Kent State is coming off a 91-78 loss to Central Michigan in what was one of CMU’s best games of the season.
Now the Flashes head to Muncie, Indiana, Wednesday to play Ball State, which is definitely coming of its best game of the season.
The Cardinals beat Toledo at Toledo Saturday, 51-45. It was only the third loss of the season for the Rockets, whose other home loss was to No. 7 Notre Dame.
Ball State’s previous best win had been at 6-5 Oakland of the Horizon League.
The Cardinals won the Toledo game with defense, holding the Rockets to 24.6 percent shooting. Toledo had come into the game average 40 percent shooting and 77 points a game. It was the fewest points and lowest field goal percentage for Toledo all season.
Before Saturday, Ball State had been underperforming expectations. Picked to tie Toledo for second in the MAC West, the Cardinals had gone 7-5 against routine competition. Their non-conference strength of schedule was 292 of 349 Division I teams, second worst in the conference.
The Toledo win helped Ball State jump more than 60 points in RPI to 182.
Kent State (6-7) has an RPI of 204, its best in six years. Its non-conference strength of schedule was 203.
Central Michigan gave Kent State problems with balance among kinds of players. Ball State has similar balance, with:
- Height. (6-5 senior center Renee Bennett is one of the tallest players in the conference and averages 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.)
- Ball handling. (5-8 sophomore guard Carmen Grande leads the MAC in assists and is tied for sixth in the country at 7.5 per game. She’s also tied for seventh in the conference with 2.2 steals per game and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio.)
- Three-point shooting. (6-1 junior forward Moriah Monaco is sixth in the league at 2.5 per game and 14th in percentage at 35.5. She averages 14.5 points, 14th in the MAC, and 6.1 rebounds, which is 18th. Senior guard Jill Morrison, a four-year starter, averages 34.2 percent on three-pointers for her career and just scored her 1,000-career point.)
Sophomore guard Destiny Washington averages 10.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Like Central Michigan, Ball State has a seven-player rotation, so you can expect Kent State to try to get the Cardinals into foul trouble. Four CMU starters finished Saturday’s game with four fouls.
Kent State continues to be nationally ranked in the number of foul shots taken (16th in the country) and made (11th). Larissa Lurken still leads the nation in free throws taken (9.7 a game) and is second in free throws made (7.8). Her 22.1 points per game average is eighth in the country and first in the MAC.
But Lurken also leads Kent State in turnovers with 4.2 per game. Her eight turnovers Saturday tied for the third highest number by a MAC player this season. Her nine turnovers against Fort Wayne is tied for highest.
Part of that is because Lurken handles the ball more than any other player on Kent’s team and is the Flashes’ most aggressive offensive player. Part of it is that she plays a lot of minutes (her 35.4 per game is fourth in the MAC). And as the focus of KSU’s offense, she’s focus of opponents’ defensive game plan.
“She’s got to clear that up as we go forward in the conference, especially without a lot of assists,” Kent State coach Todd Starkey said. “She’s going to get that attention from everybody.”
He acknowledged that playing fewer minutes might help Lurken, “but it’s hard to take her out.”
Lurken leads the MAC and is eighth in the nation in scoring at 22.1 points per game.
10 of 16 shooting over the last two games has taken forward McKenna Stephens into the top 15 in the conference in shooting percentage (46.6). She’s also had a total of 15 rebounds in those games. Backup point guard Megan Carter also has had two good games in a row, averaging 11.5 points and five assists in 20 minutes per game.
Kent State and Ball State have one common opponent — Conference USA favorite Western Kentucky. Ball State lost to the Western 68-61 on the road two weeks ago. Kent State lost to the Hilltoppers 79-73 in overtime at the Gulf Coast Showcase at Thanksgiving. Western Kentucky has won five in a row to move its record to 10-4.
Current Kent State statistics, with links to roster and schedule/results.
Current MAC statistics, including standings.
Team website previews hadn’t been posted as of Monday.
To follow the Ball State game
- Video starts at 7 p.m. on the ESPN3. (Link is to index of Wednesday games; link to BSU-KSU game hasn’t been posted yet (To watch, you’ll need to have a subscription to ESPN through cable.)
- Audio at about 6:45 on Golden Flash iHeart radio.
- Live statistics are available through the Ball State website.
- In-game updates on Twitter at @KentStatwbb.