In the first half, Buffalo did everything it needed to do to win its battle with Kent State for second place in the MAC East.
Kent State did very little of its game plan, falling behind by 16 at the half.
The second half was better for the Flashes but far from enough as they lost on the road, 77-62.
The games leaves the two teams tied for second in the MAC East at 6-5. Overall Kent State is 12-11, Buffalo 16-6. Ohio beat Toledo 61-55 in Athens to stay in first place, two games ahead of Kent and Buffalo.
The Bulls held Larissa Lurken, the MAC’s leading scorer without a point in the first half, though she scored 21 in the second. Buffalo leading scorer JoAnna Smith, who went 1 of 17 against Toledo Wednesday, scored 16 in the first half and equaled her career high with 31 in the game.
When Buffalo plays well, it is one of the best defensive and rebounding teams in the MAC and scores well in transition. In the first half, the Bulls held Kent State to 30 percent shooting, outrebounded the Flashes 20-13, stole the ball 9 times and outscored KSU 9-0 on fast-break points.
The Flashes couldn’t get Lurken open and couldn’t find anyone else besides Jordan Korinek to score. Korinek had 13 points; no one else had more than two.
Meanwhile Buffalo shot 50 percent from the field and 55 percent on three-point shots. The Bulls had 12 assists on 15 baskets despite point guard Stephanie Reid going out with her second foul after three minutes.
“We got beat in every statistical category,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame radio interview on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. “We got beat in all the hustle stats.
“I’m disappointed in our effort. I don’t know if we got a little full of ourselves after winning the last two at home.
“There was no secret that Buffalo was going to play as hard as they did after going to Toledo and not playing well (in a 22-point loss). It’s a team with a lot of pride, and you knew they were going to defend their home court.
“We acted like we could just come in here and show up with 70 or 80 percent effort at the beginning and think we’re going to be in the game.”
Kent State trailed by as many as 24 points in the third quarter when Lurken started to find her stride and the Flashes some offense. Kent State outscored Buffalo 9-0 in the middle of the fourth quarter to bring the score to 69-59, but Kent State missed a layup and the score never got into single digits.
“When you’re playing out of that big a hole on the road, it’s difficult to come back — like pushing a rock uphill,” Starkey said. “And even when we played hard and got some momentum going, we had two or three people who didn’t box out, and they got some offensive rebounds and scored, and they got some transition buckets.”
Lurken got off only seven shots in the first half and didn’t get to the foul line at all. (She leads NCAA Division I in doing that.)
“The teams that have been successful against us have played Larissa physical in the first half,” Starkey said “When we allow that to happen and don’t play through other people, and she doesn’t become a screener to get open, we struggle offensively.
“It was a frustrating and and we’ll have to shake it off and definitely have to play better when we get back home on Wednesday.”
Last season Smith scored 25 points when Buffalo beat the Flashes in Kent. She did even better this game despite sitting out about half of the second quarter with foul trouble.
“We made it a lot easier on her than we should have,” Starkey said. “If a player is going to score 31 points, you don’t want them to do it on 13 of 21 shooting. The shots she was getting were way too easy. She had transition baskets, open jump shots, drives to the basket. Of the 21 shots she took, I’d would say we probably defended four or five of them well.”
Kent State is home Wednesday to play Eastern Michigan ((8-16, 1-9), who lost to Central Michigan 104-63 Saturday. The Flashes beat EMU 86-67 in Ypsilanti Jan. 7. The game is at 7 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center.
- Buffalo outscored Kent State 21-2 on fastbreak points. The Bulls outrebounded the Flashes 37-33, outscored them 10-8 on second-chance points and 18-13 in points off turnovers. KSU had 20 turnovers, Buffalo 16.
- Kent State made only 2 of 16 three-point shots and 20 of 53 overall (37.7 percent). Buffalo was 29 of 61 (48 percent) and 7 of 19.
- Lurken was 12 of 13 at the foul line, the 11th time this season she’s made more than 10. As a team, the Flashes shot 25, making 20. It was the 11th time in 12 league games they’ve shot at least 20. The other game they had 19. KSU is second in Division I in free throws attempted and first in free throws made.
- McKenna Stephens had a career-high 5 assists.
- Chelsi Watson had five rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench. Merissa Barber-Smith had five in eight minutes.
- Kent State had 15 assists on 20 baskets. Buffalo had 21 on 29. Those are impressively high numbers.
- It was sophomore guard Alexa Golden’s birthday but not a very happy one. She didn’t score and had two rebounds in 30 minutes.
- Cassie Ourseler, Buffalo’s 6-3 junior forward and third-leading scorer, didn’t play because of an ankle injury. Reid missed 17 minutes and Smith 6 in the first half because of foul trouble. Still Buffalo outscored KSU by 16 in the half. The Bulls’ bench outscored Kent State’s, 22-9 for the game.
Game story from Kent State website.
The view from Buffalo
Coach Felisha Legette-Jack
“More players are stepping up. I love the way Liisa Ups came in and managed the game when Stephanie (Reid) got two fouls early. Courtney (Wilkins) did a great job too, coming off the bench, giving us 10 points in the first half. Now you have to play us straight up because everybody is out there doing their job.”
On shutting down Lurken in the first half: “We didn’t do it one person at a time. As a team, we collectively stopped a great shooter.”
Guard JoAnna Smith
On scoring 31 after going 1 for 17 on Wednesday: “It was just a matter of getting in the gym and having the confidence. I was just pushing what happened in Toledo out of my mind and doing what I had to do.”
“When we got back from Toledo, Coach Jack emphasized our transition defense and just “D” in general because it was horrible in Toledo. We locked down in practice and when the lights came on today.”
Korinek hits the 1,000-point mark
File photo from KSU website
Junior forward Jordan Korinek became the 21st Kent State player to scorer 1,000 points with a basket at the end of the first half.
She finished with 23 points — the sixth time in 11 conference games she’s gone over 20 and the ninth time she’s gone over 15. Going into the game, she was averaging 18.6 points a game in MAC play, sixth in the league.
She made 10 of 14 shots and 3 of 4 free throws, had 7 rebounds and a blocked shot.
“I think she’s one of the best post players in the league, and she’s proven that in conference play,” Starkey said. “She’s been playing so much better in conference play.
“Jordan’s been a great teammate and a great player, and she’s continued to improve all year. I’m really happy for her going over that milestone.”
Korinek was Kent State’s leading scorer and rebounder a year ago but struggled some in finding her place in Starkey’s offense, which is quite different than what the Flashes ran before he arrived. She averaged 11 points a game in non-conference play. She’s up to 15.2 now, about her average last season.
Korinek, a preseason all-MAC East selection, now has 1,011 points in less than three years at Kent State.
Korinek is the 10th KSU player to hit 1,000 points as a junior and the first since Lindsay Shearer in 2006. Korinek’s career pace is only slightly below Shearer, who finished as Kent State’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,799 points.
Korinek is from Cuyahoga Falls and was an all-state player at St. Vincent St. Mary’s High School (yes, LeBron’s school). She’s a special education major with a 4.0 average.
Korinek’s teammate, senior Larissa Lurken, became the 20th player in school history to hit the 1,000-point mark earlier this season. Lurken now has 1,425 points, 13th highest in school history. She’s averaging 23 points a game, which would be the highest ever by a Kent State player by 1.5 points.
If she averages that for the Flashes’ next eight games (the rest of the season and the first game of the MAC Tournament), she’ll have 721 points — 14 off the single season record set in 34 games by Bonnie Beachy in 1980-81. If KSU plays a second tournament game, that’s when the record might fall.
Looking at the record book, I don’t think Kent State has ever before had two 1,000-point scorers on the floor at the same time. Dawn Zerman and Julie Studer came close in 1999-2000. But Studer didn’t score her 1,000th until the first game the next season, after Zerman had graduated.
Other Saturday MAC scores
- Northern Illinois (16-5, 9-1) 67, Western Michigan (14-7, 5-5) 62 at Northern.
- Ball State (16-7, 9-2) 81, Miami (7-16, 1-9) 60 at Miami.
- Ohio (17-5, 8-3) 61, Toledo (14-7, 5-5) 55 at Ohio.
- Bowling Green (6-16, 2-8) 86, Akron (5-12, 2-8) 50 at Bowling Green.
- Central Michigan (16-6, 8-2) 104, Eastern Michigan (8-16, 1-9) 63 at Eastern.
Game stories from MAC website.