Alexa Golden drives against Wright State Thursday. Golden had three three-point baskets, a career high. (Photo from kentstatesports.com.)
Going into Thursday’s game, the question was open:
Despite a 6-3 record, how good this season’s women’s basketball team?
The answer, in the form of an 72-60 loss to Wright State:
So far, not good enough to beat a good team.
Every weakness the Flashes have shown so far this season was evident in the loss — one bad quarter, often the first; too many turnovers; lapses on defense and, according to coach Todd Starkey, lapses in effort.
The things Kent State has done well were on display, too, at times: significant stretches of good play against a better team, good scoring in the post from forward Jordan Korinek, good foul shooting and solid rebounding.
“They’re a more talented team than we are,” coach Todd Starkey said of Wright State, which is 7-2 and ranked No. 23 in the Mid-Major Top 25 this week. “When that’s the case, your margin of error shrinks significantly. And we made far too many errors.”
About those errors:
INCONSISTENCY OF EFFORT: Wright State scored on nine of its first 11 possessions against some of the weakest defense the Flashes have played this season. Starkey yelled from the sidelines, he yelled in the huddle, he shuffled nine players looking for a spark.
Wright State led after a quarter, 26-17. The Flashes have been outscored in the first quarter in eight of their 10 games. In the games they’ve lost, they’ve trailed by an average of 10.5 points.
“We tell the players over and over, ‘We shouldn’t have to coach focus and intensity,'” Starkey said. “We talk about it every day. We look really good at times, and then for periods in the game, for some reason, we just check out.”
TURNOVERS: Wright State had eight steals, forced 18 Kent State turnovers and scored 18 points off them. KSU just scored four point off 10 Raider turnovers. Kent State is minus-2.2 in turnover margin, worst in the MAC. In games they’ve lost, the average margin is minus-eight.
The teams that have beaten the Flashes are good teams — No. 18 Stanford and Florida Gulf Coast, Gonzaga and Wright State, all of whom are ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25. But so are four MAC schools — Buffalo, Central Michigan, Ball State and Toledo. Ohio and Northern Illinois have gotten votes.
MISTAKES AT KEY TIMES: “I can think of probably five possessions in the second and third and fourth quarter where we get a stop, and we don’t come up with the rebound,” Starkey said. “Or we turn it over right after we get a defensive rebound, and that directly led to scores for them.”
BENCH SCORING: The Flashes got four points from the four reserves who played. This season KSU’s bench is averaging seven points a game with no player above three. (Wright State was even worse; the Raiders bench scored just two points.)
After the first quarter, the Flashes played Wright State evenly. When Kent got the ball to Jordan Korinek, she was hard to stop. She had 22 points Thursday and could have had eight or 10 more. Korinek was eight out of 20 shooting. “I need to be more efficient,” Korinek said. “I missed way too many shots in crucial moments.”
In the end, Korinek echoed her coach.
“We haven’t been able to put a full game together,” she said. “There were good moments in the game but definitely more bad moments. There’s a lot to work on.”
- Kent State outrebounded Wright State 35-34, but the Raiders had 13 offensive rebounds to KSU’s 11. Wright State outscored the Flashes 16-9 on second-chance points. Korinek led the Flashes with eight rebounds.
- The Flashes were 17 of 21 on free throws. Wright State was 14 of 19. KSU has outscored its opponent from the foul line in nine of 10 games this season.
- From the field, the Flashes were 19 of 51 for 37.3 percent. Their 45.5 percent on three-pointers (5 for 11) was a season high. Wright State shot 41.9 percent from the field and 31.3 on three-point shots. But the Raiders were four of seven on three-pointers in the first quarter when they took their big lead.
- Wright State’s 72 points were nine below its season average and third lowest total of the year. Kent State had been allowing 65 points a game. The Flashes scoring was four below their average of 64.
- There’s a section of the box score called “play analysis” that Wright State absolutely dominated. The Raiders outscored Kent State 38-20 in the paint, 18-4 off turnovers, 16-9 on second-chance points and 12-2 on fast-break points.
- Alexa Golden had 13 points for the Flashes and made three of four three-point shots. McKenna Stephens had 10 points and four assists. Naddiyah Cross had a season-high eight assists (but also seven turnovers).
- Redshirt junior Tyra James saw extended action for the second game in a row, playing 20 minutes. She had six rebounds, including one sequence where the grabbed three straight offensive rebounds, then was fouled trying to put the last one back in. James was zero for six field goal attempts, though, and hasn’t found the scoring that made her No. 3 on the Flashes two years ago. She missed last season because of a knee injury.
- Wright State’s Chelsea Welch, the Horizon League’s preseason player of the year, led all scorers with 26 points to go with five rebounds, five assists, a block and two steals. She’s a transfer from Pittsburgh.
- The loss broke an eight-game home winning streak for Kent State, dating back to last season. The game also ended a three-game winning streak for Kent this season, and extended Wright State’s win streak to four.
- Attendance was 375, about as low as we’ve seen in the last few years.
It gets no easier for the Flashes. On Sunday, Kent State will travel to Michigan to play the No. 21 Wolverines. It’s a rematch of last season’s WNIT game, which Michigan won, 67-60.
The Flashes then break for final exams and play at Robert Morris Dec. 19. They’re not home against until a conference game against Western Michigan on Saturday, Jan. 6.