Flashes overcome a dreadful second quarter and beat Eastern Michigan, 76-69

Cross and victory bell

Naddiyah Cross, who scored a career-high 24 points Wednesday, rings the victory bell. (Photo from KSU website.)

Outside of the second quarter, Kent State played a very solid basketball game Wednesday in its 76-69 victory over Eastern Michigan.

The second quarter was pretty awful. KSU made just three of 20 shots and were outscored 19-9. The Flashes trailed 34-27 at the half.

“We were just playing passive, playing really soft,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame press conference. “We went up passive on shots. We acted like they were blocking every shot, and they didn’t have any blocked shots.

“We just weren’t pushing through contact or wanting contact at all.”

In the second half, the Flashes made 54 percent of their shots and outscored Eastern by seven points in both the third and fourth quarters.

“We got much better ball movement and much better movement off the ball,” Starkey said.

Senior point guard Naddiyah Cross scored a career-high 24 points on eight of 13 shooting and three of six three-pointers. Cross has started 76 games over four years but never been a big scorer. Her 5.8 average this season is two points higher than it has ever been.

“She’s not going to have 24 points every night,” Starkey said. “But if she takes the right type of shots, she’s a very capable scorer. She’s very responsive to coaching. I’m proud of her development. We don’t win this game without her stepping up.”

Senior forward Jordan Korinek played a complete game in a number of ways. She played all 40 minutes — something I don’t remember happening in her four years starting — and had 23 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot. It was a season-high in rebounding and her first double-double of the year. The five assists tied a career-high.

She made 17 of 19 free throws — the most made and attempted by a MAC player this season. The 17 makes are the sixth highest in Division I this season and fifth highest in Kent State history.

Korinek made 15 of 15 free throws in her two games last week and was named MAC East player of the week and the conference student-athlete of the week. (She has a 4.0 average in special education and was a second-team academic All-American last season.)

“That’s a big emphasis,” Korinek said. “We always want to get to the free-throw line more than them. I do a lot of shooting free throws after practice, and we shoot a lot of free throws in practice.

“I try to finish through contact and draw the contact. That was a big emphasis on halftime, so we definitely focused on that and got to the line more.”

Korinek on playing 40 minutes: “I don’t know (if it’s happened before). But I’m feeling it right now.

The Flashes had only 13 turnovers for the game. That’s 4 1/2 below their average and eight below the average Eastern forces per game. In the first game between the two teams Dec. 30, Eastern scored 25 points off 21 Kent State turnovers. Last night it was 14 points off 12 turnovers.

It was a point of emphasis in preparation.

“It was only said about 15 times before the game,” Korinek said.

“We knew that was going to be a key,” Starkey said. “I thought we did a much better job of taking care of the ball, of making safe passes.”

Notes

  • Kent State is now 2-2 and tied for second in the MAC East with Ohio. The Flashes are 9-7 overall. Eastern is 2-2 and 6-9 overall. The KSU win breaks Kent’s two-game losing streak and Eastern’s two-game winning streak.
  • McKenna Stephens had 17 points for the Flashes on five of 10 shooting and five of six foul shots. She had six rebounds. Ali Poole and Alexa Golden each had five rebounds. Poole had two three-point baskets; she has nine in her last three games.
  • Megan Carter, who averaged 16 points in her first three conference games, didn’t score in 17 minutes, which was about 12 below her average playing time.
  • No non-starter scored for Kent State.
  • Merissa Barber-Smith, the 6-4 junior who has been the first post player off the bench, didn’t play because of illness. Starkey said she likely would miss several more games but said he couldn’t elaborate. (The coach takes medical privacy rules as seriously as any coach I know of.)
  • Senior Zenobia Bess was the first post substitute Wednesday but picked up two quick fouls and played only two minutes. Freshman Monique Smith played four minutes; Starkey said she’ll need to step up while Barber-Smith is out.
  • Kent State outrebounded Eastern Michigan 41-29, though Starkey complained about the team’s not blocking out late in the game when Eastern got several offensive rebounds. Kent State had 14 offensive rebounds. EMU had only 17 defensive rebounds.
  • Courtney Lewis led Eastern with 19 points. Emoni Jackson had 11 and Danielle Minott 10. Jackson, Minott, Sasha Daily and Corrione Cardwell — all starters — fouled out.

KSU next travels to first-place Central Michigan for a Saturday afternoon game. Central (4-0, 12-3 overall) beat Bowling Green Wednesday, 90-54.

The view from Eastern

Coach Fred Castro, on Eastern Michigan radio: “They were the better team; they were the tougher team.  We just needed to be disciplined and solid and not send them to the free throw line.”

“We started out the way we should have. We talked about what they were going to do at halftime, and sure enough they did it. We knew Jordan was going to end up with the ball. We didn’t execute the way we needed to.”

“We didn’t try to turn them over in the first half. We don’t have to turn these guys over to beat them. We had to ramp up the pressure later because we were down.”

“They absolutely killed us on the offensive glass.

Box score

Other MAC scores

  • Western Michigan (3-1, 10-6 overall) 88, Northern Illinois (2-2, 10-5) 83 at Western.
  • Toledo (2-2, 11-5) 75, Ohio (2-2, 8-7) 57 at Toledo.
  • Central Michigan (4-0, 12-3) 90, Bowling Green (0-4, 8-7) 54 at Central.
  • Buffalo (12-3, 3-1) 72, Miami (1-3, 9-6) 67 at Buffalo.
  • Ball State (3-1, 14-1) 74, Akron (0-4, 6-9) 61 at Akron.

MAC standings

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