Redshirt freshman Megan Carter played the best game of her career and hit the winning jumper with 2 seconds to go.
Senior Larissa Lurken played her usual game of drawing fouls and scoring lots of points.
Defensive specialist Alexa Golden didn’t play at all because of an injury, and KSU gave up a lot of points, especially in the second half.
But in the end, Kent State pulled out an 80-78 victory over last-place Bowling Green.
The win leaves Kent State at 5-4 and tied with Buffalo for second in the MAC East at the halfway point of the conference season. The Flashes are 11-10 overall. Bowling Green is 1-8 in the league and 5-16 for the season.
“I’m pleased at our gutting out a win,” coach Todd Starkey said after the game. “We got the job done in what was kind of an ugly game for us. But we didn’t defend the way we’re capable of, especially in the second half.”
Carter, usually KSU’s back-up point guard, played extended minutes at both guard positions because of Golden’s injury. She equaled her career high with 13 points and made 6 of 7 free throws in the 26 minutes, the most she’s ever played.
Lurken made 19 of 20 free throws and scored 31 points. That’s the second highest number of free throws made and taken in the MAC this season. She already had the most — 22 of 25 — against Western Kentucky and what is now the third most — 14 of 20 — against Robert Morris. Lurken also had six rebounds, five assists, and three steals.
Golden was hurt in practice on Friday. (“Dinged up,” Starkey said. “She’ll be OK.”) She ordinarily would have done much of the guarding of Carly Santoro, BG’s leading scorer.
Santoro scored a career-high 32 points, 22 in the second half. She and Lurken dueled through the fourth quarter, often guarding each other. Lurken had four fouls and had to play carefully late, and Santoro took advantage of that, repeatedly driving to the basket. But Lurken drew a charge from her with 27 seconds to go and the score tied 78-78.
That set up Carter’s winning basket.
KSU advanced the ball to the front court with a timeout, then looked for Lurken, who was smothered by BG’s defense.
Carter drove off of a screen at the foul line, came wide open and hit a 17-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds to go.
“It’s what you dream about when you’re playing in the backyard,” she said after the game.
“If they denied Larissa, we wanted Megan make a play there,” Starkey said. “Megan’s very capable player with the ball in her hands. The biggest thing we’ve had trouble doing is to get her to be more aggressive and look for her shot. We see her make shots like that in practice all the time. She’s got a great pull-up shot.”
Bowling Green made 67 percent of its second-half shots and took a one-basket lead four times in the fourth quarter. The Falcons trailed 36-24 at halftime.
“This game really worried me because of the way they shoot the three ball,” Starkey. “They’ve lost some close games. They’re going to fight.”
Bowling Green made 9 of 18 three-point shots and shot 48.2 percent overall, its season high. BG had shot above 37 percent only once previously.
Kent State stays at home to play Miami (7-14, 1-7) Wednesday. It’s the first time since November that the Flashes have had back-to-back home games.
“We’re getting worn down a little bit,” Starkey said. “We’ve been home one game, then on the road. Tomorrow (a day off from practice) will be welcome. And then we get to stay at home for a few days and sleep in our own beds.”
- Jordan Korinek had 18 points and 7 rebounds and McKenna Stephens 14 points and 8 rebounds for the Flashes.
- Kent State had a season-low eight turnovers. I couldn’t find the last time the Flashes had fewer. It’s been at least four years. Only two MAC teams this year have had fewer in a game. Bowling Green had 14. KSU outscored the Falcons off turnovers 21-14.
- The Flashes were 23 of 58 shooting (3 of 11 on three-pointers) for 39.7 percent, slightly above their season average. KSU made 31 of 36 fouls shots. The 31 tied for second highest in the conference this season. Kent State ranks first in the nation in free throws for the year and third in free-throw attempts.
- Lurken’s 31 was the fourth time this season she’s scored more than 30. She’s averaging 23.1, first in the MAC and fifth in the country. She also leads the nation in free throws made and taken.
- Naddiyah Cross had seven assists against one turnover, along with two steals.
- Zenobia Bess had five rebounds, her highest in a Kent State uniform, and two blocked shots in 10 minutes. Korinek also had two blocks.
- Freshman Ali Poole started in place of Golden but didn’t score in 19 minutes. She did have four rebounds.
- Starkey had four recruits at the game, including Brelynn Hampton-Bey, who has been called the best uncommitted senior point guard in the Midwest. Hampton-Bey, who is averaging 14.1 points a game for 14-3 Toledo Notre Dame, decommitted from Michigan in late summer. On Twitter post Saturday, she stood with Starkey wearing a Kent State uniform. She wrote, “Visit went great.” She has offers from nine Division I schools.
The view from Bowling Green
From coach Jennifer Roos in an audio interview on the BG website:
“I’m proud of this effort. We had the ball on the last possession. We had the lead in the last minute after being down double digits and clawing back in it after being in all sorts of foul trouble.
“At the end of the day, the foul line was the big difference. (Kent State) is doing what they do. They were getting fouls every which way, mostly with kids just putting their head down and driving in the open court. Larissa Lurken put up some numbers for Kent that will put her in the running for player of the year, for sure.
“It was a tremendous effort for Carly Santoro. We were drawing up some new things just to get her driving to the hoop and getting her to the line.
“When you have a lead and lose in overtime (as BG did against Eastern Michigan Wednesday) and have a lead late in the game today and aren’t able to finish, it’s going to sting. But as I told the team, would you rather take your chances and have the leads in both games, or would you rather not be in it?”
Game story from KSU website, including link to video highlights and interviews with Carter and Starkey. It starts with Carter’s winning shot.
Game story from Bowling Green website, including link to audio interview with coach Jennifer Roos.
Other MAC scores
Northern Illinois, a team picked to finish fifth in the MAC West, now leads the league with an 8-1 record at the halfway point in the conference season. The Huskies, 15-5 overall, beat Ball State 101-96 at Ball State. The Cardinals are now second in the West at 7-2, 14-7 overall.
Central Michigan (14-6, 6-2) lost its second league game of the year, falling at Toledo, 74-72. The win breaks a three-game losing streak for Toledo, which is 13-6 and 4-4.
Ohio (16-4, 7-2), which leads the MAC East, beat Miami (7-14, 1-7) 79-62 at Miami.
Buffalo (15-5, 5-4) beat Western Michigan (14-6, 5-4), 62-47, at Western.
Akron (9-10, 2-6) beat Eastern Michigan (6-15, 1-8) 80-62 at Akron.
Games stories from MAC website.