Megan Carter had to wait seven months for this game, but she was there when the Flashes needed her in their Mid-American Conference opener.
Carter had been academically ineligible in fall after she had struggled in pre-med classes last spring.
In her first game back, she scored a career-high as Kent State beat Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, 67-60.
“Sixteen points (for Carter), and we needed every one of them,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame interview on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. “She was rusty, but you know that will come for her.”
Carter had six turnovers and made only three of eight foul shots. She also had an assist and three rebounds in 29 minutes. She was six of 15 shooting from the floor.
The Flashes as a team had 21 turnovers. That’s been a weakness for Kent State all season and has been a strength of Eastern’s. The Eagles, 21st in the country in steals per game, had 12 of them Saturday and scored 25 points off KSU turnovers.
“They put on a lot of pressure,” Cross said. “We definitely need to work on our press break going through the conference.”
Kent State handled Eastern’s press and pressure with ease in the first quarter in running to a 21-11 lead. But the Eagles dominated the second and most of the third quarter and led the Flashes 47-42 with 49 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Alexa Golden had an assist on a McKenna Stephens basket and three foul shots at the end of the quarter to tie the game for the Flashes going to the fourth quarter.
The Flashes scored the first six points of the fourth quarter and never trailed the rest of the game, though Eastern cut the lead to three points several times late in the game.
“The aggressor was the one going on runs, and we just had to be more aggressive,” Starkey said. “Eastern keeps bring subs off the bench and keeps at you, trying to turn you over. You can’t be passive against it. When we were aggressive, we did a good job of scoring and getting to the free throw line.”
Golden ended with nine points and tied a career high with 10 rebounds. She also had five assists and made four free throws in the last 14 seconds to guarantee the victory.
Stephens had a career-best 12 rebounds and scored 17 points on seven of 14 shooting and three of four three-pointers. She had two assists and two steals.
Jordan Korinek led Kent State with 21 points, two above her average. She made eight of 16 shots, had six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
- Kent State made 24 of 57 shots for 42 percent, one percentage point above its season average. Eastern was 23 of 65 for 35 percent, two points below its average and about four points below Kent State’s defensive average.
- Kent State is now 5-1 in road games, with its only loss coming at No. 21 Michigan.
- The Flashes’ starting lineup was the same it has been for all except Michigan game — Korinek, Stephens, Golden and guards Ali Poole and Naddiyah Cross. Carter was the first player off the bench. She often played point guard last season, but she and Cross were on the court together for more than 20 minutes and shared bringing the ball up and starting the offense.
- Kent State was 15 of 25 from the foul line for 60 percent, its lowest percentage of the year. Eastern was 12 of 25 for 48 percent and only three of 12 in the second half.
- The Flashes outrebounded Eastern 49-36. Each team had 14 offensive rebounds; EMU had led the MAC in offensive rebounding.
Because of breaks for final exams and Christmas, it was only Kent State’s second game in 21 days. “There was a little bit of rust, and hopefully we got rid of that and can move forward,” Starkey said. “This is an unforgiving conference schedule.”
Kent State plays at Northern Illinois (8-4) Wednesday. Northern lost 67-65 at Miami (9-3) Saturday.
Other MAC scores
- Central Michigan (9-3) 69, Ball State (11-1) 65 at Ball State. Ball State had been the second-ranked mid-major in the country and received votes in both top 25 polls. Central Michigan was the preseason MAC favorite but had the league’s fourth-best non-conference record.
- Buffalo (10-2) 89, Akron (6-6) 66 at Akron.
- Western Michigan (8-5) 67, Bowling Green (8-4) 58 at Western.
- Toledo (9-3) plays at Ohio (6-5) Sunday.