Kent State’s Asiah Dingle goes to the floor for a loose ball against Northern Illinois. Dingle leads the team in steals per game at 2.1. (Photo by David Dermer from KSU Twitter feed.)
Kent State has passed its first two Mid-American Conferences tests, but the exams keep getting harder.
The Flashes won their first two MAC games at home, both against teams with winning records.
Now they go on the road — always difficult in the MAC — for games against two very good teams.
KSU plays at 9-4 Toledo on Saturday, then travels to 12-1 Ohio for a Wednesday game. The Toledo game starts at 2 p.m. on ESPN3. (Details below.)
The Flashes have won six games in a row and are 9-4 after beating Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois in the first week of the conference season. Their RPI is up to 96, according to the official NCAA rankings. That’s the highest it’s been in long time. The Flashes finished their MAC East title season two years ago at 99. It might have been a little higher before their loss to Toledo in the MAC tournament that year. Before that, I remember their RPI hitting the 30s in the Bob Lindsay-Dawn Zerman-Julie Studer years around 1996-2002.
The MAC has six teams in the top 100 in the NCAA RPI rankings. (See related post.)
Toledo is No. 89 of 351 teams, seven spots ahead of KSU. The Rockets beat 6-8 Ball State 65-58 in Toledo Wednesday and lost to 9-3 Miami 65-64 on the road Saturday. Toledo hosted No. 1 Notre Dame in early December and lost 72-56.
In Toledo, Kent State faces a team opposite statistically than the Northern Illinois squad it beat Saturday. NIU was second in the MAC in scoring and last in defense. Toledo is second in defense (59.4 points a game) and ninth in offense (66.5).
Kent’s numbers are very similar: 68.0 on offense and 59.9 on defense.
The have two returning third-team all-MAC players in 6-2 senior center Kaala McIntyre (15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds a game) and 5-7 senior guard Mikaela Boyd (9.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and four assists). 5-6 junior guard Mariella Santucci averages 10.2 points and 4.2 assists. Nakiah Black, a 5-10 sophomore guard, has averaged 14 points a game since she cracked the staring lineup four games ago.
McIntyre is second in the conference in field goal percentage (.580) and tied with KSU’s Merissa Barber-Smith for second in blocks at 1.4 a game. Kent’s Lindsey Thall leads the conference in blocks at 1.4.
Kent’s big offensive game agains NIU means the team now has three players averaging in double figures — Megan Carter (14.5), Asiah Dingle (13.8) and Thall (10.5). Ali Poole’s 28 points against Northern put her on the brink at 9.8 points a game.
Kent State beat Toledo at Toledo in the regular season last year, then beat the Rockets on the road in overtime in the first round of the MAC Tournament. The games were easily KSU’s best conferences games. Before last season, the Flashes had lost eight in a row in Toledo.
Two quotes from the NIU game:
KSU COACH TODD STARKEY: “We grew up a little in these last two games. The way we’ve handled the fourth quarter in the last two games has really showed maturity. (The Flashes outscored 28-16 in the last 10 minutes.)
“We looked for transition baskets, and when we didn’t get those looks,we pulled it out and made them play defense. That’s why we won the game.”
NIU COACH LISA CARLSEN, quoted in the DeKalb Daily Chronicle: “We just were not locked in consistently enough on the defensive end. We pride ourselves on taking care of the basketball, and we were soft with the ball tonight. (NIU committed 22 turnovers).
“Kent State played a great game. They were the more physical team, the more aggressive team.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: A month ago Toledo would have been a big favorite. As well as Kent State is playing, it could be a very interesting game. But beating a good team on the road in the MAC is hard. Key likely is which team can play better defense and whether KSU’s freshmen can hold their own against Toledo’s seniors.
To follow the game
The game starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at Savage Arena at the University of Toledo. It’s a simple two-and-a-half hour drive from Kent. Here are Google map directions. Ticket prices range from $7 to $18.
Audio starts at about 1:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson does play by play.
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.
Live statistics are available through the Toledo website.
Preview from Kent State women’s website, including links to statistics, roster and more.
Detailed media game notes for Kent State.
Preview from Toledo website, including links.
Media notes for Toledo.
Weekly MAC press release, including notes, statistics and standings.
Elsewhere in the MAC Saturday
- Bowling Green (7-6, 0-2 MAC) at Akron (10-3, 1-1).
- Central Michigan (11-3, 2-0) at Northern Illinois (9-5, 1-1).
- Buffalo (9-4, 1-1) at Miami (10-3, 1-1).
- Ohio (12-1, 1-1) at Ball State (6-8, 1-1).
- Western Michigan (7-6, 1-1) at Eastern Michigan (7-6, 1-1)