Think winning at Toledo was hard? Next is 25-4 Buffalo in MAC quarterfinals

KSU in Cleveland

The KSU team at midcourt at practice at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday. (Photo from Flashes’ Twitter feed.)

In his radio interview before Kent State’s surprise win in the MAC Tournament at Toledo on Monday, coach Todd Starkey ticked off things that had to happen for the Flashes to win:

  • Keep turnovers down.
  • Have two players in double figures besides leading scorer Jordan Korinek.
  • Follow the game plan on defense.
  • Shoot well.

Perhaps for the first time this season, the Flashes executed it all very well in their 80-76 overtime victory.

Now they have to do it again — against an even better team.

The Flashes play No. 2 seed Buffalo in the tournament quarterfinal at Quicken Loans Arena at about 5 p.m. Wednesday. Buffalo is 25-4 on the season, the best record in school history. They’re 20th in the latest RPI ratings, the highest a MAC team has ever been ranked this late in the season. They were 16-2 in the conference and beat Kent State twice by at least 30 points.

The Kent State plan will be the same.

THE TURNOVER STORY

The Flashes gave up 28 points off 18 turnovers in their 81-51 loss to Buffalo a week ago. Meanwhile, Kent State scored just nine off of 11 Buffalo turnovers. The Flashes have been last in the conference in turnovers and turnover margin most of the season,

Against Toledo, KSU had fewer turnovers than the Rockets (15-14) and scored more points off of them (15-13).

SCORERS BESIDES KORINEK

All season long, Kent State has been looking for scoring to complement Korinek, who is second in the MAC at 19.9 points per game. In Kent’s first game with the Bulls, Korinek had 22. No one else on the team had more than five in an 80-42 loss.

Against Toledo, Korinek had 21 points (16 in the fourth quarter and in overtime). But guards Megan Carter (24 points) and Naddiyah Cross (20 points) had two of their best games of the season.

FOLLOWING THE PLAN

When the Flashes lost to Buffalo a week ago, they were outscored 26-8 in the third quarter, many of the points on steals and fast breaks. After the game, Starkey grumped that his team didn’t follow the plan to limit such “live-ball turnovers.”

In both of their wins over Toledo this season, Kent State set out to mix up its defenses. On Monday, the Flashes played their base match-up zone, a 1-3-1 zone, a 2-3 zone and a man-to-man. Starkey praised his players for talking on defense, something they slip on when they’re playing poorly.

SHOOTING

In conference games, Kent State was 11th in the league in field goal percentage at 37.6 percent. In the two Buffalo losses, Kent State shot a combined 29.9 percent, including just 21 percent in Buffalo.

In Toledo, the Flashes made a season-high 48.3 percent of their shots. Key is the guards’ shooting. Korinek is ninth in the conference in field goal percentage at 51.7 in league play. Fellow forward McKenna Stephens makes 37.6 percent, and shot much better last season. No Kent State guard is above 35 percent. KSU is shooting just 25.2 percent from three-point distance, well below any other team in the league.

To make things even harder, Buffalo leads the MAC in field goal defense at 36.6 percent.

Three Bulls were named to the all-MAC second team announced Tuesday:

  • Junior guard Cierra Dillard, a transfer from Massachusetts who leads the team in scoring (14.5 points per game) and steals (2.8). She is second in assists (5.1, which would lead most teams) and three-point percentage (32.8). Dillard may be the biggest difference between last year’s Buffalo team, which finished second to KSU in the East, and this year’s division champion.
  • Senior center Cassie Oursler, a 6-3 player who is second in the MAC in blocked shots, including a number against Korinek when the teams played before. She averages 13.7 points and 7.2 rebounds. She had 19 points and 14 rebounds in just 18 minutes against Kent State on Feb.7.
  • Senior point guard Stephanie Reid, one of the best passers and defenders in the conference. She was a member of the MAC all-defensive team, averaging 2.5 steals per game, and makes 7.1 assists per game. She averages 11.2 points and leads the team in three-point shooting at 37.5 percent.

To follow the game

Action starts at about 5 p.m., or a half hour after the Miami-Ohio game ends.  Here are directions to Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. Driving time is about an hour. There are lots of nearby parking garages and surface lots. A $10 ticket gets you into all of Wednesday’s games, which start with the Central Michigan-Eastern Michigan game at noon. All seats are general admission.

Video is on ESPN3. You can follow it online if your subscribe to ESPN on cable or by  satellite.

Audio starts at about 4:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio and WHLO.

Live statistics will be available through the MAC website.

Here’s the MAC’s Tournament Central, which includes the bracket, recaps of all games and box scores. Capsule previews of all of today’s games.

Preview from Kent State website, including links to statistics, roster, schedule/results, record book and more. Detailed game notes for the media.

Preview from the Buffalo website, including links. Detailed game notes.

MAC statistics

 

 

 

 

 

 

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