When the KSU women beat Youngstown State 75-60 in Kent last year, it was a bit of revenge for a 30-point pounding by the Penguins a year ago and a 19-point defeat the year before that.
But the YSU team the Flashes will play Tuesday in Youngstown Tuesday should be much better.
When Kent State played the Penguins last year, Youngstown State was without three of its top players. Nikki Arbanas, the team’s top perimeter defender and top returning 3-point shooter, tore her ACL on the first day of fall 2016 practice. Sarah Cash, the team’s top interior defender and a preseason first-team all-Horizon League pick, was out with a knee injury and didn’t play for the rest of the season. Fifth-year Kelsea Newman had torn her ACL in YSU’s first game. The three had combined for more than 1,000 points the previous season.
Youngstown State, which had been to postseason tournaments three of the four previous years, went on to finish 9-21.
Arbanas and Cash are back. So are Alison Smolinski, Indiya Benjamin and and Mary Dunn, all of whom averaged more than 10 points a game last season, and transfer Josie Fisher, who averaged 10 points a game as a freshman at Fort Wayne.
And YSU has an excellent coach in John Barnes, whom Kent State had chased before it hired Todd Starkey in 2016.
Youngstown State lost its opener Friday to Pittsburgh of the Big East, 66-58. YSU took a 10-point lead in the first quarter, but Pittsburgh scored 16 points off of 20 Youngstown turnovers and outshot and outrebounded the Penguins. YSU, which relies heavily on three-point shooting, was 6 of 28 from that distance.
Kent State forced 21 turnovers in its opening 59-54 victory at Northern Kentucky Saturday, and held NKU to 7 of 26 three-point shooting.
But Starkey and senior forward Jordan Korinek said they were disappointed in the game, in which Kent State came out slow and trailed 34-25 at halftime.
But the Flashes played well in the second half, especially the final 15 minutes. In that time, they outscored Northern Kentucky 25-11, scored eight points off seven turnovers and held the Norse to 3 of 26 shooting. They consistently got the ball to Korinek, who scored a career-high 29 points.
At Youngstown State, Korinek will face Dunn, a 6-3 sophomore forward who was Horizon League freshman of the year last season. She averaged 11.3 points a game then and had four points and had four rebounds in 17 minutes against Pittsburgh. Cash came off the bench and had 12 points and four rebounds. How well they can contain Korinek will be a key to Tuesday’s game.
Getting scoring elsewhere also will be important for Kent State. Ali Poole had 12 points Saturday but was just 4 of 16 shooting. No one else but point guard Naddiyah Cross, who has never been a scorer, took more than four shots. McKenna Stephens, last year’s third-leading scorer, took only three shots. Tyra James, third-leading scorer two years ago, took only four. Starter Alexa Golden didn’t take a shot at all in her 22 minutes.
But the biggest factor will be which Kent State team shows up: the sluggish one that was outhustled and outplayed by Northern Kentucky Saturday or the team that held NKU to 20 points in the second half.
To follow the game
The game starts at 5:15 p.m. and is the first of a doubleheader with the YSU men’s team, which plays Franciscan. If you plan to go, here are directions from the YSU website.
The game is on ESPN3. You can watch it online if you subscribe to ESPN on cable or satellite TV.
Audio starts at about 5 p.m on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.
Live statistics will be available through the Youngstown State website.
Preview from the YSU website, including links to its roster and schedule.
Preview from the Kent State website, including links.
Kent State next plays two neutral court games at Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena on Friday against Florida Gulf Coast (26-9 last season) and Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana (5-24 in 2016-17).