Kent State’s Ali Poole drives to the basket in KSU’s last home game, when the Flashes beat Northern Illinois, 87-78. (Photo by David Dermer from KSU Twitter feed.)
Kent State lost to the second-best team in the MAC Wednesday.
Saturday it plays the best — Central Michigan, which is 12-4 and has the highest RPI in the conference. The Chippewas beat then-undefeated Ohio by 18 points in Athens. They lost their first league game to Miami Wednesday at home, which means they likely will come to Kent mad.
“I know they lost tonight,” Kent State coach Todd Starkey said after the Ohio game. “But Central still is the best team in the league until somebody consistently proves otherwise.”
The Flashes (10-5) are in a four-way tie for first in the MAC with Central, Buffalo and Ohio at 3-1.
The game is at noon in the M.A.C. Center. The time was moved five hours earlier to try to beat the heavy snowstorm predicted for Saturday. It is first game of a doubleheader with the KSU men, who play Northern Illinois at about 2:30. One ticket gets you in both games.
Central Michigan is the same team it’s been for the last four years — high scoring and very good. CMU was fourth in this week’s CollegeInsider Mid-Major Top 25 and third in ESPN’s Mid-Major Top 10. The Chips are 21st of 351 teams in the NCAA’s RPI rankings despite their loss to Miami. They’ve received votes in both the AP and coaches’ top 25 polls.
Their roster starts with two all-MAC seniors:
Guard Presley Hudson, who is second in the conference in scoring at 20.9 points a game and leads the MAC in three-point baskets per game (3.6). She broke the MAC record for career three-point baskets earlier this season and is 30 points away from becoming Central’s all-time leading scorer.
Forward Reyna Frost, who leads the conference in rebounding at 12.2 per game and is fourth in scoring at 18.6. She has had 14 double-doubles this season, fourth most in the country. She broke the career MAC record for rebounding earlier this month.
Sophomore guard Micaela Kelly averages 14.1 points a game and makes 44.7 percent of her three-point shots.
As a team, Central averages 79.6 points a game (third in the conference, makes 48 percent of its field-goal attempts (first), 41 percent of its three-point attempts (first) and 77 percent of its foul shots (first).
Defensively, the Chippewas rank in the middle of the league in most categories.
Miami (11-4, 2-2 in the MAC) beat Central by playing its best offensive game of the season and with defense. The Redhawks shot 54 percent from the field and 47 percent on three pointers. They held CMU 10 points below its scoring average, 6 percentage points below is shooting average, and 17 points below its three-point average. Hudson was four for 16 shooting and zero for five on three-pointers. Miami won the game on a three-point play with two seconds to go.
Kent State ranks third in the conference in scoring defense at 60.1 point a game, that’s about a point and a half behind Miami and Toledo. Despite allowing Ohio to make 46 percent of its shots in Wedneday’s 83-81 loss, the Flashes still lead the league in field-goal defense last 35.9 percent.
KSU’s RPI actually went up nine spots to 62nd despite its loss to Ohio. That’s because only 25 percent of the RPI is based on a team’s record. The rest is based on strength of schedule — 25 percent on opponents’ record and 25 percent on opponents’ opponents’ record. Road losses also aren’t weighted as heavily.
Alexa’s Golden’s 22 points against Ohio boosted her scoring average to 7.4 points a game. Starters Megan Carter (15.3), Asiah Dingle (13.4) and Lindsey Thall (10.0) lead the Flashes. Ali Poole averages 9.5. Merissa Barber-Smith leads the team in rebounding at 6.9 per game and may see more action against Central Michigan to try to contain Frost.
Here’s what Starkey told the Record-Courier’s Allen Moff about the Central game:
“They’ve got probably two of the top three or four candidates for MAC Player of the Year. Frost is averaging 24 points and 15 rebounds in conference play. Hudson has scored over 2,000 career points. Kelly is also a really good player, so they’re a three-headed monster with some good support players, as well. ”
It’s going to be a really tough game for us, but I feel optimistic. We can’t have a bad quarter against them. Miami played four really good quarters and shot the ball well, which is what you have to do to beat them.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: Central is really, really good despite its loss to Miami. Without a doubt, they’re the favorite in this and almost every game they play. Kent State played very well against Ohio after a lousy first quarter. Again it’s KSU’s good defense against am opponent’s very good offense.
The view from Ohio U
Coach Bob Bolden, quoted in other’s student newspaper after Wednesday’s game with Kent State:
About KSU’s 50-point second half: “I’m so disappointed with where we are defensively that it’s hard to find joy in anything at this moment. We got to get better, and quick.”
About the game’s 55 fouls: Nobody enjoyed watching that game. It was a terrible game. I would have rather watched ‘Bachelor in Paradise.’”
OU junior guard Amani Burke: “It definitely feels like we survived it. We didn’t play to our full potential, and we still won.”
To follow the game
The game starts at noon Monday at the M.A.C. Center. Reserved seat tickets are $10, general admission $5. KSU students get in free with their ID. It’s the first game of a doubleheader with the KSU men. One ticket gets you in both games.
Audio starts at about 11:45 a.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. Jacob Pavilack is the announcer.
Video is through ESPN3. You can watch free if you subscribe to ESPN on your cable or satellite system or on the ESPN app. David Wilson is the play-by-play announcer.
Live statistics are available through the KSU website.
Kent State women’s website, including links to statistics, roster and more.
Central Michigan website, including links.