For coach Todd Starkey, Kent State’s schedule this semester has been like a countdown.
Robert Morris, which beat the 2-1 Flashes in overtime Saturday, was better than Eastern Kentucky, which KSU beat by 13 Monday, Starkey says.
Eastern Kentucky was better than Bradley, routed by Kent State by 25 in its opener, he argues.
And Detroit Mercy, the coach says, is the best so far.
The Flashes play in Detroit at 7 p.m. Monday in the first road game for the Flashes, who were 0-13 away from Kent last season.
Detroit Mercy returns five starters and its top reserve from a team that was 15-15 and fourth in the Horizon League last semester. The Titans were picked second in the league this season and have the Horizon preseason player of the year in 5-10 senior guard Rosanna Reynolds. She was one of two Division I players to average at least 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists last season.
Detroit Mercy also has second-team preseason forward Brianne Cohen, who averaged 15.6 points and 5.7 rebounds as the Horizon Sixth Player of the Year last season.
Add to that 6-foot forward Kelsey Mitchell, a graduate transfer from Michigan who had 12 points and 16 rebounds in the Titans’ game Saturday.
Yet Detroit Mercy is only 1-2 on the season, with Saturday’s game being an 70-60 loss to Bradley, the team Kent State dominated in its first game. Its other loss came to 3-0 East Carolina in overtime, 83-81. All three of the Titans’ games so far have been on the road.
A big reason Detroit Mercy lost at Bradley was that it made only 3 of 24 three-point shots, and the three-pointer was the Titans’ major weapon last season. They set a school record of 234 and were second in the league in three-point percentage. Reynolds, Nicole Urbanick and Haleigh Ristovski all have made more than 115 three-pointers in their careers.
But so far this season Detroit Mercy is shooting 29.8 percent from three-point distance, 4 percentage points worse than a year ago. The Titans are averaging 28 three-point shots per game.
In its first three games, Kent State has defended the three-point shot fairly well, holding teams to 30.8 percent. That’s 4 points better than a year ago, when the Flashes were a distant last in the MAC in three-point defense.
But Robert Morris made 6 of its first 8 three-point shots before Kent State adjusted its defense Saturday. The Colonials made only 1 of 12 after that.
Overall Kent State’s defense has been substantially better than last season. The Flashes are allowing 62.3 points, seven fewer than last season. Opponents are shooting 41 percent, compared with 43 percent a year ago. The competition has been comparable; Robert Morris and Eastern Kentucky are first-division teams in their conferences.
The defense will be key as KSU tries to win on the road.
“Defense travels,” Starkey likes to say. If the offense struggles on an unfamiliar court, the defense has to make up the difference.
- Kent State will take the bus to Detroit Monday morning and head home after the game. “I don’t like to wait around on the road,” Starkey says.
- In case you’re confused about the name of the opponent (as I was): I grew up in Michigan hearing about the University of Detroit and its basketball program. Men’s star in those days was Dave DeBusschere, later an NBA all of fame player who also played baseball for the Chicago White Sox. The University of Detroit, a private Catholic school, merged with Mercy College of Detroit in 1990 to form the University of Detroit Mercy. (ESPN analyst Dick Vitale also coached at Detroit in the 1970s.)
To follow the game
- Video stream starts at 7 p.m. on ESPN3. You have to subscribe to ESPN to see it on a computer or portable device.
- Audio at about 6:45 on Golden Flash iHeart radio and 640 AM WHLO.
- Live statistics through the Detroit Mercy website.
- In-game updates on Twitter at @KentStatwbb.
KSU statistics through three games.
Preview from Detroit Mercy’s website, including links to its roster and statistics.
Preview from Kent State website.
Sunday MAC scores
- Wake Forest (3-1) 89, Eastern Michigan (2-2) 61 at Wake Forest.
- Akron (2-1) 73, Canisius (0-2) 64 at Canisius.
- Chattanooga (3-2) 54, Bowling Green (0-4) 49 at Chattanooga.
Here’s link to MAC standings and some team statistics. Unbeaten teams in the league are Buffalo and Toledo (both 3-0) and Ohio and Ball State (both 2-0).
Game stories from the MAC website.