What we learned from KSU’s 77-48 exhibition win: lots of guards, lots of freshmen, better shooting, a solid defense


A basket from freshman guard Asiah Dingle, who led the Flashes with 21 points. (Photo from KSU website.)

The 77-48 score was what Kent State’s women wanted it to be, but in an exhibition game against a Division II team, the score is one of the least important things to know.

What’s most important — to coaches, players, media and fans — is what we learned about a team whose roster is half new players.

Here are my takeaways :

The Flashes started two freshmen, and four of the eight players with most time on the court were freshmen.

The lineup was senior guard Alexa Golden, junior guards Megan Carter and Ali Poole, freshman point guard Asiah Dingle and freshman forward Lindsey Thall. All played about 25 minutes and were four of the five top scorers.

Off the bench came (order of playing time) freshman guard Hannah Young, senior center Merissa Barber-Smith and freshman point guard Mariah Modkins. All played between 14 and 19 minute. The next highest played eight.

The rotation was about two players deeper than the Flashes went most of last season.

The Flashes started four guards, something coach Todd Starkey said is likely to happen during the regular season.

The fourth guard was Poole, who had perhaps the best performance of her career. She had 14 rebounds — six above her career high — and 14 points, double her average for last season. She also had three assists, two blocked shots and two steals.

“She’s done a great job of adjusting to a new role,” Starkey said. “Last year she was kind of spotting up as a shooter. Now we’ve got her doing a lot more. In that fourth-guard position, she’s going to have to rebound for us. She has done a really good job listening to what we need from her.”

Poole called it a “mentality change.”

“This is what I need to do to get on the court,” she said.

Poole’s view of the team’s performance:

“We got a little slow when we got tired. We got a little bit out of control at times, and kind of got sloppy. So then we had to take a deep breath and get readjusted. But I thought we did.”

How much we’ll see a four-guard line-up, Starkey said, “depends on who we play.” Barber-Smith, the team’s tallest player at 6-4, will likely start against teams with big front lines, according to the coach.

When KSU was focused, it was very good.

The Flashes ran to a 23-5 first-quarter lead. They made seven-of-14 shots and three-of-five three-point attempts. They had four steals and advanced the ball quickly up court.

KSU didn’t push nearly as much the rest of the game, something Starkey wasn’t happy about.

“We need to do that all four quarters,” the coach said. “We let our foot of the gas, especially when Asiah went out.”

The Flashes outscored Slippery Rock 25-12 in the third quarter. Second quarter was sloppy and went to Slippery Rock 19-16. Reserves played much of the fourth quarter.

Dingle is as good as we’ve been told.

The 5-4 guard, the Boston Globe player of the year last season, had 21 points on six-of-seven shooting and eight-of-10 foul shots. She had four steals, six rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. When she was out, the offense was noticably less effective.

“She’s a natural open-court, transition player,” Starkey said. “She’s really good at making quick decisions as things are changing, so we want to get her into those situations as much as we can.”

Dingle put it this way: “I put the ball to the floor and just go. That’s what coach tells me.”

Dingle had about three baskets when she drove, faked, then scooped the ball from below her waist. It banked high off the backboard and went it. It was impressive.

KSU showed much better shooting that last season.

The Flashes were at 47 percent before Starkey emptied the bench in the fourth quarter).

Three-point shooting through three quarters was 37 percent. Last year the Flashes shot 38 percent overall and 28 percent from three-point distance.

Last year’s numbers included forward Jordan Korinek scoring 20 points a game and making 50 percent of her shots, mostly from inside. There was nothing like that Sunday. The Flashes’ 22 points in the paint came from guards driving to the basket and making layups or passing off. KSU’s forwards had a total of four inside points.

Thall showed she did indeed have range up to 27 feet, as Starkey has said. She had two three-point baskets in three tries. But Starkey said she has to score elsewhere, too.

“She’s got to look at look at mid-range and post-up opportunities and not just drift around the three-point line. You can’t know where to find her all the time,” Starkey said.

Besides her eight points, Thall had four rebounds and three blocked shots.

The defense was better than I expected.

Slippery Rock made just 24 percent os its shots and had a tough time running set plays. SRU was just four of 26 on three-pointers, and a lot of the time players seemed to be throwing the ball up in desperation.

Kent State ran a full-court press a large portion of the game. The Flashes got some steals off it and often kept Slippery Rock from setting up its offense.

Kent State still had too many turnovers (20 to 14 for Slippery Rock).

Seventeen of the turnovers came from the Flashes’ top seven players. Turnovers have been a problem for the team for years.

Thoughts from Starkey on other rotation players:

  • Carter, who had 10 points and three assists. “She was solid. She and Asiah are still learning how to play together. They’re both playmakers.”
  • Young, who had eight points and three rebounds. “She got a little bit nervous and rushed some shots. That will come to her. I think the game is just really fast for her right now.”
  • Barber-Smith, who had seven rebounds in 14 minutes, and 5-11 sophomore Monique Smith, who had five in five minutes. “Good effort. Now they have to be able to do something with it. You can’t just rebound and turn it over or get an offense rebound and not score.” Smith had two points. Barber-Smith didn’t score. Smith was the second post player off the bench (after Barber-Smith). Junior college transfer Sydney Brinlee played two minutes more than Smith and had a three-pointer and two rebounds.

Overall, Starkey said, “it was a good start.”

We do have to remember all this came against what looks to be an average Division II team. 

The first regular-season opponents will be very different — at North Carolina Friday and at North Carolina State Sunday. Both are potentially top 25 teams.

The box score wasn’t posted online. Here’s a PDF scanned from the media handout.

Slippery Rock box score

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