Larissa Lurken played about as well as any Kent State player has ever done.
For two and a half quarters, her team played about as well as it has in her four yearsas a starter.
But the Flashes had trouble with defense and turnovers in the last quarter and in overtime and fell to Western Kentucky, 79-73, in the second round of the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament in Estero, Florida.
Lurken had 39 points, fourth highest in Kent State history. She made 22 of 25 free throws, both school records. She made three three-point baskets, which gave her the 161, the most in a KSU career.
The Flashes led Western Kentucky, the preseason favorite to win the Conference USA title, by 14 points with about four minutes to go in the third quarter. At that point, the Hilltoppers had made only 21 percent of their shots.
But for the rest of the way, Western Kentucky made 16 of 26.
Kent State turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter and on four of its first six possessions of overtime.
And for the game, WKU outrebounded the Flashes 43-31, including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 21 second-chance points.
“A tough game,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame radio interview. “We played well against Robert Morris and got them to overtime and couldn’t close them out. We played a really tough basketball game against a really good Western Kentucky team and couldn’t close it out. We’e got to be able to learn from these situations. We had too many costly turnovers down the stretch. We gave up two many offensive rebounds.
“We got really silent at the end of the game, which is when we need to talk defensively the most. We really build our program on great communication on the defensive end of the floor. And the most important possessions that we had, we didn’t do that.
“Then we had a lot of missed boxouts (on rebounding) down the stretch. If you’re going to beat good teams, you can’t have any lapses in those two things.”
Western Kentucky was not a bigger team than the Flashes; its tallest starter is a 6-2 freshman, who wasn’t a factor in the KSU game. The Hilltoppers actually had been outrebounded by 1.6 a game through their first four games. Kent State’s biggest starter is 6-2 Jordan Korinek, and the Flashes had averaged 0.4 rebounds more than their opponents even after being outrebounds 49-23 by Baylor on Friday.
But on Saturday WKU’s 6-1 Ivy Brown had 13 rebounds, six of them offensive. 5-11 Kendall Nobile had four offensive and three defensive rebounds to go with 28 points and 6-1 Tashia Brown had four offensive and two defensive rebounds to go with 21 points.
Lurken, Jordan Korinek and Chelsi Watson led KSU with five rebounds each. Watson had two offensive rebounds.
In reaching her 39 points, Lurken made 7 of 19 field goals,3 of 5 three-pointers and 22 of 25 foul shots.
“That’s a great game for Ris, and I’m really proud of her for the way she’s playing right now,” Starkey said. “Ris has done a great job of really buying into what we’re trying to do. She did a good job of attacking the whole game, getting to the free throw line and defending. She’s going to have a lot of career highs this year. She’s just a very talented player.”
On Friday, Lurken had become the 20th player in KSU history to go over 1,000 points.
Korinek equaled her season high with 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting.
But no other KSU player scored more than five.
Kent State is 2-4 on the season and will play the loser of the George Washington-Florida Gulf Coast game at 11 a.m. Sunday. Western Kentucky is 3-2.
I’ll add notes and a little more information later this afternoon.