Megan Carter drives toward the basket in Saturday’s game. She had 23 points, her highest total of the season. (Photo from KSU website.)
Central Michigan is third in the country in three-point goal percentage. In the Chippewas 82-75 win over Kent State Saturday, they were seven of 21 for 33 percent.
CMU’s Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost are both candidates for MAC player of the year. They average 40 points a game between them and play nearly all 40 minutes of many games. Saturday they played a combined one minute in the last quarter.
In its first four MAC games, Kent State owned the fourth quarter, outscoring opponents by an average of 26 to 18. Saturday Central shot 71 percent in the last 10 minutes and outscored KSU, 25-20.
The most atypical game between first-place teams left CMU at 4-1 in the MAC and 13-4 overall. Kent State is 3-2 and 10-6.
The Flashes led Central 36-33 at halftime, playing one of their best halves of the season against a team that is 21st (of 351 teams) in the latest RPI rankings. But in the second half, the Chippewas made 65 percent of their shots to pull away.
“They shot 74 percent in the fourth quarter, and we shot 30,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said. “They executed, they finished shots. We didn’t.
“Obviously Hudson and Frost not playing in the fourth quarter was surprising. But we let two players beat us.”
Those players were Micaela Kelly, Central’s third leading scorer (14 points a game) and reserve forward Kyra Bussell, who had averaged seven. Kelly scored nine points in the fourth quarter on four-of-five shooting and finished with 20. Bussell (7.6 average) had nine of her 15 points in the quarter.
“Kelly basically took over the game in the fourth quarter, and we didn’t do anything about it,” Starkey said.
Kent State had built its halftime lead with some excellent defense against one of the MAC’s best offenses. With guard Alexa Golden dogging Hudson and Lindsey Thall and Merissa Barber-Smith guarding the low post, Central made four of 11 shots in the first quarter and seven of 16 in the second. The Chippewas, who get 37 percent of their points from three-point baskets, had only three in the half.
But in the second half, Central stepped up its inside game and transition game.
In the first half, KSU outscored the Chippewas in the paint 22-12. Fast-break points were close — 11-9 Central. In the second half, Central won the paint 28-8 and fast break 12-4. The paint points came from inside moves by Frost, run-outs after rebounds or steals, and drives to the basket.
“They just pounded it inside,” said KSU guard Megan Carter, who had 23 points. “They were running their offense and getting to the matchups they wanted.”
Starkey said Central was able to isolate some post players on guards in the second half and, “we didn’t play very good post interior defense or communicate defensively the way we needed to.”
On offense, Starkey said, “We forced some shots, needed better ball movement and missed a lot of shots at the basket. We forced 19 turnovers and scored only 14 points off of them.
“We made too many mistakes. Against the best team in the league. your margin for error is really small.”
Hudson, the conference’s second-leading scorer, picked up her fourth foul in the last minute of the third quarter. Frost, the MAC’s leading rebounder and fourth-leading scorer, picked up her fourth about a minute into the fourth quarter. Neither returned. Other Chippewas, especially Kelly and Bussell, were playing so well Central coach Sue Guevara left them on the bench.
“For us to pull that out with those two seniors on the bench. that’s huge for the confidence of our players — and for me, too, to have that confidence in a tight game,” Guevara said in an interview on ESPN3 after the game.
- Guevara on Kent State: “They’re a very hungry team. They get after you, they attack you, and I’m just happy that we were able to withstand their attacks.”
- Freshman point guard Asiah Dingle had 19 points, many, as usual, coming on hard drives to the basket. “I just to get to the basket and see if they can guard me,” she said. Dingle made seven-of-seven free throws, had two assists and two steals. She did pick up four fouls and sat out about nine minutes of the second half.
- Golden had five assists, five steals, three rebounds, seven points and a blocked shot.
- Thall fell to the floor in a scramble on a rebound with about 90 seconds to go. She lay on her back on the court for several minutes and was helped off the court by Starkey and a KSU trainer. After the game, Starkey said she should be fine. Thall had seven points and eight rebounds, one off of her career high.
- The Flashes had 15 offensive rebounds and outscored Central 15-4 on second-chance points. They also missed about more more five put-back chances. Central, the best offensive rebounding team in the conference, had nine but won the overall rebounding margin 37-32. Frost had eight rebounds but saw her streak of 14-straight double-doubles end.
- Kent State shot 37.7 percent from the floor, about its season average. Central’s hot second-half shooting brought its final shooting percentage to 53, about 5 above its average.
- A couple of interesting new statistics in Kent State’s media box score this season: One is plus-minus points when a player is on the floor. Dingle was the only KSU player with a positive, plus four. Best for Central was reserve Gabrielle Bird, who was plus-10 despite scoring only two points. She was on the court for much of the Chippewas’ second-half rally. The other new stat is fouls drawn by a player. Other players fouled Dingle nine times. Carter drew six. Best for Central was Bussell, who drew six.
- Kent State outscored Central 8-2 in the last minute, forcing four turnovers.
The Flashes go back on the road this week with a game Wednesday at Ball State (6-11, 1-4 in the MAC). The Cardinals lost at Miami (12-4, 3-2) Saturday, 60-57. Kent plays at Miami next Saturday.
Other MAC scores
- Buffalo (12-4, 4-1) 61, Western Michigan (7-9, 1-4) 59 at Western. Buffalo outscored Western 20-5 in the fourth quarter and won on a shot at the buzzer by Summer Hemphill, set up by a full-court baseball pass by Cierra Dillard.
- Toledo (11-5, 3-2) 79, Bowling Green (7-9, 0-5) 65 at BG.
- Ohio (16-1, 4-1) 85, Eastern Michigan (9-7, 2-3) at Ohio.
The game between Akron (11-4, 2-2) and Northern Illinois (10-6, 2-2) was delayed until Sunday by the snowstorm.
Ohio, Central Michigan and Buffalo are tied for first in the league at 4-1. Miami, Kent State and Toledo are 3-2.