This is the second and final part of our wrap-up of Kent State’s 2017-18 season.
Five key numbers
That’s how many fewer per game Kent State scored in MAC games this season compared to last. KSU averaged 62.8 points, 11th in the 12-team MAC. In the end, you don’t win if you don’t score. Most of the loss, of course, was because of the graduation of Larissa Lurken, who led the conference in scoring in 2016-17.
Kent State’s field goal percentage. This is, obviously, one of the biggest reasons the Flashes didn’t score. It was second lowest in the MAC and 4 percentage points below the previous season, which was just fifth in the conference. Three-point percentage was even worse: 25.2. That’s two-and-a-half points below any other team in the league, and 12 points lower than Central Michigan, which led the MAC. KSU made 4.2 three-point shots per game, last in the league.
Kent State’s turnover margin, tied with Bowling Green for worst in the league. KSU has been at or near the bottom of the league in turnovers and turnover margin for six years, going back to Bob Lindsay’s last season as coach. Even last year’s championship team was 10th in turnovers committed and seventh in margin.
(I used conference-only statistics for the first three categories because I think it’s the best comparison between the this season and last. KSU won eight of its last nine games on its way to a MAC East title in 2016-17. This year’s team lost eight of its last 10.)
That’s the average RPI of the seven teams Kent State beat in non-conference play. Compare that to the average RPI of KSU’s Mid-American opponents — 115. That may tell you why KSU’s 7-5 non-conference record was so much better than its 5-13 conference record. The Flashes had a strange non-conference of really good teams and pretty weak teams, with not much in the middle.
The highest RPI of a non-conference team the Flashes beat was Robert Morris’s 124. The only others better than 250 were Youngstown State (154) and Memphis (197). The average RPI of KSU’s five non-conference losses was 44, topped by No. 13 Stanford. The Flashes’ RPI, by the way, was 152 (of 349 teams).
The number of points Jordan Korinek scored this season, third most in Kent State history. I remember Korinek’s first game — an exhibition against Ohio Christian in 2014. She scored 23 points on 10 of 11 shooting and had 10 rebounds, You could tell she was going to be something special.
She ended her career as one of Kent State’s best players ever — 1,786 points, fifth in school history, and in the school’s career top 10 in eight statistical categories. Add two that academic all-American and all-MAC honors and a 4.0 GPA in special education. I feel lucky to have gotten to know her a little in my time writing the blog.
Five key games
KENT STATE 46, ROBERT MORRIS 31 on Dec. 19
You might call this the high point of KSU’s season. It was the last game before Christmas and conference play, and the Flashes’ defense was overwhelming. Robert Morris’s 31 points were the third lowest allowed in Kent State history. The Robert Morris game came right after KSU led Michigan at the half in another great defensive effort. It looked as if the season might be coming together.
(RMU went on to finish the season 24-8, win the Northeast Conference and be ranked at times in the Mid-Major Top 25. But the Colonials played a soft schedule; their RPI of 124 was below six MAC teams.)
NORTHERN ILLINOIS 81, KENT STATE 79 on Jan. 3
Kent State had beaten Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti in its first MAC game and led by eight points with eight minutes to go in the third quarter. But the Flashes committed seven turnovers the rest of the way. This game may have been when the season turned. A win would have made KSU 2-0 with both wins on the road and given confidence that might have carried over to the rest of the season.
BOWLING GREEN 60, KENT STATE 50 on Jan. 17
Two weeks after the Northern game, we knew how bad the season might get. Four days after scoring 84 points against eventual-league champion Central Michigan, the Flashes scored 50 at BG, which tied for last in the MAC. Ten days later KSU would lose at Akron, the other last place team
MIAMI 58, KENT STATE 35 on March 3
We thought the Flashes had hit bottom. Starkey wondered in interviews whether the team had given up on the season. 35 points were the fewest the Flashes had scored in five years. Things went so bad so quickly that the coach substituted for all five starters three-and-a-half minutes into the game. I turned off that game feeling as down as I had in the worst of the bad years.
KENT STATE 80, TOLEDO 76 on March 5
This game gave us hope for the future. Just two days after that dreadful performance in Miami, the Flashes played their best game of the season in the first round of the MAC tournament. They beat Toledo at Toledo for the second time in the season — in overtime — behind 20-point games from Jordan Korinek, Naddiyah Cross and Megan Carter. Coupled with a decent performance against Buffalo in the tournament’s second round, Kent State went into the off-season with a much better feeling than had the year ended in Miami.
Here’s link to first postseason wrap-up post.
Next time, we’ll look at returning and incoming players and the outlook for next season.