More than the 500 die-hard women’s basketball fans can see the new-look team Saturday.
The Flashes play Youngstown State at 5 p.m. in the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center in the first game of a double header with the men’s team, who play NJIT about a half hour after women finish.
A ticket to the women’s game gets you general assignment admission to the men’s game. Tickets to the men’s game get also get you into the women’s game. Based on previous double headers, as many as 1,500 fans will see at least the last quarter of the women’s game Saturday.
Fans will see a women’s team that is 5-4, above .500 at midseason for the first time since 2010-11. The five wins are just one fewer than the team had all last year and two short of the most wins for any KSU team since 2011, which was the last time the Flashes had a winning season (20-10).
Kent State has won three straight games, including a 79-69 win at Wright State Wednesday that broke an 18-game road losing streak.
Coach Todd Starkey likes the idea of double headers.
“Hopefully it gets a nice crowd for both of us,” he said on the weekly Flash Talk radio show Thursday. “It creates energy around both programs and develops great comraderie within your school.”
(Here’s link to Facebook Live archive of show. Starkey interview starts about 28 minutes after an interview with men’s coach Rob Senderoff.)
This year’s women’s team is ahead of last year’s team in almost every statistical category. The Flashes are:
- Averaging 67.9 points a game (last year was 61.4).
- Allowing the same number — 67.9 (71.0 last season).
- Making 40.4 percent of their shots (39.6).
- Allowing 40.4 percent shooting from opponents (43.4).
- Shooting 35.1 percent from three-point distance and averaging 5.1 three-point baskets per game (26.9 and 4.2).
- Making 18.6 free throws a game, a figure that’s third highest in the NCAA Division I (last year was 12.3).
- Outrebounding opponents by 3.3 a game (they were outrebounded by 2.9 last season).
The only numbers that are worse are turnover margin (-2.5 compared with -1.2) and steals (8.5 per game last season compared with 7.4 this year).
Last year’s team was Kent’s best statistically in five seasons.
After nine games last season, the team was 3-6. This year’s competition has been at least as good, with seven of KSU’s opponents so far being picked in the first division of their leagues. (Strength of schedule numbers are more ambiguous, but those numbers aren’t particularly reliable this early in the season. We’ll have a full post on that next week.)
Senior guard Larissa Lurken is averaging 23.6 points per game. If she kept that up for the season, it would be the highest average in school history. The record is 21.5 points a game, set by all-time leading scorer Bonnie Beachy in 1980-81. Amy Sherry averaged 21.4 in 1994-95. Only two other KSU players — Lindsay Shearer (20.8 in 2005-06) and Ann Forbes (20.2 in 1990-91) — have averaged more than 20 points a game in a season. Beach also averaged 20.2 in 1981-82.
The women’s team has averaged 436 fans per game through its first four home games. That’s about 50 lower than last season but comparable to 2015’s non-conference games. Best attendance in my era was about 1,100 per game in the early 2000s, when Kent State was the premiere program in the Mid-American Conference. I have the idea that they had some good crowds in the Beachy era, too. (There are no attendance records in the KSU record book.)
Youngstown State is a team that beat the Flashes badly in the last two seasons but has been hit by injuries this year. Two women projected as starters before the season are out for the year with injuries. A third, leading scorer Sarah Cash, has been limited by knee problems and didn’t play at all in the Penguins’ 76-74 overtime loss to Akron (4-2) on Tuesday at Youngstown.
YSU is 3-5, with one of its wins being over St. Francis, a team that beat Wisconsin 103-100. Gauging the quality of that team is convoluted because St. Francis is just 2-4. But obviously both St. Francis and Youngstown State have some talent.
Coach John Barnes is 57-40 in three seasons in Youngstown. He turned down the head coaching job at Kent State after Danny O’Banion’s contract wasn’t renewed last season.
Three weeks later, the Flashes hired Indiana assistant Starkey, who has the team playing a more uptempo offense and more aggressive defense — and winning.
Preview from Kent State website, including links to statistics, roster and schedule.
If you can’t go to the Youngstown State game
- Video starts at 5 p.m.
- Audio at about 4:45 on Golden Flash iHeart radio and 640 AM WHLO.
- Live statistics though the KSU website.
- In-game updates on Twitter at @KentStatwbb.
Friday MAC scores
Eastern Michigan (4-5) 75, St. Bonaventure (4-5) 56 at Eastern.
Toledo (7-1) 76, Dayton (3-5) 72 at Dayton.
Central Michigan (7-3) 73, Saint Joseph’s (2-6) 71 in overtime at Central.
Buffalo (8-0) 65, Canisius (2-6) 52 at Canisius.
Purdue (7-4) 58, Ball State (5-3) 41 at Ball State.
MAC standings with some team statistics.
Ohio (6-0) is fourth in this week’s Mid-Major top 25. Buffalo is 13th and Toledo 25th, with Ball State also receiving some votes. Florida Gulf Coast, a team Kent State beat in the Gulf Coast Showcase, is ranked 23rd.
Lurken’s 1,000 on video
Here’s a link to a nice video from kentstatesports.com on Lurken reaching 1,000 points for her career.