Alexa Golden in action vs. Youngstown State. Her 17 points were a career high. She also had seven rebounds and four steals. Photo by Carter Adams, KentWired (website of Kent State student media.)
After Jordan Korinek scored a career-high 29 points in Kent State’s opening game victory over Northern Kentucky Saturday, KSU coach knew Youngstown would build its game plan to stop her.
So Starkey and the Flashes built their game plan around that expectation, and it was McKenna Stephens and Alexa Golden who led them to a 55-44 victory Tuesday night.
Korinek, who has scored 1,194 points in her KSU career, got off just six shots and scored 10 points.
But Golden, a junior guard known as a defensive specialist, had the best offensive game of her career with 17 points. Stephens had 16. Both had seven rebounds. On Saturday, Stephens — Kent State’s third leading scorer a year ago — took only four shots. Golden didn’t take any in KSU’s 59-54 victory.
Golden said she “knew she had let my team down by not being aggressive enough'” in the opener, and she wasn’t going to let that happen again.
Starkey said the team got extra motivation from a newspaper story in which YSU coaches said they thought if they stop Korinek, they were probably going to win.
“McKenna and Lex were like, ‘Hey, we were part of a championship team. We can play, too,” he said. “And they played with great intensity and focus.”
In the second half, Starkey said, the Flashes would start a play on one side of the court and reverse it to Golden.
“She attacked after the defense had shifted, and it was a lot easier to drive,” he said. “She was able to score and get to the free-throw line,” where she made eight of 10 shots.
In the first half, Starkey said, the Flashes moved Korinek away from the basket and got the ball to Stephens. “And when she started knocking shots down, it opened things up,” he said.
“We pulled Jordan out,” Stephens said. “and I think their defense was confused on what to do since they couldn’t just stop her.”
It took until the second quarter for the Flashes to figure things out.
They were down 11-2 after the first 10 minutes.
“We’ve had a bad offensive quarter in both our scrimmages and both our games so far,” Starkey said. “We’ve got to get that figured out. We can’t get in a hole and hope we’re going to be able to work our way out every night.
“But I am really proud of how our players did not blink when they were down. They just kept on forging ahead. We got defensive stop after defensive stop, and things started break open for us a little bit offensively.”
It was Kent State’s defense that pulled them out of Tuesday’s hole. The 44 points YSU scored were the fewest Kent State had allowed in a game since 2011. Youngstown made just 30 percent of its shots and 20 percent of three-pointers, and YSU is a team that builds its offense around long-range shooting.
“Our defense was phenomenal in the second, third and fourth quarter,” Starkey said. “We did a great job of handling their three-point shooting. They still shot 25, but I don’t think they got more than three or four open looks.”
Kent State is 2-0 on the young season. Youngstown State is 0-2.
- The Flashes made 39 percent of their shots for the second game in a row. They were 3 of 13 on three-pointers. Stephens made two of her for three-point shots.
- Kent State outrebounded YSU 37-31. The Flashes scored 18 points off of 19 Youngstown turnovers. The Penguins scored 10 points off of 18 KSU turnovers.
- Golden had four steals for Kent State.
- The Flashes won a multitude of games at the foul line last season as Larissa Lurken set an NCAA record for foul shots made in a season. They won Tuesday’s game on free throws, outscoring Youngstown State 16-5. Golden was eight of 10, Korinek four of four and Naddiyah Cross four of six. The Flashes hit 11 of 12 foul shots in the fourth quarter.
- Starting lineup was Korinek, Stephens, Golden, Cross and Ali Poole, the same as in the opener.
- Freshman Monique Smith had four points and three rebounds in 10 minutes. 6-4 junior center Merissa Barber-Smith had four rebounds and a blocked shot in 12 minutes. Tyra James had four rebounds and two assists in 11.
- Last year Kent State averaged 71 points a game and give up 70.6. In two games this season, the Flashes have averaged 57 and given up 48.
- Youngstown State was led by guard Indiya Benjamin with 12 points. Her last basket gave her an even 1,000 in her career.
Game story from the Kent State website.
Game story from Kentwired, website of KSU student media.
Game story from the Youngstown State website.
Kent State heads to Akron this weekend for two games — but not against the Zips. It’s the “Akron Classic,” in which the Flashes will play Florida Gulf Coast at 5 p.m. Friday and Southeastern Louisiana at noon Saturday. Akron plays the same teams on the opposite days. Next year Akron and Kent will play a similar tournament in Kent.