For the first quarter and a half, Kent State showed home fans the team that had made such a strong showing in Florida last weekend.
The Flashes jumped to a 24-6 first-quarter lead over Fort Wayne and led by 26 midway in the second.
Then they held on for a 66-55 victory.
The win takes the team to 4-4, the first time Kent State has been at .500 after Thanksgiving in six years.
Larissa Lurken, sixth in the country in scoring going into the game, beat her average by two with 25 points. Alexa Golden had a career-high 13.
Kent State, which had beaten one conference favorite and taken another to overtime at the Gulf Coast Showcase, made 8 of 11 field goals and held Fort Wayne to 1 of 12 in the first quarter. Lurken, who had 78 points in three games in three days in Florida, had 16 in the quarter.
The Flashes outscored Fort Wayne 12-4 to start the second quarter, but that was their high-water mark. The Mastodons outscored them 13-4 for the rest of the quarter, 14-10 in the third quarter and 18-16 in the fourth.
Still Fort Wayne never got within 10, and the game was never in doubt.
Kent State looked tired at times after the first quarter.
“It was our fifth game in nine days,” coach Todd Starkey said his postgame interview on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. “There was probably some residual of that. We were a little leg weary in the second half. You could tell we were fatigued, probably more mentally than anything.”
Even playing as well as they did early, the Flashes had seven turnovers in the first quarter and 21 for the game. The team missed 14 foul shots — it missed 16 total in all three games in Florida. That can be a sign of tired legs. Starkey said the team got away from its game plan. And before the game, Starkey said Fort Wayne, despite its 1-6 record, was a team that didn’t quit.
“It’s part of changing the culture,” Starkey said, “to continue to keep playing no matter what the score is.”
The Flashes have won more non-league games than they have in any of the last five seasons. The last time they were at .500 other than at 1-1 was in 2010-11, their last winning season.
Golden, a sophomore starter who’s mostly known as a defensive specialist, played a season-high 31 minutes in scoring her most points in college. She made five of seven field goals and had six rebounds.
“I just couldn’t take her out of the game,” Starkey said. “She played a really good job defensively, ran the floor well, and she made big plays and she kept fighting through fatigue.”
Golden said scoring isn’t on her mind when she’s in a game.
“I love defense and do whatever I can to help the team,” she said, agreeing that she did get more confidence in her offense after a good start Wednesday.
Big test for the Flashes comes next Wednesday at 4-2 Wright State, whose losses are to Georgetown and Auburn. KSU hasn’t won a true road game since February 2015 (17 straight).
“We’ll rest our legs and rest our minds and get ready,” Starkey said. “That’s the next step for us: to go on the road and get wins.”
- Chelsi Watson led the team with seven rebounds — four of them offensive — and two blocks in 26 minutes. She had started in Sunday’s win against Florida Gulf Coast, but Starkey said he had told her before today’s game that her energy was more valuable coming off of the bench. McKenna Stephens moved back into the starting line-up, though she played only 12 minutes.
- KSU had six assists on its first eight baskets and ended with 11. Naddiyah Cross had four.
- Megan Carter, the redshirt freshman point guard had two points, two assists and a steal in eight minutes. A year ago she injured her knee against Fort Wayne and was lost for the season.
- Zenobia Bess, the junior transfer from Illinois State, equaled her Kent State high with 12 minutes. Sophomore Paige Salisbury, playing more shooting guard as point guard, was in the game a season-high 12 minutes. She had started 12 games at point guard last season. Sophomore Merissa Barber-Smith scored her first point of the season, a foul shot in the second quarter.
- Jordan Korinek had 11 points, her third straight game in double figures after struggling in three of the team’s first four games. She also had five rebounds.
- The Flashes made 22 of 48 field goals for 46 percent; Fort Wayne was 36 percent on 18 of 50.
- Kent State outscored Fort Wayne in the paint 36-18 and outrebounded the Mastodons 38-25.
The Lurken watch
- Lurken’s 25 points give her an even 1,100 for her career. She needs 124 to move past Amy Slowikowski (1987-90) and 126 to move past Carrie Nance (1998-2001) into 16th place in all-time scoring for Kent State.
- Before the game, Starkey presented her with a personalized basketball to honor her becoming the 20th player in KSU in history to reach 1,000 points. She got a standing ovation from the 300-plus fans at the game.
- Lurken had four steals and a career-high three blocks against Fort Wayne. She also had a career-high nine turnovers.
- Allen Moff of the Record-Courier points out that Lurken was 98 of 126 in foul shooting all of last season. This year she’s 74 of 93 through eight games. She was leading the nation going into the week in free throws made and attempted.
- Earlier in the day, she was named the Mid-American Conference’s female scholar-athlete of the week. Lurken has a 3.68 grade point average in nursing. KSU football player Nick Cuthbert, who has a 3.8 average in grad school and had a 3.97 undergrad GPA in criminal justice, was the league’s male scholar-athlete.
Story from kentstatesports.com website, including video highlights and player and coach interviews.
Other MAC scores
Bucknell (5-2) 61, Akron (2-2) 47 at Akron.
Ohio (5-0) 73, Middle Tennessee (1-3) 52 at Middle Tennessee. (Ohio is fourth in the latest Mid-Major Top 20. Florida Gulf Coast, the team KSU beat Sunday, is 23rd.)
Bowling Green (3-4), Division II Davis & Elkins (4-3) 46 at Bowling Green.
Drake (3-2) 95, Northern Illinois (4-2) 86 at Drake.
Western Michigan (4-2) 68, North Dakota State (1-6) 63 at North Dakota State.
Eastern Michigan (3-4) 66, Incarnate Word (0-5) 47 at Incarnate Word (San Antonio).