Kent State’s 77-57 loss to Gonzaga Friday solidified what we know about the Flashes so far this season:
- Kent State may well be a good team this season, but it’s not there yet.
- The Flashes have yet to put four good quarters together.
- KSU can play well for considerable periods of time against top competition.
- And if the Flashes don’t start to control turnovers against good teams, they will have a tough time approaching last season’s 19-13 record.
In Friday’s loss to Gonzaga, No. 7 in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25, Kent State outscored the Bulldogs in the second and third quarters. But they had spotted Gonzaga a 32-15 first-quarter lead, largely due to eight turnovers that led to 18 Bulldog points.
Kent State (6-6) has had at least one weak quarter in each of its first six games. Against weaker competition (the three teams KSU has beaten have a combined record of 1-13), the Flashes have overcome their flaws.
Against quality competition, the Kent State has had two good quarters but has been thoroughly outplayed the other half of the game. The teams that have beaten KSU are Stanford (3-2 and ranked No. 14 in the country), Florida Gulf Coast (6-1 and No. 2 in the Mid-Major Top 25) and Gonzaga (now 2-2).
In the three games the Flashes have lost, opponents have scored an average of 23 points off turnovers.
“Our margin for error this season is really small,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame interview on Golden Flash Radio. “We can’t make the kind of mistakes that we’re making and expect to be in games against Stanford and Gonzaga, which are two of the best teams on the West Coast. We’ve got to put 40 minutes together if we’re going to compete in these kind of games.”
“I’m proud of the fact we fought. We didn’t give in.”
Kent State was within 10 points when a three-point shot by Ali Poole bounced away with 29 seconds to go in the third quarter.
“When you’re trying to battle back, you need a little bit of luck,” Starkey said “I think it’s a different ball game if that shot goes down.”
At the end of the first half, KSU missed a shot with 15 seconds to go instead of holding for the last shot. Gonzaga rebounded and pushed the ball up the court and scored on an offensive rebound at the buzzer. “That’s a big swing,” Starkey said.
Gonzaga had 16 steals.
“Our guard play just has to get better,” Starkey said. “We’ve got to take care of the basketball. It’s something that we’re working on every day in practice.”
Gonzaga junior forward Jill Barta had 30 points, including a brilliant first quarter when she scored 19 points and made four of five three-pointers. Barta has been all-Western Athletic Conference first team her first two years playing for Gonzaga.
Kent State was led by graduate student forward McKenna Stephens, who had 18 points and five rebounds. Jordan Korinek had 14 points on six-of-seven shooting, and Alexa Golden had 11 points. Point guard Naddiyah Cross had six assists for the second straight game.
Saturday: Memphis (and Danny O’Banon)
Kent State plays its last game in Las Vegas Saturday against Memphis, which lost to No. 21 DePaul 81-67 Friday. Memphis is 1-5 and has lost five straight since its opening victory over Tennessee State. The Tigers had 30 turnovers against DePaul, so whichever team corrects that problem Saturday is likely to win.
Memphis’s associate head coach is Danny O’Banion, who was Kent State head coach until her contract wasn’t renewed in 2016 after going 18-95 over four years. KSU’s entire starting line-up was recruited by O’Banion and her staff.
To follow the Memphis game
- The game starts at 3:30 p.m. Kent time.
- You can buy online video access through FloHoops. It costs $30 for the entire tournament. It’s a monthly subscription that’s automatically renewed. Be sure to cancel after you watch.
- Audio is on Golden Flash Radio, starting at about 3:15 p.m.
- Live statistics are available free through FloHoops.
- Kent State made 38 percent of its shots, about its season average. Gonzaga made 50 percent of its field goals, including 13 of 16 in the first quarter. Four of those were three-pointers, but most were layups off of steals.
- Kent State outrebounded the taller Bulldogs 32-28. Leading rebounding for KSU was “team,” which is recorded when the ball goes out of bounds off a rebound to Kent State (seven times Friday). After Stephens’ five, Cross and freshman Monique Smith had four each.
- Korinek blocked three shots, which equaled a career high. She made one of two three-point shots and now has made nine of 15 this season.
- All five Kent State starters played at least 30 minutes. Center Merissa Barber-Smith (11 minutes) was the only other player with more than seven. The Flashes have struggled to develop depth in their rotation, though that’s difficult against teams like Stanford and Gonzaga.
- Walk-on freshman Margaux Eibel scored her first college points on two free throws in the final 90 seconds.
Other Play4Kay scores Friday
- No. 9 Ohio State (6-1) 104, Florida Gulf Coast (6-1) 62.
- No. 14 Stanford (3-2) and Belmont (3-1) were tied at 37 at halftime at midnight Friday. Ohio State will play the winner for the tournament championships Saturday night. Loser will play No. 21 DePaul for third place. Gonzaga will play Florida Gulf Coast for fifth place.