Cheers from the bench during the Flashes’ 71-64 win over Eastern Michigan. Closest planer is sophomore forward Monique Smith. Two behind her is Hannah Young. Coach in background is Mike McKee. (Photo by Austin Mariasy)
The women’s team passed Test No. 1 when it beat Eastern Michigan in its MAC home opener.
Eastern was the second winning team the Flashes have beaten this season, a team that had the same record (7-4) as Kent going into the game, and a team it had to beat to have a serious chance at a .500 record int he conference.
Test 2 on Wednesday will be harder.
The Flashes host a Northern Illinois team with a better record (9-4 to KSU’s 8-4) and better RPI (81 to Kent’s 114, of 351 teams).
NIU is on a five-game winning streak, with all the victories coming at home. KSU also has won five in a row, three on the road and the last two at home. Both teams are coming off solid home victories; The Flashes beat 7-5 Eastern Michigan 71-64 in Kent; the Huskies beat 8-3 Miami in DeKalb, 82-73.
The fact that the game is in Kent is a plus for the Flashes. Northern hasn’t won away from home this season, losing at Power 5 opponents Iowa State and Indiana and dropping neutral-site games against Montana (7-5, RPI 71) and Southern Illinois (8-5, RPI 152).
Kent State is 5-1 at home, including wins over Youngstown State (10-3, RPI 106) and Eastern (7-5, RPI 212).
Northern Illinois plays a style like nothing the Flashes have seen so far this season. The Huskies average 83.3 points a game, second in the MAC and 13th in the country. But they don’t play much defense; their average of 72.7 points a game is last in the MAC. Since coach Lisa Carlson arrived at NIU four years ago, her strategy pretty much been to just try to outscore the opposition.
From coach Todd Starkey, as quoted by the Record-Courier’s Allen Moff:
“They are relentless offensively. Everybody can shoot, everybody can pass. They play incredibly hard and are very efficient in transition. If you hold them under 80 points, you have a chance. If not, you’re trying to outscore a team that’s really good at winning those types of games. They’re a lot for a young team to handle. We’ll see what we’re made of for sure.”
Senior Mikayla Voigt averages 21.6 points a game for Northern. She set a Mid-American Conference single-game scoring record when she had 52 points against Western Illinois in December. Voigt, a 5-9 guard, is second in the conference in points per game, sixth in three-point percentage (44.1), tied for first in three-pointers a game (3.8), 11th in field-goal percentage (47.8), fifth in free-throw percentage (85.7) and 18th in rebounding (4.4).
“Voigt, the last several games, has been unreal.,” Starkey said.
NIU’s next best scorer is 5-11 sophomore guard Gabby Nikitinaite at 12.5 points per game and 5-4 point guard Myia Starks at 11.5. Leading rebounder is 6-2 junior forward Ally May, who has averaged 11.5 rebounds in her last two games and 7.5 for the season.
Courtney Woods, the Huskies leading scorer last season, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered against Nevada on Dec. 2. At the time, she was averaging 20.1 points a game.
Northern is fourth in the conference in shooting percentage (43.1) and seventh in three-point percentage (31.8).
Kent State’s defense is first in the MAC in field-goal defense and 11th in three-point defense (32.1).
Freshman point guard Asiah Dingle moved up to 16th in the conference in scoring at 13.6 points a game with her 29-point performance against Eastern Michigan. Junior guard Megan Carter is 13th at 14.7 after scoring just four points in the EMU game.
Senior Merissa Barber-Smith is sixth in the MAC in rebounding at 7.1 a game, Carter is 10th in free-throw percentage at 76.7 and Dingle fifth in steals at 2.2. Freshman forward Lindsey Thall leads the conference in blocks per game at 1.5; Barber-Smith is tied for second at 1.4.
BOTTOM LINE: Expect one of Kent’s highest scoring games of the year, both on offense and defense. Key is whether KSU’s defense — its strength all year — can hold down the Huskies. NIU likely will game plan against Dingle. Whether she can still score — and whether Carter can bounce back in scoring — will make a big difference.
To follow the game
The game starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center. Reserved seat tickets are $10, general admission $5. KSU students get in free with their ID.
Audio starts at about 6:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. Jacob Pavilack is the announcer.
Video is through ESPN3. You can watch if you subscribe to ESPN on your cable or satellite system or on the ESPN app. It’s free. David Wilson and Mike Elkins are the announcers.
Live statistics are available through the KSU website.
Preview from Kent State women’s website, including links to statistics, roster and more.
Detailed media game notes for Kent State.
Preview from Northern Illinois website, including links.
Media notes for Northern Illinois.
In case you missed it, here are the wbbFlashes “Keys to the MAC “Season,” a detailed look on where the team stands.
The MAC’s big game
Ohio (12-0), one of three undefeated teams left in the country, hosts Central Michigan (10-3), the preseason MAC favorite and highest RPI team in the conference, on Wednesday. It should be quite a game, though it would be hard to be better than OU’s 74-71 overtime win at 8-4 Buffalo Saturday.
Elsewhere in the league, it’s:
- Akron (9-3, 0-1) at Western Michigan (7-5, 1-0).
- Bowling Green (7-5, 0-1) at Ball State (5-8, 0-1).
- Buffalo (8-4, 0-1) at Eastern Michigan (7-5, 0-1).
- Toledo (9-3, 1-0_ at Miami (9-3, 0-1).