It was Kent State’s highest scoring output of the season and largest margin of victory.
But coach Todd Starkey says the Flashes (3-1) are far from a finished product.
KSU beat Southeastern Louisiana 81-60 Saturday behind a career-high 31 points by senior forward Jordan Korinek. The Flashes scored 19 more points than they did against Florida Gulf Friday, their second highest output. The 21-point margin is 10 points more than the Flashes’ 55-44 victory at Youngstown State Tuesday. And their 44 percent shooting was their best of the season.
“We played solid at times today,” Starkey said. “We also played sloppy at times. Consistency has been one of the things this team has struggled with early on.
“We always want to compare ourselves to what good basketball looks like and not necessarily just the score.”
In the first quarter, for example, the Flashes scored 22 points and led at the end of the quarter for the first time this season.
“We may have started offensively well, but we also gave up four threes on uncontested shots,” Starkey said. “That’s just not paying attention to the scouting report. We cannot give up open threes to teams and expect to have success throughout the season.
“But I’m pleased with our effort. I’m pleased that we executed the offense. We made adjustments in the second half and played much better defensively.”
On offense, the coach said, the Flashes generally were able to be patient and get the ball to Korinek inside.
Korinek efficiently made 9 of 13 field goals and 13 of 14 foul shots. Southeastern Louisiana played Korinek straight man-to-man, as did Northern Kentucky in Kent’s opener. Korinek scored 29 points then.
“Jordan can score one-on-one on most people,” said sophomore guard Ali Poole, who had 15 points. “That’s the game plan: Put the ball in Jordan’s hands, and ‘Jordan, put the ball in the hole.'”
Korinek, as modest an all-conference player and academic all-American as you’ll ever find, credited her teammates.
“They were really looking to get the ball inside because we had an advantage in height,” she said. “McKenna and our guards were really focused.”
And when she gets the ball one-on-one, Korinek said, it’s “Make a move and score.”
In four years at Kent State, Korinek has scored 1,241 points, 17th best in KSU history.
Poole’s 15 points was a season high. She made six of 12 shots, had five rebounds and two blocked shots. In four games, she’s Kent State’s second leading scorer, averaging 10.5 points in 33 minutes a game. Last season she averaged 4.3 points in 14 minutes.
“I’m trying to be a more dynamic player instead of just three-point shooting,” Poole said. “I just want more options to score. We all have to step up this year after losing Larissa (Lurken, last year’s leading scorer and MAC most valuable player).”
- Southeastern Louisiana is 0-5. The three teams Kent State has beaten this year have a combined record of 1-10. Youngstown State was the first to win today, a 73-49 victory over Loyola of Chicago.
- KSU’s 3-1 start is its best since it went 6-0 in 2010-11. Last year KSU started 2-0, lost four in a row, then went on to go 19-13 and win the MAC East.
- Kent State shot 44 percent despite going 2 of 18 on three-pointers. On two-pointers, KSU was 23 of 38. They outscored the Lions 40-10 in the paint and 21-10 on second-chance points, and outrebounded the Lions 46-22. Forward McKenna Stephens had 10 rebounds for the second straight game. She has at least tied for the team lead in rebounds in every game.
- The 46 rebounds was a season high. So were Kent State’s 14 assists, 35 foul shots (and 29 made foul shots) and seven blocked shots.
- Back-up center Merissa Barber-Smith blocked two of those shots, had three offensive rebounds and scored a career-high nine points in 10 minutes of play.
- Korinek came to the postgame press conference with her upper body wrapped in cellophane — treatment for some back pain. “I’m fighting through it,” she said. Korinek often spends some time of the floor during physical post play. One time Saturday she did a complete back somersault after a whistle when she was playing defense.
- Alexa Golden, who missed the second half of Friday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast with an ankle injury, started and played 27 minutes without apparent difficulty. She had seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
- Freshman Erin Thames, who saw her first action Friday, played 19 minutes. Starkey is trying to develop her as a back-up to senior Naddiyah Cross, who played at least 33 minutes in KSU’s first three games. Cross had a season-best seven points and four assists Saturday. She’s averaging 4.5 assists against 2.5 turnovers.
- Nine Flashes played at least 10 minutes and freshman Kasey Toles played nine. For the first time this season, no Kent State player went more than 30 minutes. That was partly because KSU had the game under control most of the time and partly because the team is playing five games in eight days.
- Margaux Eibel, a freshman walk-on from San Diego, saw her first college action. She played two minutes and had one rebound. So now everyone on the roster has played this season except freshman post players Amanda Sape and Kennedy Roberts-Rosser.
- The game was part of the Akron Classic, in which Kent and Akron traded opponents on back-to-back days. Next year it moves to Kent State — likely called the Kent State Classic. Akron coach Jodi Kent and Starkey came up with the idea to get good competition at a low travel cost.
- In Saturday’s other game in Akron, Florida Gulf Coast beat the Zips, 82-63. Florida Gulf Coast, ranked No. 4 in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25, beat Kent State 80-62 Friday and is 4-0 on the season. Akron is 1-2.
The Flashes will fly to Las Vegas Wednesday and play No. 14 Stanford at 8:30 p.m. (Kent time) on Thanksgiving . Stanford is a perennial women’s basketball power and made last season’s Final Four. It’s the first game of the three-day Play4Kay Showcase, which features six teams that won conference titles last season.
What about playing a powerhouse like Stanford?
“I’m excited about it,” Poole said. “It’s a nice opportunity, and we’re kind of in the position, ‘What do we have to lose?'”
Game story from the Kent State website.