Kent State senior guard Alexa Golden and her mother, Nancy Watts, after Friday’s game. Golden grew up 25 minutes away from the Robert Morris campus. More from her and her mother toward the end of this post.
Alexa Golden said the equation for Kent State’s comeback win over Robert Morris Friday was simple.
“It was just coming out and playing better,” the senior guard said after KSU’s 54-46 victory. “We already played our worst basketball. We were three for 23, we had 14 turnovers, and we’re still only down by two.”
Golden scored all of her team-high 11 points in the second half. She grabbed eight rebounds and led a defensive effort that shut down RMU’s three-point shooting, the mainstay of the Colonials’ offense.
The victory was Kent State’s first on the road this season and evened the Flashes’ record at 4-4. Robert Morris is 1-7. All but one of its losses have come by 10 points or less.
Kent State went on a 15-4 run in the first five minutes of the second half to take control of the game.
The Colonials came into the game scoring 48 percent of their points from beyond the arc. Their top three guards had averaged a combined 42 percent on three-pointers.
Friday RMU was five of 17 from distance. Those three guards were two for seven.
Kent State’s best defense was keeping the Colonials from getting the shot off.
“You just have to be there on the catch, hands over the ball,” Golden said “Coach always says if they can get the shot off, then we weren’t there. So we made sure that we were there.”
Coach Todd Starkey liked the defense but shook his head about the offense. The Flashes made 10 of 26 shots in the second half but still were 28.5 percent shooting for the game. In their previous game, they made 27.3 percent in a 61-55 loss at Wright State.
“We were trying to force stuff,” Starkey said of the first half. “Some of the shots came when we didn’t have great offensive flow, and others we were hesitating.”
In the second half, Starkey said, the Flashes adjusted their offense to improve ball movement. “And we just made more baskets,” the coach said.
“If we start shooting the ball, we may have a pretty nice little team here,” Starkey said. “At some point our offense is going to catch up, so we just have to stay the course. We’re a little bit disjointed offensively, and that’s typical with as many freshmen as we’re planning right now.”
Merissa Barber-Smith had 10 rebounds for the second game in a row and scored a season-high six points. Her 23 minutes were also a season high.
“In rebounds per minute, she’s got to be leading the country,” Starkey said. “If she could start scoring the ball a little — offensive putbacks and finishes, she’s going to keep playing more and more.”
Barber-Smith’s rebounds-per-minute average so far this season is, in fact, 0.42 in about 15 minutes per game. Central Michigan’s Reyna Frost, who leads the MAC in rebounding at 10.8 a game, is grabbing 0.31 rebounds per minute.
“It’s my role,” she said. “That’s what I have to do. ‘Stay in your role and star in your role.’ That’s what the coaches tell us.”
Offense, she says, is something she keeps working on. “I’ve got to prove to my guards that I’m reliable, and that I deserve the ball in the paint,” Barber-Smith said.
Golden’s last game near home
Golden grew up in Pittsburgh, about 25 minutes from Robert Morris.
“We live close enough to Kent so that my family gets to come and see me a lot,” Golden said. “But to come home and play in front of my family and friends makes it mean a little bit more.”
Golden had a personal cheering section of about 15 Friday. One was her mother, Nancy Watts.
“Fourteen years I’ve watched her play,” Watts said. “There’s a lot of emotion as it comes to an end.”
She said she’s very glad her daughter went to Kent State.
“We’ve always had so much support there,” she said.
Golden got her undergraduate degree in criminal justice in two-and-a-half years, in part due to college credit she earned while at Charters Valley High School. Golden will get her masters in sports recreation and management in May. She was an Academic All-MAC selection her sophomore and juniors years. (Freshmen aren’t eligible.)
The view from Robert Morris
Coach Charlie Buscaglia, as quoted on the RMU website:
“We didn’t play a very clean game today. We needed a whole effort from everyone, and it wasn’t there from the very beginning. We got off to a sluggish start, when we could have had a nice lead in the first half.
“And although we still had a lead at halftime, we came out and turned the ball over to start the second half.”
- Golden was the only Kent State player to score in double figures. Lindsey Thall had nine points, Mariah Modkins eight and Asiah Dingle seven. All three are freshmen.
- Dingle, Golden and Megan Carter all had three steals. The Flashes had 12 steals overall, one off their season high, and forced 23 Robert Morris turnovers. KSU had 21 turnovers of its own but cut its first half total in half to seven in the last 20 minutes.
- In many ways, the game was won at the foul line. Kent State made a season high 23 free throws on 31 attempts. Robert Morris was seven of 10. RMU committed 29 fouls to KSU’s 16. Two Colonial players had four fouls by the third minute of the third quarter. Two more ended the game with four, and a fifth fouled out.
- Carter, Kent State’s leading scorer, had a season-low three points and went 0 for 11 in field goal attempts. She led KSU with three assists but had six turnovers and played a season-low 26 minutes.
- Robert Morris center Nneka Ezeigbo led all scorers with 18 points.
Kent State is off for nine days for final exams, then travels to Saint Bonaventure (3-6) for a Dec. 17 game. Then they’ll continue on to NJIT (1-8) for a Dec. 21 game, doing sightseeing in New York City as part of the trip.