Florida Gulf Coast, the team Kent State beat 77-64 Sunday in the Gulf Coast Showcase, is a good team. But it’s hard to figure out how good.
The Eagles, 2-2 at the time, were ranked 11th in last week’s Mid-Major poll. They’ve won six straight Atlantic Sun Conference titles and are picked to win again this season. They were 33-6 last season and runner-up in the WNIT.
After the weekend tournament, Gulf Coast is 2-5. But the Eagles have lost to very good teams. Besides Kent State (3-4), the teams that have beaten the Eagles are a combined 19-6. Those teams are George Washington (5-2), No. 8 Ohio State (5-2) , Northern Colorado (5-1 and ranked 18th among mid-majors) in two overtimes and Quinnipiac (4-1).
The Eagles lost eight seniors from last year’s 33-win team. They’ve rebuilt around guard Taylor Gradinjan, who led the conference in three-point baskets last season and was a preseason all-league selection. They added China Dow, a transfer who averaged 16.4 points a game at Middle Tennessee State and two junior college players ranked in the top 50 in the nation last year.
“We need more consistent performances,” said Florida Gulf Coast head coach Karl Smesko after the Kent State game. “Hopefully we’ll learn from it and make fewer mistakes next time. We’re disappointed in our play, but we understood there would be some growing pains. Right now it just seems like they’re at a maximum.” (Here’s link to that story.)
(Smesko, in case you missed it in a previous post, 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 communications. His first job was at Walsh Universty the year after he graduated from Kent State. He has a 439-101 career record as a coach and has been Atlantic Sun coach of the year seven times.
Baylor wins tournament
No. 5 Baylor beat No. 8 Ohio State 85-68 Sunday to win the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament. After beating Kent State, 84-42, the Bears beat No. 18 DePaul 104-72 in the second round. So Kent State “held” Baylor to its lowest point total in the tournament. (Actually, the Flashes held Baylor to fewer points than any team except No. 2 and defending national champion Connecticut, which beat the Bears 72-61 at Connecticut. Baylor also scored 84 points in an 84-70 win over No. 9 UCLA.)
Other third-day scores from the tournament
- No. 18 DePaul (5-1) 108, No. 11 Syracuse (4-3) 84.
- George Washington (5-2) 68, Western Kentucky (3-3) 49
The Lurken watch
Larissa Lurken’s 24-point, 13-rebound performance against Florida Gulf Coast was her third double-double of the season. She made a season-best 8 of 15 shots, 2 of 3 three-pointers and 6 of 8 free throws. (The 24 points was corrected from the 22 reported after the game.)
She’s averaging 23.4 points and 7 rebounds a game. and making 37 percent of her shots, 42 percent of her three-point shots and 82 percent of her foul shots.
Her 24 points Sunday took her past Ashley Bland (1995-98) into 18th place on Kent State’s all-time scoring list with 1,076. Next up the list is Amy Slowikowski (1987-90) with 1,224 and Carrie Nance (1998-2001) with 1,226. Highest in KSU history is Bonnie Beachy, with 2,071 points from 1979-82
Lurken was named to the Gulf Coast Showcase All-Tournament Team. She set the tournament record in scoring with 39 points against WKU.
Lurken played 35 minutes Sunday. In three games in three days, she played 108 of a possible 125 minutes.
Other notes from Sunday
- Kent State dominated Gulf Coast inside, outrebounding the Eagles 47-26, outscoring them in the paint 32-18 and in second-chance points, 18-9.
- Senior Chelsi Watson started her first game of the season at forward in place of McKenna Stephens. She had 10 points and 8 rebounds in 32 minutes. She’s averaging 6.3 rebounds a game, second on the team, in 20 minutes a game. 20 of her 44 rebounds have been offensive. She’s fifth on the team at 6.4 points a game. Her foul shooting has improved from 34 percent last season to 62 percent this year.
- Watson’s starting was the first change in the starting lineup this season. Other starters have been Lurken, junior forward Jordan Korinek, sophomore guard Alexa Golden and junior point guard Naddiyah Cross. Freshman Ali Poole has played starter minutes at 22 per game, fourth highest on the team.
- Cross made 5 of 6 foul shots in the last minute to keep the Flashes in a comfortable lead. She’s made 16 of 19 on the season (84 percent). Her 11 points were second highest of the season (she had 13 against Robert Morris). She also leads the team with 4.7 assists per game.
- For the season, Kent State is making 72 percent of its free throws. Last year it made 68 percent. Two years ago it was less than 60 percent.
- 6-4 sophomore Merissa Barber-Smith had seven rebounds, a career high, in five minutes. She’s averaging 2.4 rebounds in six minutes a game.
- All three of Kent State’s wins have come by 13 or more points. The last time KSU won three games by double digits in a season was 2010-11, the team’s last winning season.
- Even though Florida Gulf Coast is five miles away in Fort Myers, Sunday’s game was technically at a neutral site in Germain Arena. The Eagles play their home games on campus. Kent State actually was the “home” team Sunday. The neutral setting means the Flashes still haven’t technically broken their 16-game road losing streak.
Kent State plays Fort Wayne (formally IPFW or Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the MAC Center. Fort Wayne is 1-5 on the season with its only win coming over Division III Defiance College. The Mastodons beat Kent State 86-68 in Fort Wayne last season.
Other Sunday MAC scores
- Bowling Green (2-4) 73, Saint Peter’s (0-5) 68 at Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge in Springfield, Massachusetts.
- Providence (6-0) 75, Miami (2-4) 59 at UNC Wilmington Thanksgiving Classic.
- Northern Colorado (5-1) 58, Eastern Michigan (2-4) 57 at Texas-San Antonio Thanksgiving Classic.
Ohio (4-0) is only undefeated team in league. Northern Illinois, Buffalo and Toledo are 4-1. NIU is averaging 97 points a game, highest in the country.