Kent State’s women’s team doesn’t get an easy one to start the Mid-American Conference season.
The Flashes open against 8-4 Central Michigan, the defending MAC West champions and preseason favorite to win the league championship.
The game is at 1 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center. It’s the first pre-New Year’s conference game I can remember in many years.
“They’re very good,” coach Todd Starkey said. “They have four players average in double figures in scoring. And their fifth player is leading the league in rebounding. They’re balanced inside and out and very well coached.”
Central has some of the best starting players in the MAC:
- 5-6 point guard Presley Hudson was league freshman of the year last season and a preseason all-MAC West choice. She’s averaging 14.3 points, 2.4 three-pointers and 4.8 assists per game.
- 6-3 foot junior forward Tinara Moore is another preseason all-MAC West player. She’s averaging 11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and a MAC-leading 2.0 blocks per game.
- 6-foot sophomore Reyna Frost leads the MAC in rebounding at 11.3 a game and averages 7.4 points.
- 5-10 junior guard Cassie Breen leads the MAC in three-point baskets a game with 3.3 and is sixth in three-point percentage at 41.2. She averages 14.1 points a game.
- 6-2 senior forward Jewel Cotton averages 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. She’s had some problems with an ankle injury and didn’t start in CMU’s last two games, though she played 19 minutes Wednesday.
- Only two other CMU players average more than 7 minute per game. They score a combined 9 points a game.
Central has yet to win a road game this season. The Chippewas have lost to three teams with RPIs in the top 100, plus Purdue (No. 153). They’re coming off a 79-69 road loss Wednesday to 6-7 Middle Tennessee State (No. 93). After long bus rides to Tennessee and Kent, they could be (a) road-weary (b) a little down from the loss (c ) mad at losing and/or (d) sharper with less of a Christmas layoff than Kent State, which hasn’t played since Dec. 22.
Kent State’s last game was a 92-62 loss at Minnesota on a Big Ten road trip that also saw them lose at Iowa, 83-58. The two teams have a combined record of 18-10, and both have RPIs under 75.
Starkey saw the trip as mixed.
“We played well for pockets of time,” he said. “There’s such a small margin for error against BCS-level teams because of their size and their talent. We got off to a great start at Iowa (an 11-2 lead), then got a little careless and turned the ball over. And as soon as they got a little momentum on their side, they just ran with it.”
At Minnesota, “they jumped on us out of the gate,” Starkey said. “We got some great looks — missed layups, wide-open threes, short jumpers we usually can make.”
Kent State went 1 for 20 in the first quarter. For the rest of the game, Minnesota outscored the Flashes by eight points.
“We showed moments of what we’re capable of,” Starkey said.
In the non-conference season, “There have been times when we played really good MAC-level basketball,” the coach said. “There’s been significant growth from Day 1 to where we are now.”
To improve more, he said:
“We have to do better in capitalizing on other people’s mistakes. Every team makes mistakes in the course of a game. When we have a chance to take an opportunity, we have to convert — whether it be on offense rebounds or turnovers. We can’t get an offensive rebound and not get a field goal attempt.
“We need to execute offensively a little bit better than we have been. And we have to get back to the brand of defense we were playing about three or four games ago.
“I look at the first three quarters at Wright State, and that was really good basketball for us.”
Kent State led the Raiders 66-41 after three quarters, shooting 61 percent and holding Wright State to 31 percent. Wright State, now 8-4, came back in the last quarter to make the final score 79-69.
Central Michigan coach Sue Gervara has noticed Kent State’s improved play.
“This team has always played hard, but what they’re doing so different right now is they are attacking the basket,” she was quoted on the Central Michigan website preview. “You’ve got to keep them in front of you, get some helpside (defense), and understand personnel and matchups.”
Preview from KSU website, including links to statistics, roster and schedule/results.
Preview from CMU website, including links.
If you can’t go to the CMU game
- Video starts at 1 p.m.
- Audio at about 12:45 on Golden Flash iHeart radio and 640 AM WHLO.
- Live statistics though the KSU website.
- In-game updates on Twitter at @KentStatwbb.
Flashes’ first four are season in microcosm
We will know a great deal about KSU after its first four MAC games. They play:
- Central Michigan, a good team, but at home.
- At Ball State, a team with a slightly better record (7-5) but a slightly worse RPI (238).
- At Eastern Michigan (5-7), a second-division team KSU needs to beat to have a chance at a .500 season.
- A home game against high-scoring Northern Illinois (7-4), a team the Flashes beat in Kent last season.
It’s a stretch when they could go 0-4 or 4-0, though I’d think neither is likely.
Buffalo loses its first game
The Bulls (10-1) lost their first game against the best team they’ve played so far, Harvard, which is now 11-1 and an RPI of 28.
Buffalo trailed through much of the game but pulled within three with about two minutes to go. But the Bulls missed five straight shots and had a turnover while Harvard made seven of eight foul shots in the last minute. (Game story.)
Buffalo goes home to play its third game in three days in the MAC opener against Miami (6-7). The loss knocks the Bulls’ RPI to 22 from 16.
MAC opening day matchups
- Ohio (9-2) at Bowling Green (4-8).
- Ball State (7-5) at Toledo (9-2).
- Akron (7-4) at Western Michigan (9-2).
- Eastern Michigan (5-7) at Northern Illinois (7-4).
- Miami (6-7) at Buffalo (10-1).
- Central Michigan (8-4) at Kent State (6-6).