Merissa Barber-Smith had 10 rebounds, two blocks and two points in 15 minutes against Wright State. She leads the Flashes in rebounds and blocks despite averaging just 15 minutes a game. (File photo from KSU website.)
Looking at all that didn’t go well, it’s somewhat remarkable that Kent State came within six points of beating Wright State on the road Sunday.
KSU lost 61-55 to the Raiders, who are 5-3 and ranked 21st in the latest CollegeInsider Mid-Major poll. Kent is 3-4.
- The Flashes made just two-of-24 three-point shots, by far their lowest percentage and lowest total of the year. They made 27.3 percent of all shots (18 of 66), again the lowest of the season.
- Kent was outscored 13-2 at the end of the second quarter and fell beyond 33-23 at the half.
- The Flashes gave up 22 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.
- Two starters fouled out and two more players had four fouls.
But Kent State’s defense was almost as good (or Wright State’s offense struggled almost as much). The Raiders, who had averaged 71 points a game, made only 29 percent of their shots, their lowest of the year. They made one-of-12 three-point shots.
Wright State’s zone defense — and Kent State’s poor shooting — was the biggest factor in the game.
“I thought we came out really passive against the zone,” coach Todd Starkey said in a phone interview from the road on his way home. “We didn’t look to make any interior passes, and nobody looked like they really wanted it on the interior.”
Still, the coach said, “We had good shooters taking good shots. Of the 24 threes that we took, I’d probably take 18 to 20 of them again. We knock some of those shots down, and it’s obviously a different game.”
Starkey thought his team played good defense for the most part, but he wasn’t happy with the game.
“I thought that was definitely a winnable game,” he said. “We didn’t play type of focus and intensity that we needed to start to finish. That’s continuing to be a little bit of a pattern for us.
“We’re playing good basketball at moments but not for long stretches. You’ve got to be able to sustain that for 40 minutes against good basketball teams if you’re going to win.”
After trailing by 10 at halftime, the Flashes came back to outscore WSU 12-6 in the third quarter and twice came within two points in the second half.
Two key plays that might have made a difference:
- At the end of the third quarter, Kent State guard Alexa Golden was apparently fouled on an offensive rebound as the buzzer sounded. It would have been a two-shot foul that could have cut Wright State’s lead to two points. But after spending several minutes at the replay monitor, the officials ruled that the foul was called after the buzzer — even though the TV replay clearly showed the fouls occurred before the light above the backboard indicated the end of the quarter. “They said they have to go based on when she signals, which makes no sense to me,” Starkey said.
- With the score 46-44 with 5:50 to go, Mariah Modkins missed a three-point shot, Lindsey Thall got the offense rebound and missed a put-back. The rebound came almost to half court, and Asiah Dingle was called for a foul on a floor scramble for the ball. Wright State got two offensive rebounds on the next possession, then made two foul shots.
Golden and Dingle fouled out in the fourth quarter, with most of their fouls coming on steal attempts or fights for loose balls. Merissa Barber-Smith and Megan Carter were both playing with four fouls at the end.
But so were Wright State’s Mackenzie Taylor, the Raiders’ leading scorer on the season, and freshman Angel Baker, who came off the bench to lead all scorers with a career-high 24 points. Wright State made 22 of 31 free throws off of 24 fouls. Kent State made 17 of 22 off of 22 Raider fouls.
- That close statistical edge to Wright State was true in most numbers. The Raiders outrebounded Kent State 55-47 and scored 15 points off of 16 Kent turnovers. The Flashes scored 10 points on 15 Wright State turnovers.
- Carter led the Flashes with 18 points, her season average and the sixth time in seven games she’s led KSU in scoring. She also had six rebounds. Her scoring average in fifth in the MAC.
- Dingle, Thall and Ali Poole all had nine points. Merissa Barber-Smith had 10 rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes and Golden nine rebounds.
- Golden had three assists and Modkins two. That was it: five KSU assists on 18 baskets. “A troubling sign,” Starkey said. Kent State is last in the conference in assists per game.
- Modkins played 25 minutes off the bench, sometimes at the same time as fellow point guard Dingle. “We like that combo,” associate head coach Fran Recchia in her postgame interview with radio broadcaster David Wilson. “It makes a little more aggressiveness on the defensive end.” Modkins, who is very generously listed at 5-foot-1, put strong ball pressure on Wright State guards who were six and eight inches taller than she is.
Kent State next plays Friday at Robert Morris outside Pittsburgh. The Colonials are picked to win the Northeastern Conference but are 1-6 so far. Losses have been to Youngstown State, Rhode Island, Bowling Green, SMU, Loyola Marymount and No. 14 Iowa. Five have been by 10 points or fewer.
The view from Wright State
Coach Katrina Merriweather, interviewed on ESPN+ after the game.
“I’m happy with the effort, but we still have a lot of work to do. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
“Our defense has gotten better. I did tell them that they were the worst defense and worst rebounding team I had ever coach, and I think they responded to that conversation.”
Other MAC scores
- Central Michigan (7-1) 67, Quinnipiac (4-4) at Quinnipiac. CMU was ranked sixth in the latest mid=-major top 25. Quinnipiac was ranked 10th.
- Butler (6-0) 64, Ball State (2-6) 47 at Butler. Ball State did beat Cincinnati (5-3) in Muncie Wednesday.
- Northern Illinois (4-3) 98, Nevada (1-5) 69 at Lady Griz Classic at the University of Montana.
- Ohio (6-0) 72, Cleveland State (3-5) 54 at Ohio.
- Buffalo (6-1) 82, Central Connecticut (1-5) 69 at Central Connecticut.
- Illinois (5-2) 72, Eastern Michigan (4-2) 69 in overtime at Illinois.
- Akron (4-1) 63, Eastern Kentucky (0-7) 54 at Akron.
- Toledo (5-2) 58, Memphis (2-5) 48 at Memphis.
- Miami (5-1) 65, University of Illinois at Chicago (1-5) 56 at UIC.
- Montana (2-2) 86, Northern Illinois (4-3) at Montana.