Kent State’s 98-97 game against Northern Illinois two weeks ago may have been a loss, but it started KSU’s string of good games against good MAC teams.
Since then, the Flashes have won three games against teams with a combined 40-14 record.
Now they get another try at Northern, a team with a better conference record than Ohio, Western Michigan or Toledo — the three teams KSU beat in its three-game winning streak.
NIU is 6-1 on the conference (12-5 overall) and tied for first place in the MAC West. Kent State is 4-3 and 10-9 overall and tied for second in the East.
The Flashes may have played Northern almost even in that game in Kent, but coach Todd Starkey and and team were not happy.
“This hurt about as much as any loss I’ve been involved in,” said senior guard Larissa Lurken, who scored 31 points, after the game. “We didn’t follow the game plan.”
“We told them the if Northern scored in the 80s or 90s, it would be very hard to beat them,” Starkey said. “They just try to outscore people.”
NIU leads the MAC and is third in the nation in scoring at 88.2 points a game.The Huskies also give up 81.4 points a game, the most in the conference.
Kent State scores 69.5, fifth in the league, and gives up 72.5, with is 11th.
But in the last three games, the Flashes have played some of their best defense of the season, allowing 65, 67 and 60 against teams that averaged 70.1 points a game.
NIU’s offense came back to earth a little after the Kent State game. The Huskies beat Toledo at Toledo but scored 77 points, at that point their lowest of the season. Then they managed just 55 points — 35 below their average — in losing to previous winless Akron at home. NIU shot just 33 percent from the field and 24 percent (8 for 33) on three-point shots in that defeat.
After that game, NIU coach Lisa Carlsen said the team needed to just “get over it and move on, to get back to who we are.”
On Saturday, the Huskies did, beating Miami at home, 89-76, behind 32 points and 13 rebounds from Cassidy Glenn, their 5-11 redshirt senior forward. Glenn, who had 17 points against Kent State, was named MAC West player of the week.
Kent State’s offensive statistics have changed little in the last three games. Larissa Lurken still leads the MAC in scoring at 22.2 points per game. 149 of Lurken’s 409 points this season have come from foul shots. That’s more than twice as many free throws as anyone else in the conference. Ohio’ Quiera Lampkins has 73.
Jordan Korinek has averaged almost exactly 20 points a game in the Kent’s seven conference games. Junior forward McKenna Stephens has become a third scoring threat at 9 points a game in conference play, and the Flashes have gotten some scoring out of Alexa Golden, Ali Poole, Megan Carter and Naddiyah Cross at different times. “When we get balanced scoring, we can be tough to beat,” Starkey said after the Toledo game.”
Kent State returns home to play Bowling Green at 3 p.m Saturday. It’s the second game of a double headers with the men’s team, who will play Central Michigan at noon. I can’t remember a double header when the women played second. It’s in order for allow the men’s game to be televised on CBS.
To follow the game
Online video starts at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Illinois time) on ESPN3. (To watch, you’ll need to have a subscription to ESPN through cable or satellite TV.)
Audio starts at 7:45 on Golden Flash iHeart radio and WHLO 640.
Live statistics are available through the Northern Illinois website.
In-game updates on Twitter at @KentStatwbb.
Preview from Kent State website, including links to statistics, schedule/results and roster.
Preview from Northern Illinois website, including links to statistics, roster and schedule/results.
MAC statistics, including standings.
The RPI story
Kent State now has the fourth highest RPI in the MAC, thanks in large part to its wins over Ohio and Western Michigan on the road. RPI rankings are based on a team’s record, its opponents record and opponents’ opponents’ record. Road wins are weighted more than twice as much as home victories. To some extent, RPI is used in seedings for the NCAA tournament.
Buffalo (14-4, 4-3) has the highest rank in the MAC at 59. Ohio (14-4, 5-2) is 71st and Central Michigan (14-5, 6-1) 93rd.
Then comes Kent State at 108 and Northern Illinois at 113. Toledo (12-6, 3-4) is 120, Ball State (12-6, 6-1) 145 and Western Michigan (14-4, 5-2) 163.
Akron (8-10, 1-6) is 167, Miami (7-13, 1-6) 210, Bowling Green (5-14, 1-6) 228 and Eastern Michigan (5-14, 0-7) 258.
RPI ranks 349 Division I teams.
Overall the MAC has the ninth highest RPI among 32 conferences, ahead of the (inn order) Ivy League, Summit League, Atlantic 10, Mountain West, West Coast, Conference USA and Missouri Valley. The only non-power conference ahead of it is the Colonial League.
Ratings are from WarrenNolan.com.