“A tough, tough one,” coach Todd Starkey called it.
Kent State fought from nine points down with seven minutes to go but fell in the final minute to Ohio, 79-78. in the Flashes’ best game in a month.
Forward McKenna Stephens gave KSU the lead three times between 3:49 and one minute to go with a three-point basket, a layup and jump shot. But Ohio’s Taylor Agler made two foul shots to give the Bobcats the lead, and the Flashes couldn’t score on two shots in its last possession.
“We fought, we fought, we fought,” Starkey said. “That’s about all we have to give. It’s just disappointing. We’ve been playing close games and just haven’t been able to get over the hump.”
The loss was Kent State’s fifth in a row and drops the Flashes to 4-11 in the MAC and 11-16 overall. KSU remains in 10th place in the conference, two games away from eighth and the last spot for a home game in the first round of the MAC tournament. The Flashes have three conference games to play.
Ohio is 9-6 in the MAC and tied with Miami for fourth in the conference, which would get the Bobcats a first-round bye in the tournament. Overall they are 15-11.
Jordan Korinek had a near-perfect night offensively for the Flashes and scored 26 points. She made nine of nine field goals, including her only three-pointer, and seven of seven foul shots. She had nine rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot. Twenty of her points came in the first half.
In the second half, Ohio “put two, sometimes two-and-a-half” players on her, Starkey said. The Flashes tried to kick the ball outside and shoot three-point shots but went just one of six in the second half.
“We knock those down, and they can’t play that way,” Starkey said. “When we don’t make the three-point shot, teams are able to really, really play the middle of the paint and take Jordan away.
“That’s been kind of the story of what we’ve been going through in this losing streak.”
Over the previous four games, Kent State had made just 17 percent of its three-point shots (nine of 43). The Flashes were somewhat better Wednesday at 29 percent (five of 17). Ohio was nine of 22 for 41 percent.
Ohio led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter. Three-pointers by Tyra James at the end of the first and second quarters kept the halftime lead to five points.
James, who was third on the team in scoring two years ago but has played sparingly this season, had a season-high 15 points in a season-high 27 minutes. She also had three blocked shots and a steal but also had six turnovers.
Kent State had 21 turnovers on the night but actually outscored Ohio 18-14 off turnovers. Ohio had 16 steals, with freshman point guard Cierra Hooks getting nine of them. Hooks also had 21 points and eight assists. During the game, Hooks set a single-season record for steals for Ohio. She now has 95 this year.
“She is going to be a problem for four years,” Starkey said.
Here’s how Starkey described the game’s last 17 seconds as Kent State worked for a winning basket.
Plan A was to get the ball to Korinek, but Ohio took that away. The second option was’t there either, but finally Stephens got off a relatively open three-point shot. It missed, but Megan Carter grabbed the ball under the basket and tossed it back up.
“She kind of rushed it, probably thinking she didn’t have time,” Starkey said. “She really did and probably could have made it.”
- The Flashes outrebounded Ohio 42-26, with 15 offensive rebounds. (Ohio had five.) KSU outscored the Bobcats 16-4 on second-chance points.
- Alexa Golden led Kent State with 10 rebounds and had 14 points, 12 in the second half. It was the first double-double of the 5-9 junior guard’s career. She also had two blocked shots and a steal.
- Stephens had nine points, five rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal. Point guard Naddiyah Cross had seven assists.
- Sophomore Ali Poole, a usual starter at guard, sat on the bench with a boot on her foot. She suffered a leg injury in KSU’s loss Saturday against Miami.
Kent State hosts Akron at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Zips (2-13 in the MAC, 8-18 overall) lost to Miami at home Wednesday, 77-50. Akron beat Kent State at Akron on Jan. 27, 75-60.
The view from Ohio
Coach Bob Bolden, on Korinek:
“There’s no secret that we can’t guard her. I think there were too many times in the first half that we were willing to test that theory. I thought that in the second half we were more committed to her not getting the ball.”
On Ohio freshman Hooks:
“Nine steals and eight assists is ridiculous. Going into the fourth quarter she’s playing pretty good, but not very aggressive offensively. When you look at the halftime stats you think she hit a wall and isn’t going to have a very good game. Then she ends up with 21. That’s stuff you usually see out of kids who have been in college for two to three years.”
Hooks on her game:
“My teammates kept picking my head up when I was down because I was missing free-throws. I’m one of the best defender on our team, so I just focused on defense.”
Other MAC scores
- Central Michigan (14-1, 22-4) 91, Northern Illinois (5-10, 13-13) 77 at Central.
- Toledo (8-7, 17-10) 80, Eastern Michigan (6-9, 10-16) 69 at Toledo.
- Buffalo (13-2, 22-4) 88, Bowling Green (2-13, 10-16) 67 at BG.
- Ball State (11-4, 22-4) 85, Western Michigan (7-8, 14-13) 58 at Ball State.
- Miami (9-6, 17-9) 77, Akron (2-13, 8-18) 50 at Akron.