Flashes need a win against 5-9 Eastern Michigan, but they’ll have to win this one on the road Saturday

If I had had to pick one of KSU’s first four conference games it really had to win, it would be this Saturday’s contest at Eastern Michigan.

EMU is one of three MAC teams with worse records than Kent State. If the Flashes are going to approach a .500 record in the conference, they’re almost certainly have to beat Eastern twice.

This one is on the road, where KSU has gone 1-19 over the last 15 months. The Flashes posted a solid win.at Wright State in December but have lost three in a row away from home since (though two of them were to the Big Ten’s Iowa and Minnesota).

Eastern is 5-9 and, like Kent State, winless in the MAC. It lost its opening by 12 at Northern Illinois and lost at home against 11-3 Toledo Wednesday, 66-49.

KSU is 6-8 and lost by 13 to Central Michigan at home and at Ball State Wednesday, 71-47.

Eastern had been a solid first-division team in the MAC for the last three seasons but lost coach Tory Verdi to Rhode Island in the off-season. Leading scorer Cha Sweeney, a second team all-conference player, graduated early and transferred to Georgia Tech. Second-leading scorer Janay Morton transferred to Nebraska.

New coach Fred Castro, a former assistant at Washington, has brought along two players who had very little impact last season to lead his team this year. Point guard Micah Robinson started one game last season, played 7.5 minutes per game  and averaged just 0.4 points.

This season she’s playing 37.1 minutes a game, most in the MAC, and is averaging 12.3 points per game.

Sasha Dailey, a 5-8 guard, didn’t start a game last season and averaged 5.8 points per game. This season she’s fourth in the conference at 18.6 points per game. 5-9 guard Phyllis Webb is averaging 12 points a game, slightly more than last season, and is fourth in the conference in rebounding at 7.1 per game. Webb had 30 points and 14 rebounds against NIU.

Eastern had built its reputation for the last few seasons on steals and pressure defense and is still getting 27 percent of its points off turnovers. But the Eagles are in the middle of the pack in the conference in turnovers margin and in most other statistics.

The game is even more important to Kent State because the Flashes are coming off four straight losses — all to winning teams — and a horrendous second half at Ball State in which they scored just 14 points and shot 12 percent.

The team is at the point when it needs to prove to itself that it can still play as well as it did during a four-game winning streak in late November and early December.

Key for the Flashes will be getting their shooting on track. Larissa Lurken still leads the conference in scoring at 21.8 point per game, but teams are keying on her. She scored 18 points at Ball State, but it took her 19 shots.

Jordan Korinek is KSU’s second leading scorer but has been in foul trouble three of the last four games. She scored 12 points at Ball State but picked up her second foul early in the second quarter and scored only three points after the first 10 minutes.

Nobody else on the Flashes averages more than 7 points a game.

Kent State has struggled with turnovers all season, and another key to Saturday’s game will be whether the Flashes can handle Eastern’s speed and pressure.

To follow the Eastern Michigan game

Video starts at noon Saturday on the ESPN3. To watch, you’ll need to have a subscription to ESPN through cable.)
Audio at about 11:45 a.m. on Golden Flash iHeart radio.
Live statistics are available through the Eastern Michigan website.
In-game updates on Twitter at @KentStatwbb.

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.

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