Junior guard Ali Poole hit two foul shots with five seconds left to clinch the victory. (Photo by Austin Mariasy from KSU website.)
Three minutes into the second half, Kent State was rolling.
Leading 28-23 at halftime against Northern Kentucky, the Flashes scored the first 10 points of the second half on two three-point baskets by Alexa Golden and two steals that led to layups. They led 38-23.
Then, coach Todd Starkey said, “they took their foot of the gas.”
Northern Kentucky battled back to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but the Flashes made enough plays at the end of the game to escape with a 62-61 victory in their home opener.
Kent State is now 1-2 on the season; Northern Kentucky is 1-1.
“That’s part of a young team,” Starkey said. “They don’t get how relentless some teams in college are. They’re not going away.”
Starkey delayed our postgame interview while he talked to his team. His message?
“W’ve got to be better than that,” he told them. “I thought Northern Kentucky played with better focus and intensity for most of the game. They had a really good game plan and executed it better than we executed ours.
“We’ve got a long way to go before we’re ready for the rest of our non-conference season and MAC play.”
How did the team respond?
“They owned it,” Starkey said. “They know they didn’t play particularly well. I’m proud of them for that.
“We’ll get better, without a doubt, and fix some of those mistakes.”
After KSU led by 15, Northern Kentucky outscored the Flashes 27-10 to take a 50-48 lead with six minutes the play. Kent tied the game on the next possession, and the teams were within three points of each other until junior guard Ali Poole hit two free throws with five seconds left to give KSU a 62-58 lead. NKU hit a three-point shot with less than a second left.
At their best, the Flashes showed some nice things. Freshman point guard Asiah Dingle takes the ball to the basket without fear. She and junior Megan Carter provide a strong perimeter punch. When the Flashes get steals and push the ball the way they did at the beginning of the third quarter, they’re very exciting.
KSU had 13 steals and forced 27 Northern Kentucky turnovers. That led to 23 points for the Flashes. But Starkey said that’s not enough.
“We force 27 turnovers, we have to score more than 61 points,” he said. “Steals are great. But if the steals lead to empty possessions, then it’s pointless.”
Kent State made 20 turnovers of its own. (A “horribly sloppy game,” Starkey said.)
Golden, KSU’s only senior starter, picked up two first-quarter fouls and played just six minutes in the first half. But she scored 11 with three three-pointers in the second half, her most points in a game this season.
“I let the team down in the first half,” she said in a postgame radio interview. “In the second half, I did what I could to help us win.”
“We got better ball movement.” Starkey said, “and Lex did a good job of finding space and knocking down good shots.”
“Lex is our heart and soul,” said assistant coach Mike McKee, who did the postgame interview on Golden Flash iHeart Radio while Starkey was being interviewed for ESPN3. “She brings us energy and focus and doesn’t care if she gets three threes or is scoreless.”
KSU’s rebounding, Starkey said, “was horrible.“The Norse outrebounded the Kent State 35-24.
“That’s got to get fixed,” Starkey said. “We did a lot better job of rebounding against ACC teams (in North Carolina) than we did today. That was an effort thing.”
Attendance was listed at 1,273, the biggest crowd since Starkey became coach.
“] wish we would have played better,” Starkey said, “I didn’t think we showed what we’re capable of. I hope they’ll come back and give us another chance.”
A triple header Sunday
The women should have a good crowd, at least toward the end of game, when they play Oakland Sunday in their second game of the Kent State Classic. The game starts about 1:30 p.m. Kent State’s men play Alcorn State at the M.A.C.C. a half hour after the women finish.
It’s actually a triple header. Akron’s women will play Northern Kentucky at 11, One ticket gets you in all three games.
- Akron (2-0) beat Oakland 85-65 Saturday. Oakland, which lost all five starters from last year’s 15-16 team to graduation, is 1-3.
- Dingle led the Flashes with 15 points, four assists and four steals. But she also had also six turnovers. Carter had 14 points, Golden 11 and freshman Lindsey Thall nine. Golden also had three assist and three steals. Thall, Dingle and Carter had four rebounds.
- Both teams made 43 percent of their shots. Kent was eight of 23 (34.8 percent) on three-pointers. Northern Kentucky was six of 19.
To follow the Oakland game
The game is scheduled to start about 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C.C. Akron plays Northern Kentucky at 11 a.m. The KSU game will start a half hour after that game finishes.
General admission tickets are $10 at the M.A.C.C.
Audio broadcast starts 15 minutes before the game — likely sometime between 1:15 AND and 1:30 on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.
Video is through ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. It gives you access to Kent State events not on regular ESPN or other networks, including men’s and women’s basketball, football and some wrestling and gymnastics. That would include more than 85 percent of KSU men’s and women’s basketball. The service includes access to other MAC games and those of many other schools, plus some unique programming. Here’s a Kent State Q&A on ESPN+ and a link to the KSU-Oakland game. When you try to watch it, it will guide you through a purchase.
Live statistics are available through the KSU website.