All through the non-conference season, Kent State coach Todd Starkey had said the Flashes hadn’t put four good defensive quarters together.
Through 11 non-conference games, KSU hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record.
That ended Tuesday morning at Robert Morris.
The Flashes held the Colonials — a team that has gone to the NCAA tournament the last two years and that beat the Flashes in Kent last season — to the lowest point total for an opponent since 1996 and won, 46-31.
Kent State finishes its non-conference season with a 7-5 record. Robert Morris is 7-4.
“Our defensive effort was just phenomenal from start to finish,” Starkey said in his postgame interview on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. “If we can defend like that in MAC play and get more efficient offensively, I like where we’re potentially headed.”
It was the second good defensive effort in a row for Kent State. On Dec. 10 — before the team broke for final exams, the Flashes held No. 23 Michigan to five points in the first quarter and 54 overall in a 54-41 loss.
Robert Morris had been averaging 62.5 points a game — twice what it scored Tuesday.
The Colonials had averaged 41.3 percent shooting. Kent State held them to 25 percent. They had averaged 35 percent shooting from three-point distance. KSU keep them to 11 percent — two of 19.
The Flashes outrebounded RMU 44-21. Robert Morris starts three seniors who average 6-foot-1 on its front line and brings the team’s leading rebounder, a 6-2 sophomore, off the bench. The Colonials had a plus-one average rebounding margin in their first 10 games.
Jordan Korinek led Kent State with 17 points. Ali Poole had 11 on five-of-nine shooting and a career-high eight rebounds. Korinek had seven rebounds and guard Alexa Golden, playing a short drive from her home in suburban Pittsburgh, had six rebounds and five assists.
“We had time for individual meetings with all our players this week,” Starkey said. “The complete and total emphasis of Ali’s meeting was to think rebounding.
“Everything else kind falls in place. Her defensive effort was better. Offensively I thought she was in more of a flow because she wasn’t trying to force things.
“I’m really proud of her response. That’s what being coachable is. It’s not just listening. It’s being able to respond after listening.”
The Flashes led 12-10 after the first quarter and 21-18 at halftime (the second game in a row their opponents scored fewer than 20 in the first half). They held Robert Morris to 13 points in the second half.
Turnovers — KSU’s biggest weakness all season — continued to be a problem. The Flashes committed a season-high 25 as Robert Morris had 15 steals. The Colonials managed to score only 13 points off the turnovers, though, and Kent State scored 11 off of RMU’s 13 turnovers.
- Kent State’s 7-5 non-conference record is its best since 2010-11, when it was 9-3. Last season the Flashes were 6-6. The Flashes schedule strength, according to WarrenNolan.com, is 275 out of 349 Division I teams. Last year’s non-conference schedule strength was 80, counting its WNIT game against Michigan.
- The win moved Kent State’s RPI up 30 positions to 184, also according to WarrenNolan.com. RPI is a rating based on a team’s record and schedule strength. Road victories count substantially more than home wins, and KSU finished the non-conference season 4-1 in true road games. It went 2-3 at neutral sites and 1-1 at home.
- 2010-11 was also the last year the Flashes beat Robert Morris. The teams are now 5-5 in their series. Last season RMU beat Kent State 68-65 in overtime at the M.A.C. Center.
- Kent State missed eight free throws (four of 12) in the first half. They had missed more than that in an entire game only twice this season. But in the second half, the Flashes made 13 of 14.
- The Flashes made 14 of 39 field goals for 38.9 percent, slightly below its season average and three of nine three-point shots (33 percent), which is slightly above.
- Senior forward Zenobia Bess played a season-high 11 minutes. Starting forward McKenna Stephens played a season-low 22. Freshman point guard Erin Thames played seven minutes, second highest of her career. Neither Bess nor Thames scored.
- Only two teams have scored fewer than 31 points against the Flashes. KSU beat Coppin State 88-29 in 1996 and Muskingham 91-25 in 1979. Neither team had a record remotely as good as Robert Morris.
- The game was at a strange time — 10 a.m. — because of a career-day for school children at Robert Morris. It was at a strange place — RMU’s recreation center — because the Colonials are building a new basketball facility. Attendance was