It was a very tough one to get away.
Kent State had led Northern Illinois on its home floor for most of the game before the Flashes sagged at the end. As KSU struggled, Northern’s Courtney Woods finished a brilliant 39-point game with her team’s last nine points, and the Huskies came away with an 81-79 victory.
The Flashes led 76-72 with four minutes to go when Kelly Smith grabbed an offensive rebound and tapped it behind the three-point line. Eventually the ball went to Woods, who hit a three-point shot. Forty seconds later, Woods hit another three-pointer, then made two foul shots 40 seconds after that.
KSU missed a chance to tie the game at 80 with 55 seconds to go when Megan Carter missed her the only foul shot she missed all night (she was seven of eight).
“We had an opportunity to dive on a loose ball, and we didn’t,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame interview on Golden Flashes iHeart Radio. “We ended up leaning over for it and didn’t get it. They ended up tipping it out and getting that kick-out for the three.
“We had the game won and gave it away. We made too many mistakes down the stretch. We got outhustled down the stretch.”
Kent State made four turnovers in those last four minutes, though the last one came on a baseball pass with 2.9 seconds to go. Even that was a close play. Kent State’s Jordan Korinek collided with a Northern Illinois player in the foul lane as both went for the ball. No foul was called. Neither player touched the ball, and it came back to Northern Illinois under its own basket.
“The turnover bug is just killing us right now,” Starkey said. “It’s something that we work on every single day. We emphasize it all the time. At some point, they’ve got to take care of the ball better. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t have 17 empty possessions against a team that doesn’t press.”
The turnover that really killed KSU Wednesday came with five seconds to go when Northern stole the ball on an inbound pass from under the Kent State basket.
For the game, Kent State gave up 23 points off 17 turnovers and scored 20 off of NIU’s 13 turnovers. The Huskies had only four turnovers in the second half.
The Flashes led NIU 41-35 at halftime. Northern tied it in the third quarter, and Kent State came back and led by as many as eight in the fourth.
But the Flashes had no answer for Woods, who made 7 of 10 three-point shots and 11 of 19 field goals overall. She was 10 of 12 from the foul line and had five rebounds, a block and a steal. Her 39 points tied her career high, set earlier this season, and was the second highest total for a MAC player this season.
Korinek led Kent State with 27 points, making nine of 15 field goals and eight of eight foul shots. Carter, playing her second game of the year after sitting out fall semester with academic problems, had a career-high 17 points. Her previous best was 16 against Eastern Michigan Saturday.
Ali Poole had 14, including four of six three-point shots, and McKenna Stephens had 10. Stephens led KSU with eight rebounds and had four assists.
The Flashes head back to Kent for their first MAC home game and only their third home game of the season. They’ll play Western Michigan at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the first of a double-header with the men’s team. Western also is 8-6 and 1-1 and lost to Buffalo 71-49 at Buffalo Wednesday.
- Northern Illinois’ 81 points was exactly its season average and 20 points more than Kent State had been allowing defensively. KSU’s 79 was 18 above its average.
- Northern made 49 percent of its shots and 50 percent of its three-pointers. Kent State was 27 for 60 for 45 percent from the field and seven of 18 from three-point distance. Both were their second-best performances of the season.
- The Flashes outrebounded NIU 38-26 and had 12 offensive rebounds to Northern’s five. But KSU had only six second-chance points while the Huskies had 10.
- Kent State made 18 of 20 free throws, its highest percentage of the season.
- The game was the second-closest loss in Starkey’s two years as head coach. The closest was also against Northern Illinois — 98-97 in Kent last season.
- The Flashes play Northern in Kent Feb. 3.
Other MAC scores
After two games, there are only two teams left undefeated in the MAC — West Division preseason favorite Central Michigan and East preseason favorite Buffalo. Eight teams have 1-1 records. Wednesday scores:
- Central Michigan (10-3, 2-0 in the MAC) 82, Ohio (7-6, 1-1) 58 at Central.
- Buffalo (11-2, 2-0) 71, Western Michigan (8-6, 1-1) 49 at Buffalo.
- Eastern Michigan (5-8, 1-1) 54, Bowling Green (8-5, 0-2) 54 at Bowling Green on a last-second tip by Eboni Jackson.
- Toledo (10-3, 1-1) 60, Akron (6-7, 0-2) 54 at Toledo.
- Ball State (12-1, 1-1) 86, Miami (9-4, 1-1) 61 at Ball State.