Guard Megan Carter had 17 points and four assists, playing 39 of 40 minutes. “A heck of a player,” said North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, a member of the women’s basketball hall of fame. (File photo from KSU website.)
Kent State’s opening 73-60 loss to North Carolina gave us a lot to digest. Highlights:
- The Flashes played very well against a Power Five Conference team that had more experience, many more highly recruited players and home court advantage.
- The game got away in two minutes of furious action in the fourth quarter. Kent State led 52-50 when all that started.
- Kent State’s defense, which had been a question mark going into the season, was excellent against a team that scored 100 points in its first game Wednesday.
- The Flashes can play very, very hard.
Here’s coach Todd Starkey‘s message to the team after the game, as he reported it on his postgame radio interview:
“If you guys will play with that kind of intensity all season, we’re going to be really tough to beat.”
“I’m so proud of our players,” Starkey said in the interview with play-by-play announcer Dave Wilson. “We played really hard. We executed a game plan.
“We got the right level of effort from everybody. They didn’t over hustle and get out of position. I thought for the most part they kept their composure and really did some nice things.”
Kent State, which started two freshmen, fell behind 17-5 and trailed 25-14 after the first quarter. (“Nervous jitters,” Starkey said.)
Then the Flashes thoroughly outplayed North Carolina in the second quarter to close the score to 36-35 and played dead even with the Tar Heels until about five minutes to go. In two intense minutes, the game got away.
After KSU took its 52-50 lead, it got the ball back on a turnover but itself turned the ball over on an inbound pass. Forty seconds later ,Carolina had a 55-54 lead when senior guard Paris Kea, a third-team preseason all-American, hit a tightly contested three-point shot. Defender Asiah Dingle was called for a foul, Kea converted the four-point play and the Tar Heels were up 59-54.
Thirty seconds later, Dingle missed a three-pointer, dove after a long rebound, seemed to get to the ball first, but was called for a foul. Even the North Carolina announcers wondered aloud about the call on the ESPN broadcast. Starkey was called for a technical foul when he questioned it, too, and the Tar Heels pulled away from there.
“I thought it was the best hustle play of the game,” Starkey said. “I have to find a way to not get a technical there, but I’m always going to defend our players. I just didn’t understand it.”
Kent State’s defense held North Carolina to 33.8 percent shooting, 9 percentage points below its average last season. Besides Kea, a returning all-ACC first teamer, Tar Heel starters included Janelle Bailey, the ACC freshman of the year last season; Stephanie Watts, the ACC freshman of the year in 2016, and Shayla Bennett, the 2018 junior college player of the year. Kea led Carolina with 25. Bailey had 13, Watts 9 and Bennett 6.
The Tarheels had beaten Elon, which is consistently one of the country’s better mid-major teams, 100-69 on Tuesday.
“They have a lot of moving parts and a lot of players who can score,” Starkey said. “I thought we did a really good job of scrambling on defense. We had to run from player to player and cover each other’s backs.”
KSU pretty much took Bailey, the 6-4 Carolina center, out of its offense. She had 13 points on five of 13 shooting and picked up four fouls. She was guarded by 6-4 senior Merissa Barber-Smith and 6-2 freshman Lindsey Thall.
“We tried to do some different things in our game plan,” Starkey said. “You can’t just go and trap where every single time because they’re used to double teams. So we looked at some different things that we felt like could throw them off their rhythm.”
- Megan Carter led KSU with 17 points on eight of 22 shooting, four assists, three rebounds and a steal. She played 39 of 40 minutes. Carter, who was recruited as a point guard, was supposed to play mostly shooting guard this season. But when Dingle got into foul trouble, Carter took over at point and played as good a game as she has at Kent State.
- Dingle, senior guard Alexa Golden and freshman guard Hannah Young all had nine points. Thall and junior guard Ali Poole had seven ponts each. Golden and Thall led the team with seven rebounds. Thall and Dingle fouled out.
- Kent State made 37.7 percent of its shots and 21 percent of its three pointers, both below its averages of last year though, of course, North Carolina is tougher competition than most KSU opponents.
- Starters for Kent were Dingle, Barber-Smith, Carter, Thall and Golden. Poole, who had started in Kent State’s exhibition, played 29 minutes off the bench.
- The Flashes had 18 turnovers that led to 18 Carolina points. They had two five-second calls on inbound plays and turned the ball over on inbound passes at least two other times. Carolina had 13 turnovers that led to five KSU points. Golden had four steals.
- The Flashes outscored North Carolina 28-22 in the paint, with much of that coming on drives from Carter and Dingle.
- North Carolina is a team that lines to run and score in transition. But they had only four fast-break points. Kent had six.
- The Flashes made only 10 of 19 free throws. Carolina hit 18 of 24.
- The North Carolina announcers called Kent State “the Flash” (not Flashes) throughout the game.
Kent State next travels 26 miles to play at North Carolina State at 2 p.m. Sunday. N.C. State (1-0) was ranked 17th in the preseason Associated Press poll.
The view from Carolina
Head coach Sylvia Hatchell:
“It wasn’t pretty, but it was a W. We didn’t shoot the ball well. If a lot of those shots had gone through, it would have been a little bit different. I thought we played some good defense down the stretch at times.
“No. 31 (KSU’s Megan Carter), we couldn’t keep her in front of us. She is a heck of a player.”
On Carolina’s offense struggling in the second and third quarters
“We were taking threes because they were running two or three people at Janelle [Bailey] every time she touched it in there. We had some open looks but just couldn’t throw it in the ocean.”
Senior guard Paris Kea (25 points), in her key four-point play in the fourth quarter:
“Before the shot, everyone was telling me I need to shoot when I’m open. There were a lot of times I was open and I just wasn’t shooting. I don’t really know what was going through my mind during those moments. She gave me a little space, I just let it fly, she hit me on the arm, and it went in.”