In the end, Kent State coach Todd Starkey said after the Flashes’ 81-51 loss to Buffalo Wednesday, the reason was simple:
“Buffalo is just a much better team than we are.”
The Bulls, 24-4 on the season and No. 16 in RPI rankings after Wednesday, pulled away from the Flashes in the third quarter, outscoring them 26-8. Buffalo (15-2 in the MAC) is second in the league by a game to Central Michigan, which beat third-place Ball State 88-80 Wednesday.
Kent State is 10th in the conference at 5-12 and 12-17 overall.
The league’s final regular season games are Saturday (KSU is at Miami). The MAC tournament starts Monday on campus sites. The Flashes will be on the road, probably at Toledo or Western Michigan.
“Our margin for error in a game like this is paper thin,” Starkey said. “They exposed all of our weaknesses” in the third quarter.
“I thought we had the right game plan. We tried to slow it down and reduce the number of possessions, and we had a good first half even though we missed some shots.”
Then came a 26-8 third quarter in favor of Buffalo.
“The most important things that we talked about when we prepared for the game was not turning the ball over and giving them layups,” Starkey said. “We just beat ourselves; it’s been an ongoing theme all year.”
Buffalo had four steals in the third quarter and scored seven points off KSU’s six turnovers. Buffalo just had one turnover in the quarter. The Bulls pushed a 36-28 halftime lead to 18 points within three minutes. KSU never got any closer.
The MAC hasn’t had more than one team in the NCAA Tournament since Toledo and Kent State made it in 1996. Starkey said that should change this season.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Ball State, too (with Buffalo and Central). I don’t think there any team outside the top 10 that would want to face those three teams in the first or second round of the NCAA.”
Buffalo and Central are 24-4, Ball State 23-5. After Wednesday, Buffalo is 16th in the RPI, Central Michigan 23rd and Ball State 36th. RPI rankings are based on a team’s record and strength of schedule. It’s one factor that determines which 32 teams get at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. 64 teams will make the tournament, half of them by winning their conference tournaments. RPI rankings are from WarrenNolan.com.
- Jordan Korinek led Kent State with 14 points and seven rebounds. McKenna Stephens had 10 points and four assists. It was the last game at the M.A.C. Center for the two players, who have started 193 games between them in their four years on campus (112 for Korinek, 81 for Stephens). Korinek’s moved into fifth place in Kent scoring history. She has 1,741 points, 13 more than Ann Forbes, who played between 1989 and 1992.
- Kent State outrebounded Buffalo 32-30. In the first game between the teams, the Bulls had 51 rebounds to KSU’s 39 in an 80-42 victory.
- After making 48 percent of its shots in the first half, Kent State was seven of 30 (23 percent) in the second. Buffalo made a season-high 54.4 percent of its shots for the game.
- Buffalo’s Autumn Jones, starting her first game of the season, made three three-point baskets and all four of her shots into the first period as Buffalo took a 21-13 lead. She was one of four UB players in double figures, led by guard Cierra Dillard with 17. None of Buffalo’s starters played in the fourth quarter; none played more than 27 minutes in the game.
- The win set a school record for number of victories in a season for Buffalo.
- Kent State’s Amanda Sape, a 6-3 freshman center, scored her first college point on a foul shot in the last minute. Seconds earlier, freshman Margaux Eibel got her first college basket (she had scored on free throws earlier in the season).
- Sophomore Ali Poole was back in the starting lineup after missing two games with a leg injury. She had three points and two rebounds in 18 minutes.
Other MAC scores
- Miami (11-6, 19-9) 78, Ohio (9-8, 15-13) 56 at Ohio.
- Northern Illinois (7-10, 15-13) 89, Toledo (8-9, 17-12) 79 at Northern.
- Western Michigan (8-9 MAC, 15-14 overall) 74, Eastern Michigan (6-11, 10-18) 66 at Western.
- Bowling Green (3-14, 11-17) 84, Akron (2-15, 8-20) 63 at BG.
- Central Michigan (16-1, 24-4) 88, Ball State (12-5, 23-5) 80 at Central.