this basketball team, and I’m extremely disappointed for our players,” O’Banion said. “They competed and executed. No one believed more than the 15 women in our locker room.”
Those four minutes, O’Banion said, weren’t consecutive minutes. They were a few lapses in an otherwise fine effort.
A key time came in the last two minute of the third quarter, when Eastern broke a 47-47 tie with five straight points on on a three-point play and two foul shots.
As the teams traded baskets early in the fourth quarter, Sweeney, the 5-foot-2 spark of the Eastern team, made three great passes to open players under the basket that kept KSU from coming back. Sweeney, named second-team all conference for the second straight year earlier in the day, had 10 assists and six steals, along with 14 points.
McKenna Stephens led Kent with with a career-high 19 points on 9 of 14 shooting. Most of them came on 12- to 14-foot jump shots. She also had six rebounds. Jordan Korinek, named honorable mention all-MAC Monday, had 16 points, eight rebounds and a career-high four steals.
“McKenna is the heart of this team from a confidence standpoint,” O’Banion said. “Today she was primed to come out. She’s a highly skilled shooter, and it’s been fun to watch her play herself into condition so she could go for 33 minutes.”
Stephens missed the first five games of the season after arthroscopic knee surgery. In February, O’Banion said that Stephens, a redshirt sophomore forward, was doing 15 minutes extra of cardiovascular exercise every day to build her stamina.
Kent State, the worst three-point shooting team in conferences, was 2 of 17 against Eastern Michigan.
The Flashes finish the season with a record of 6-23. Last year it was 5-25.
Barring transfers, all 15 players on the KSU roster will be back next season. The team has no seniors. It has one incoming freshman, a transfer who will become eligible next season and one of its top freshman returning from an injury that sidelined her early in the season.
“I’m excited about future of this team,” O’Banion said. “I see us in this next season getting over the hump.”
- Eastern Michigan, now 20-10, will play Ball State in the MAC quarterfinals Wednesday.
- The Eagles have beaten Kent State 11 straight times and knocked them out of the tournament in the first round for two years in a row.
- Kent State outrebounded Eastern 31-28 and outscored them 28-20 in the paint. It outscored the Eagles — who are first in the MAC in turnover margin — 21 to 10 off turnovers.
- In the end, it was three-point shooting (Eastern was 8 of 15 to KSU’s 2 of 17) and foul shooting (Eastern was 17 of 26, KSU 10 of 12) and 18 EMU assists on 24 baskets that ended Kent State’s season.
First-round MAC Tournament scores:
- Fifth-seed Akron (18-12) 66, No. 12 Miami (9-21) 54.
- No. 8 Buffalo (17-13) 60, No. 9 Bowling Green (10-18) 44.
- No. 7 Western Michigan (17-14) 94, No. 10 Northern Illinois (11-19) 52.
Wednesday tournament schedule:
- Buffalo vs. No. 1 Ohio (24-5).
- Akron vs. No. 4 Toledo (17-12).
- Western Michigan vs.No. 2 Central Michigan (20-9).
- Eastern Michigan vs. No. 3 Ball State (21-8).
- All-conference first team: Akron’s Anita Brown, Ball State’s Natalie Fontaine, Buffalo’s JoAnna Smith, Ohio’s Kiyanna Black, Toledo’s Brenae Harris.
- All-freshman team: Ball State’s Carmen Grande, Bowling Green’s Sydney Lambert, Central Michigan’s Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost, Toledo’s Kayla McIntyre.
- All-defensive team: Buffalo’s Stephanie Reid, Central Michigan’s Tinara Moore, Eastern Michigan’s Janay Morton, Ohio’s Quiera Lampkins and Jasmine Weatherspoon.
- Full all-MAC listing is here. KSU’s Korinek (honorable mention) was the only Flash recognized.
- Player of the year, freshman of the year and coach of the year will be announced later in the week.