Flashes knock off defending MAC champion Ohio on the road, 68-65

It was the biggest win of her college career for senior Larissa Lurken, who had played on teams than went 18-71 in her first three seasons.

It certainly was the biggest win in the short Kent State career of coach Todd Starkey, whose team has won more games in half a season than the anyone has in the last six full seasons.

It was a win — on the road — against one of the best team’s in the Mid-American Conference, two-time defending regular season champion Ohio University.

Final score was 68-65.

Kent State is now 8-9 and 2-3 in the league. Ohio is 12-4, 3-2 in the MAC and still in first place in the MAC East.

OU had been undefeated at home. Kent State, which didn’t win a road game all last season, is 3-4 on the season away from Kent and 2-1 on the road in the conference.

Jordan Korinek had 24 points for the the Flashes. Lurken had 19 despite going 3 of 18 on field goals. But she was 10 of 12 from the foul line, had six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.

Alexa Golden had six steals to lead a defensive effort that forced 22 Ohio turnovers, nine above the Bobcats’ season average. Kent State had a season-high 16 steals.

The Flashes, who have attacked teams to force fouls all season, made 25 of 34 free throws and drew five fouls on three Ohio starters, including OU’s top two scorers.

“It’s exciting for me to see them turn a corner like that,” Starkey said in his postgame interview on Golden Flash iHeart radio. “Hopefully it gives us another boost of confidence and gives us the understanding that if we do certain things well for 40 minutes of the game, that we can play with anybody.

“Our players did a really job of executing the game plan. We got the ball to the right spots on the floor, and when players had the chance to knock down shots they did.

“They listened all game. (When Ohio) started to run some set plays against our 2-3, we  made some adjustments and they couldn’t go back to it. We got in the right positions.”

On kentstatesports.com, Starkey said: “I couldn’t be more proud, after how disappointed we were after the Northern Illinois game, to come back here and show some incredible heart by our players. It was the best defensive game of the season for us and a heck of a win.”

Korinek’s offense was a key factor for the Flashes. Her 24 points was only the third time this season — and the first time in a victory — that someone besides Lurken has led Kent State in scoring.

“Jordan really did a great job of screening well and slipping to the basket and scoring,” Starkey said. “It was a great game for her.

“We knew they were going to put a lot of pressure on Larissa and try and take her out of the game. To get a win on the road at Ohio with Larissa Lurken going 3 for 18, that’s great.

“We’ve told Larissa from the beginning that there are going to be nights when the shots don’t fall, but if she keeps playing defense and playing hard, things can work out. Today she had five assists. She found people when she got double teams and they got open.”

Golden, the coach said, “had a phenominal defensive game and did great job of knocking down a couple of open threes.”

Golden’s three-pointer with 6:45 left brought Kent State back to a tie after Ohio had taken a six-point lead. It meant, Starkey said, that Kent State was “able to play from ahead instead of trying to chase from behind.”

OU’s Quiera Lampkins, the MAC’s second leading scorer, fouled out with 2:31 to play after scoring 17 points. Jasmin Weatherspoon, the conference’s fourth leading rebounder, had fouled out 30 seconds earlier after getting 11 rebounds and blocking three shots. Point guard Taylor Agler fouled out in the last minute with 13 points.

“That’s where we won the game,” Starkey said. “Getting to the foul line, getting them into some foul trouble and trying to throw them off their game offensively.”

Notes

  • It was just the second time in six years that Kent had beaten a MAC team with a winning record. The last time the Flashes beat a first-place team was a 44-43 win over Bowling Green at Kent State in 2011. The last time they beat a first-place team on the road? A long, long time. Even in KSU’s best years in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Flashes were usually in first place when they won a big game on the road.
  • McKenna Stephens led Kent State in rebounding for the fifth time in the last seven games. She had 8 rebounds, 8 points, 3 steals and an assists. Overall, rebounding was even at 35. Kent State had three more offensive rebounds and outscored OU 10-2 on second-chance points.
  • The Flashes outscored Ohio 17-12 off turnovers. They had 15 turnovers to the Bobcats’ 22, the third straight game they’ve forced more than 20 and had fewer turnovers than their opponents. That’s a major change; KSU had been near the bottom of the MAC in turnover margin before those games. Going into the game, Ohio had led the league in turnover margin at +7.5.
  • The score was tied nine times and the lead changed hands 10 times.
  • It was the first close game Flashes had won this season. Their previous closest win was 10 points at Wright State. They had lost two overtime games and by one point to Northern Illinois on Wednesday.
  • KSU shot 36.5 percent from the field (19 for 52) for the game but 50 percent (11 for 22) in the second half. OU was at 42 percent (21 for 49) and also 50 percent in the second half. On three-point shots, the Flashes were 5 for 11 and Ohio 8 for 19.
  • All five Kent State starters played at least 30 minutes, with Lurken playing 39, Korinek a season-high 37 and Golden 36. Backup point guard Megan Carter was the only other KSU player with more than 10 minutes. She had 14.

Kent State travels to Western Michigan Wednesday to play another one of the MAC’s better teams. The Broncos are 13-4, 4-1 in the league and beat Eastern Michigan (5-12, 0-5) 76-67 at Eastern Saturday.

QUOTES FROM OHIO from the story on the school’s website:

Coach Bob Boldon: “I can’t remember the last time our defense was good. Since the New Year, our defense has just been garbage. Consistency needs to be hammered in and my hope is that our players will get there at some point before the end of the season. We have been shooting a little better, but we still are not at where we need to be. We have plenty to work on this week. I think we can really come together and put a run together with this team. ”

Point guard Taylor Agler: “We didn’t come in focused today. We are starting to take our opponents lightly and that hurt us today. We didn’t follow the game plan; there were a lot of things that we didn’t do right.”

Forward Jasmine Weatherspoon: “We really need to fix our defense. We have to limit turnovers and we foul too much. We are letting our opponents cut across our faces, and our switches have been too slow.”

Box score

Game story from KSU website.

You can find a video of the last play and the KSU celebration on Twitter, searching for @KentStateWbb. I couldn’t make link work here.

Other MAC scores

  • Northern Illinois (12-4, 5-0 in the MAC) 77, Toledo (12-4, 3-2) 73 at Toledo. That’s a big win for NIU on the road.
  • Ball State (11-6, 4-1) 80, Akron (7-9, 0-5) 70 at Ball State.
  • Central Michigan (13-4, 5-0) 76, Bowling Green (5-12, 1-4) 65 in overtime at BG.
  • Buffalo (12-4, 2-3) 68, Miami (7-11, 1-4) 51 at Miami.

MAC standings

 

 

 

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