The score was Kent State 77, Bradley 52.
77 points are more than Kent State scored in all except three of its games in the last five seasons.
52 points are fewer than Kent State allowed in all except 10 of the 146 games in those years.
The 25-point margin was the biggest for Kent State since Dec. 21, 2010, when the Flashes beat Florida Atlantic by 29. That year was the last winning season for Kent State’s women’s basketball team.
It was quite a debut for new Kent State coach Todd Starkey.
He brushed off the comparisons.
“I’m not going to compare us to what’s happened here,” he said. “I have in my mind what I think is a good Division I team, and that’s what I’m comparing us against.”
Still, the coach agreed, “it was a good start.”
Kent State took a 17-13 lead after the first quarter, then outscored Bradley 26-12 in the second.
The defensive effort Starkey has been preaching since he was named head coach in April was evident in the first half. Bradley made 10 of 30 shots and 3 of 13 three-point shots. The Braves had major problems running their offense or finding open players to pass to.
Starkey was most impressed with some adjustments his team made.
“We weren’t closing on their first three-point shots,” he said. “Leti Lerma has five rebounds in the first quarter. They listened to what the coaches told them and made the adjustments.”
Bradley was 1 for 11 on the rest of its three-pointers. Lerma, Bradley’s only senior and leading rebounder, had three rebounds after the first quarter.
KSU senior Larissa Lurken led the team with 22 points. McKenna Stephens had 12 and freshman Ali Poole 11 in her first college game.
Jordan Korinek, last year’s leading scorer and a preseason all-MAC East selection, had 7 points and 3 rebounds. It’s somewhat beyond comprehension for Kent to win by 25 points when its best player has an off night.
Bradley will hardly be the best team Kent State plays this year. The Braves were 9-22 last year. Still, they beat KSU 68-60 at Bradley and were fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference in defense, allowing 61 points a game.
Lurken had 12 points at halftime on 3 of 6 shooting and 4 of 6 foul shots. She struggled more shooting in the second half, but Starkey was pleased with the way she played through it.
“She kept playing hard, she rebounded, she played defense,” the coach said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching to do when the shots don’t fall.”
Lurken, who has started almost every game in her four years on campus, was thrilled in her postgame interview on Golden Flash iHeart radio.
“What we worked on in practice translated to the game,” she said. “We really executed in the first half. It feels really good.”
Lurken finished with two three-pointers in three shots, five rebounds, two assists and a steal. She had just one turnover.
As a team, KSU had 14 turnovers, just five in the second half. A year ago, the Flashes had 24 turnovers against Bradley and averaged 18 per game. Bradley made 19 turnovers in Friday’s game.
Poole made 5 of 15 shots (4 of 6 in the first half) and shared the lead in rebounds for the Flashes with 6. Guard Alexa Golden also had six rebounds along with two blocked shots and two steals.
Poole’s first college game, she said, was “surreal at the beginning, then it was just playing basketball.”
Kent State’s third quarter was by far its weakest. The Flashes made just 5 of 18 shots and were outrebounded 17-11. Still, they scored 18 points, the same as Bradley.
“They played hard and answered,” Starkey said. “It was defensive effort. They got stops.”
- The Flashes made 43 percent of their shots — 59 percent in the first half, 31 percent in the second. They made 6 of 17 three-pointers. Bradley made 18 of 58 shots for 31 percent.
- KSU outrebounded the Braves 44-38, with five players having at least five rebounds. Poole and Golden had six, and reserve forwards Chelsi Watson and Zenobia Bess and point guard Naddiyah Cross had five.
- Cross also had six assists, nine points and three steals. Korinek also had three steals. Overall, the Flashes had 14 steals.
- Stephens and Cross had the play of the game at the end of the third quarter. With a half second to go, Cross threw an inbound pass from under the basket to Stephens, who caught it in the air six feet from the basketball and shot in one motion. (“I’ve never seen McKenna jump that high,” Starkey said with a smile.)
- Stephens made 5 of her 6 shots, including a three-pointer, and had three rebounds and two steals.
- Kent State blocked five shots — two by Bess, two by Golden and one by Stephens. That’s more than in any game last season.
- Led by Poole’s 11, Kent State had 27 bench points. Bess and Megan Carter had six and Watson four.
- Starting lineup was Korinek, Lurken, Cross, Stephens and Golden. Lurken played the most minutes (30). Cross played 27, Poole 26, Korinek 25, Stephens 24 and Golden 22. Thirteen of Kent State’s 14 players got in the game.
Kent State plays again Monday when it hosts Eastern Kentucky at 7 p.m. at the MACC. Eastern beat Bowling Green 57-55 Friday at home. The Colonels return three starters from a team that was 18-12 a year ago. One is Jalen O’Bannon, a 6-1 senior forward who was the Ohio Valley Conference preseason player of the year. She averaged 17.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a game last season.
KSU website story, including postgame video interviews.
MAC scores from Friday:
- Ball State 88, Arkansas Pine Bluff 60
- Buffalo 61, UMass 47
- Miami 73, Austin Peay 58
- Eastern Kentucky 57, Bowling Green 55
- Kent State 77, Bradley 52
- Northern Illinois 90, Loyola Chicago 70
- No. 1 Notre Dame 107, Central Michigan 47
Details on the MAC website.