Post players Merissa Barber-Smith (22) and Lindsey Thall celebrate during a game earlier this season. Thall leads the MAC in blocked shots per game. Barber-Smith is third. (File photo from KSU website.)
Kent State and Akron have had a week off to prepare for a Saturday game that means a great deal to both teams.
The Flashes are regrouping from a four-game losing streak that came after a 3-0 start in Mid-American Conference play.
The Zips are coming off their biggest victory of the season, a 70-64 overtime win over Toledo (12-6, 4-3 MAC) at the J.A.R. last Saturday. It was the first time they had defeated a team with a winning record all season.
The teams play at 2 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center.
KSU and Akron both are 3-4 in the MAC and and tied with Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois for sixth place. Overall Akron is 12-6 but has had the second easiest schedule in the conference. Its schedule ranks 283rd of 351 Division I teams. Other than Toledo, the best team they’ve beaten (Saint Bonaventure) has an RPI of 208. Akron’s RPI is 147.
Kent State (10-8) has played the fifth hardest schedule in the MAC and 77th hardest in the country. The Flashes’ RPI is 89.
KSU’s losing streak has includes defeats by three of the four best teams in the conference — Central Michigan (14-3, RPI 24), Ohio (17-2, RPI 38) and Miami (14-4, RPI 84). The Flashes’ 79-63 loss to Miami last Saturday looks a little better after Miami’s 67-61 victory at Ohio on Wednesday. KSU’s fourth loss in the streak was 48-44 loss at Ball State last week.
Akron had lost three in a row before beating Toledo. It has an 4-4 record against common opponents with Kent State. KSU’s record against those teams is 7-1.
The Zips have a new coach this season in Melissa Jackson, the longtime assistant to Jodi Kest, who retired last spring. Kest was Akron’s most successful coach but struggled through weak seasons in her last three years.
Akron has a lineup very much like the team that split games with the Flashes last season. Its best player is senior guard Megan Sefcik, one of the best three-point shooters in the MAC. She ranks 10th in the country (second in the MAC) in three-pointers per game at 3.44 and makes 37.8 percent of her shots from that distance, which is 14th in the league. Sefcik, a 5-10 redshirt senior, is fifth in the conference in scoring at 17.5 points a game and scored 29 against Toledo, including six-of-12 three-pointers.
The Zips’ second-leading scorer (9.9 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.3) is 6-2 junior Hallegh Reinoehl. Point guard Shaunay Edmonds also is close to double figures at 9.8 points a game.
Kent and Akron are close statistically in most categories but field goal percentage, both on offense and defense. The Flashes are still the best in the conference in field-goal defense (37.8 percent) but eighth in three-point defense (31.8). Akron’s field goal defense is eighth (39.7) and three-point defense 11th (32.4).
Akron makes 34.2 percent of its three-pointers, fourth in the league, and 40.2 percent of field goals overall, which is ninth. KSU is 11th in field-goal percentage (37.6) and seventh in three-point offense (31.8).
KSU redshirt junior guard Megan Carter has scored at least 20 points in four of the team’s last five games and ranks seventh in the conference at 15.9 points a game. Freshman guard Asiah Dingle averages 13.2 and freshman forward Lindsey Thall 9.7. Thall is tied for first in blocked shots at 1.4 per game. Merissa Barber-Smith is fourth at 1.2.
Senior guard Alexa Golden is fourth in steals at 2.5; Dingle is tied for fifth at 2.3. In conferences games only, Golden is first and Dingle third.
BOTTOM LINE: It depends on which team shows up — the KSU that struggled through two difficult losses last week or the one that won seven in a row in December and early January. Or the Akron team that beat a good Toledo team Saturday or the team that couldn’t come close to beating another team with a winning record. Home court should help the Flashes.
To follow the game
The game starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C. Center. Reserved seat tickets are $10, general admission $5. KSU students get in free with student ID.
Audio starts at about 1:45 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. 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.
Akron website, including links.