Flashes celebrate as Megan Carter rings the victory bell. Photo from Kent State athletics website.
After losing a four-point lead in the last minute of regulation, Kent State set out to make sure it didn’t happen again in overtime.
Even after they fell behind early in the extra period, the Flashes came back to take — and hold — a six-point lead to beat Ohio 83-77 and move into a first-place tie in the MAC East Saturday at the M.A.C. Center.
KSU took three charges in the last minute. Larissa Lurken made six free throws and scored 10 of Kent’s 12 overtime points. And the Flashes held OU without a field goal for the last three minutes.
“It’s a huge win for us,” coach Todd Starkey said after the game, repeatedly saying how proud he was of the team and individual players in his postgame radio show and press conference. “The key word was resilience.”
“This group — they’re just fighting together,” he said. “They have a level of belief of themselves and each other now that’s getting them through it. It has been a great experience to see this metamorphosis take place – from where we were in summer and where we are now.”
The victory ties Kent State for first place in the MAC East and in fourth place overall in the conference. That’s important because the first four teams get a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament. If KSU and Ohio were to tie in the standings, Kent would get the bye because the Flashes have beaten Ohio — two-time defending MAC regular season champion — twice this season.
Kent State is now 15-11 on the season, 9-5 in the conference. Fifteen games is more than KSU won in the last two seasons combined. The Flashes were 6-23 and 11th in the MAC last season and were picked to finish last this year.
Ohio is 18-7 and 9-5.
Lurken led Kent State with 31 points despite sitting out 13 minutes of the first half with foul trouble. Jordan Korinek had 15 despite picking up her second four just four minutes into the game. McKenna Stephens had 15 points and 11 rebounds in a career-high 42 minutes, and Megan Carter had a career-high 14 points.
Starkey said that how Kent State handled that first half foul trouble was crucial to the game. The Flashes played 12 people in the first half; many times this season they’ve played only eight.
“Ohio could have pushed in out to 10 or 15 points,” the coach said. “To keep it to three was really important.We had to play some crazy lineups. We subbed in and out – offensive for defense – in the second quarter just like we would at the end of the game. A bunch of kids had to come in and do it. They were part of this.”
Kent State trailed 31-28 at halftime, took the lead by one in the middle of the third quarter, then fell behind by a point at the end of the quarter. The Flashes took the lead with 5:15 to go in regulation and pushed it to six points with 1:12 to go. But Ohio came back with three offensive rebounds on one possession and scored with six seconds left to make the score 71-69.
Kent advanced the ball to front court with a timeout, but Ohio’s Kelly Karlis, standing at 6-2 in front of KSU’s 5-6 Megan Carter on the inbound, grabbed her pass out of the air and drove the length of court for the tying basket.
“They were down coming over the huddle at the end of regulation,” Starkey said. “I get that because they fought so hard. That’s hard to come back from. And Ohio got up by three, and we still came back. For us to grit it out at the end…I’m so proud of their fight.”
Carter said it was a matter of not giving up.
“I know I had a couple of turnovers and missed free throws, but, ‘Next play,’ that’s all I thought about, ‘Next play.’ Just get the job done. Focus on the main goal – to win the game.”
In the huddle before overtime, Carter said, Starkey asked her, “Are you tough enough for this?”
“Coach, I’m made for it,” she replied.
In the overtime, Carter said, the strategy was simple: “Get the ball in Larissa’s hands and let her do what she does best.”
After Ohio took a three-point lead, Lurken hit two straight 8-foot jump shots, then made six foul shots in the last 33 seconds.
But the key plays in the last minute were on defense.
The Flashes drew three charging fouls — two by Alexa Golden —as Ohio players were driving to the basket in the last minute.
“That won the game,” Starkey said simply.
Golden didn’t score a point but had six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in 39 minutes. “You won’t find a better player in the country today with zero points,” Starkey said.
Two other heroes for the Flashes:
Stephens played 42 of the game’s 45 minutes. She made 5 of 8 field goals, 4 of 4 foul shots, had 11 rebounds, an assist, a block and three steals. Her nine points in the first half kept KSU in the game when Korinek and Lurken were in foul trouble.
“McKenna might be the most improved player in the conference from the beginning of the season,” Starkey said. “Her defense, her rebounding and scoring have been great.”
Senior forward Chelsi Watson played 21 minutes, her most since November, and had six points, six rebounds and a steal. At the end of the game, she alternated on offense and defense with Korinek, KSU’s second-leading scorer.
“Chelsi makes more sense defensively when they’re spreading out the court with shooters and trying to drive it on us,” Starkey said. “Chelsi can rebound and can guard 1 through 5 (all positions).”
- The game was full of fouls. Lurken, Korinek, Golden, Carter and Ali Poole all had two in the first half. So did Ohio’s Quiera Lampkins, Hannah Boesinger and Katie Barker. Jasmine Weatherspoon, OU’s leading rebounder and shot blocker, had three. Eventually Weatherspoon, Lampkins, Karlis, and Boesinger fouled out. Lampkins and Weatherspoon — OU’s two best players — didn’t make it to overtime.
- Ohio’s 36 fouls meant a lot of free throws for Kent State. But the Flashes — who lead the nation in made foul shots and are third in free throws attempted — missed the most they have all season. KSU was 29 of 45. The 45 attempts were the most for any MAC team this season. The 29 made free throws were about fifth highest in the MAC.
- Lurken’s 31 points were the sixth time this season she’s scored at least 30. She leads the MAC and is fifth in Division I with an average of 23.2 a game. Saturday she made 9 of 22 field goals (8 of 16 in the second half) and 12 of 13 free throws. She also had three rebounds, two assists and three blocks. At 5-foot-9, Lurken is fourth in the conference in blocked shots.
- Kent State took just seven three-point shots, making two. “Ohio is not going to give you a whole lot of open looks on the perimeter,” Starkey said. “They press up on you and switch a lot on screens. We look to take shots that are open. We knew we needed to get the ball inside and drive it.”
- Ohio, on the other hand, took 32 three-pointers, making seven.
That’s 21.9 percent, 12 points below the Bobcats’ conference average.
- Overall Ohio made 28 of 75 shots or 37.3 percent. Kent had 20 few shots — mostly because it shot so many free throws — and made 26 of 55 or 47.3 percent. That’s about 6 points above the Flashes’ average.
- Ohio forced 13 turnovers and had nine steals in the first half, but only eight and six in the second half and overtime. The Bobcats scored 18 points off KSU turnovers. Kent State scored 12 off 16 Ohio turnovers. In the second half and overtime, the Flashes scored 10 off 11 turnovers.
- Kent State outrebounded Ohio 43-39. In the second half it was Ohio, 28-25.
- KSU had 13 assists on 26 baskets, Ohio just 9 on 28.
- The Flashes equaled a season high with 7 blocked shots.
- It was Kent State’s first win in three overtime games. The Flashes lost to Robert Morris and Western Kentucky in non-conference play.
- The lead changed hands 15 times and the score was tied eight times. Neither team led by more than six points.
- Lampkins, who led Ohio with 18 points, is the best friend of Kent State reserve forward Zenobia Bess, according to her parents, who sat behind me at the game. Bess came into the stands to give the Lampkins a big hug after the game.
- Attendance was announced at 713, highest of the season. About 150 were Ohio fans.
Kent State travels to 7-19 Bowling Green Wednesday. The Falcons, 3-11 in the MAC, beat Miami (9-18, 3-11) in Miami Saturday, 61-59. Kent State needed a last-second shot from Carter to beat BG in Kent, 80-78.
The view from Ohio
Coach Bob Boldon, quoted on the Ohio athletics website.
“I thought Kent played a good game. I thought we played a good game; unfortunately they got the better of us. Much like the CMU game, obviously there were some mistakes that we made.
“They’re a good squad. They’ll probably be a top four team. Unfortunately for us, that means we probably won’t be. This conference is as good as it’s ever been. There’s a lot of good teams, and I think we’re one of those teams.
“It’s just we fell a little bit short this week. It’s been a rough week for us, and it’s not going to get any easier for us on Wednesday.” (Ohio lost to league-leading Central Michigan 70-64 in Athens Wednesday and plays at Buffalo on Wednesday. Buffalo is in third in the East, a game behind Kent and Ohio.)
“You have to give our kids a lot of credit for coming back, tying the game and sticking to it. (We were) dealing with players fouling out and especially when you would argue our four, five or six best players didn’t play in the last couple minutes of the game and entire overtime.
“Our kids showed a lot of toughness and resiliency, but it didn’t go our way and that’s unfortunate. I know those kids in the locker room feel bad about that. We’re going to take tomorrow off and try to get back to it on Wednesday.”
Game story from the Kent State website, including video highlights and interviews with Carter and Starkey.
Game story from Ohio website.
There are some great photos of the game at David Dermer’s Twitter feed.
Other MAC scores
Central Michigan (12-2, 20-6) took sole possession of first place in the MAC West with a 72-61 victory over Toledo at home. Toledo is 8-6, 17-8 and a game behind Kent State and Ohio in the overall standings. KSU holds the tie breaker over Toledo because of a 70-60 victory over the Rockets in Kent last month.
Ball State (11-3, 18-8) tied Northern Illinois for second in the West with a 92-84 victory at Northern. Northern is 11-3 and 18-7.
Buffalo (8-6, 18-7) beat Akron (2-12, 9-16), 81-51 at Buffalo.
Western Michigan (7-7, 16-9) beat Eastern Michigan (1-13, 6-20), 70-60 at Western.
The game was Kent State’s “Play4Kay” game to support research against breast cancer.
KSU President Beverly Warren, who had surgery for breast cancer herself last summer, told the crowd before the game that she had gone to college with Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame North Carolina State coach whom the event was named after. Yow died in 2009 after her second occurrence of breast cancer.