Starkey: KSU needs to relearn to win the close ones

Coach Todd Starkey was asked by the Flashes’ substitute radio broadcaster whether the team needed more experience to win close games like their 79-73 loss in overtime to Western Kentucky.

“This is a team that has a lot of experiences,” Starkey said. “All these players have played a lot of college basketball. So it’s not necessarily the experience but the right type of experience. This team has struggled in winning basketball games, and they have to relearn the ability to win close games. They have to understand how to stay focused in tough possessions and not squander those opportunities.”

Fourteen of the 15 players on the Kent State roster have some Divsion I experience. (Only true freshman is Ali Poole.)

But the Flashes have lost 77 games since the oldest of them — senior Larissa Lurken — set foot on campus four years ago. They’ve won 20.

Kent State is 9-18 in games decided by six points or less in that time and 13-34 in games decides by 10 points or less. (A sidelight: the Flashes are 7-43 in games decided by more than 10 points. Two of those games were this season — wins over Bradley and Eastern Kentucky.)

Other notes from the Gulf Coast Showcase:

The Flashes will play at 11 a.m. Sunday against host school Florida Gulf Coast, which lost to George Washington 76-47 Saturday. Florida Gulf Coast, like Kent State, is 2-4 on the year and 0-2 in the tournament. Gulf Coast was 33-6 and runner-up in the WNIT a year ago but lost eight players from that team to graduation. They still were picked to win the Atlantic Sun Conference this season

Florida Gulf Coast coach Karl Smesko is a 1993 Kent State graduate. Wikipedia says he walked on to the KSU men’s team as a senior but left the team to take care of a family member. He graduated summa cum laude in telecommunications. His first job was at Walsh Universty the year after he graduated from Kent State. He has a 439-100 career record as a coach.

Lurken’s 39 points Saturday were a tournament record for men or women. 

It was her second game over 30 points this season (she had 32 against Eastern Kentucky) and third in her career (37 against Northern Illinois last season.)

It was the most points scored by a Kent State player since Lindsay Shearer scored the school record of 44 in the MAC tournament finals in 2005. Other games better than Lurken’s were 43 by Ann Forbes in 1992 and 41 by all-time leading scorer Bonnie Beachy in 1981.

Lurken, who became the 20th player to score 1,000 points in KSU’s game against Baylor Friday, moved past Amy Schiller into 19th place with her game Saturday. Lurken now has 1,051. She’s 17 points behind Ashley Bland for 18th place.

Lurken played 43 of KSU’s 45 minutes Saturday and played a team-high 30 minutes Friday against Baylor. Most recent statistics said she was fourth in the MAC in minutes played.

Kent State played its fourth conference preseason player of the year Saturday in Western Kentucky’s Kendall Nobile, who had 28 points and 7 rebounds. That’s the best any of the players have done against the Flashes. Eastern Kentucky’s Jalen O’Bannon (Ohio Valley Conference) had 10 and Detroit Mercy’s Rosanna Reynolds (Horizon Leaguye) had 17. Baylor’s Nina Davis, a two-time all-American and Big 12 preseason player of the year, had only three points but played just 15 minutes. Most of Baylor’s scoring came from its two 6-4 and one 6-7 players, who pounded KSU inside.

The loss was Kent State’s 19th straight on the road or at a neutral court.

Besides Lurken’s 37 and Jordan Korinek’s 19 points, there weren’t a lot of statistical highlights from the Western Kentucky game. Lurken, Korinek and Watson had five rebounds. Poole and Watson had six points. Point guard Naddiyah Cross had five assists (but six turnovers).

Kent State blocked five shots, all in the first half. WKU blocked one. KSU had seven fast-break points to western Kentucky’s two but Western had 30 points in the paint to Kent State’s 20. 

The two teams combined to make 57 of 65 foul shots or 88 percent. Kent State was 31 of 37. Western Kentucky was 26 of 28 and didn’t miss a foul shot until late in the fourth quarter.

Baylor (6-1) will face Ohio State (5-1) in the tournament finals at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. No. 5 Baylor beat No. 18 DePaul 104-72 Saturday while No. 8 Ohio State beat No. 11 Syracuse 77-72.

Western Kentucky box score

To follow Sunday’s game:

Video starts at 11 on the tournament YouTube channel.

Audio pregame starts at 10:45 on 640 AM WHLO and Golden Flash iHeart Radio.

The specific link for live statistics hasn’t been posted yet. The general link for the tournament has been

Live Twitter feed is @kentstatewbb.
MAC scores from Saturday

LaSalle (2-3) 79, Miami (2-3) 70 at UNC-Wilmington Thanksgiving Classic.

Buffalo (4-1) 76, Sacred Heart (3-2) 55 at Buffalo.

Central Michigan (4-2) 77, North Dakota State (1-5) 55 at Cal Poly Thanksgiving Tournament. 

Ohio (4-0) 79, Murray State (4-2) 70 at Ohioi.

Western Michigan (3-2) 74, Eastern Kentucky (2-3) 59 at Plaza Light Classic in Kansas City.

Northern Illinois (4-1) 108, Illinois State (2-3) 66 at Northern.

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