Ali Poole helped lead Kent State’s comeback with 11 points in the second half and, with Megan Carter, had 16 for the game. (File photo from KSU website.)
Game after game, win or lose, coach Todd Starkey has bemoaned that the Flashes haven’t been able to put four good quarters together this season.
He could say it again after KSU’s 75-66 loss at Buffalo Saturday.
Kent State shot poorly and committed 11 turnovers in the first half. Then after trailing by as many as 20 points in the third quarter, the Flashes made seven-of-14 three-point shots and 15-of-29 field goal attempts overall in the second half.
“When we’ve played to the level that we’re capable of, we’ve been right in games, or we’ve won,” Starkey said. “Today we came out a little bit passive, and obviously you can’t do that against Buffalo with their seasoned veterans.
“When you’re starting two freshman point guards, it’s difficult to find a rhythm and get consistency.”
In the second half, Starkey said, the Flashes outplayed Buffalo, which is 8-2 and tied for second place in the MAC. The Bulls are 16-5 overall and have a 24 RPI out of 351 teams.
“Our ball movement was much better,” Starkey said. “We had a lot more assists and open shots because of them. We tightened things up on offensive rebounding. Their second-chance opportunities really hurt is in the first half.
“I was definitely pleased with our fight. This group is a pretty resilient bunch. I think we have the potential for some really good things to happen down the stretch here. But we have to play more consistent.”
Kent State pulled with 59-55 with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but Buffalo’s Cierra Dillard scored on a basket and a foul shot, then assisted on another three-point play. Kent never got closer than seven after that.
Dillard, whose 25-point average is third in Division I, finished with 31 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
“She played like the best player in the league today,” Starkey said. “She took 15 three-point shots and knocked down some pretty big ones.”
Dillard needed 25 shots to get her points. She made nine and was five of 15 from three-point distance, both numbers below her averages. The assist total equaled her best of the season and was one away from the most for any MAC player this year.
Kent State has won many of its games this season with points off turnovers and fast-break points. Saturday those statistics belonged to Buffalo.
The Bulls scored 28 points off of 20 KSU turnovers. They had 25 fast-break points. (Anything above 10 in that category is good.) Kent State scored eight points off of 15 Buffalo turnovers and had eight fast-break points.
Buffalo also had 14 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points. In the first five minutes of the game, the Bulls forced Kent State turnovers and gathered six offensive rebounds.
“It’s pretty clear to me that our turnovers and the second-chance points we gave up in the second half is what cost us the game,” Starkey said.
- The loss drops Kent State to 5-5 in the MAC and 12-9 overall. The Flashes are seventh in the league, a game behind Toledo and Northern Illinois, who both won Saturday.
- Ali Poole and Alexa Golden led Kent State’s comeback with 11 points apiece in the second half. Each had four three-pointers in the game. Golden’s was a career high to go with four assists, three steals and and four rebounds. For the game, Poole had 16 points, tied with Megan Carter for the team high, and Golden had 15.
- Merissa Barber-Smith, KSU’ 6-4 senior center, started and played 27 minutes, second highest of her career. She had five points, two steals and a team-leading seven rebounds. Overall rebounding margin was 36-35 Buffalo.
- Freshman Lindsey Thall made three-of-seven three-point baskets, the sixth time this season she’s made at least three three-point baskets.
- Asiah Dingle, Kent’s second-leading scorer, had the worst game of her freshman year. She scored zero points on 0-for-6 shooting. Dingle picked up two early fouls and played only 15 minutes, her low for the year. She had three assists and five turnovers. “The fouls throw her off,” Starkey said. “As a young player, she’s used to being on the court.” Freshman Mariah Modkins played 24 minutes at point guard in Dingle’s place and had a three-point basket and two steals.
- Buffalo forward Summer Hemphill had her sixth double-double in the 13 games she’s played this year. She sat out the first semester with academic problems. Saturday she had 15 points and 12 rebounds and made seven of 10 shots. She leads the league with a 64 percent shooting percentage.
- The nine-point margin was a big improvement from last season, when Buffalo beat Kent State three times by an average of 30 points. Closest game was 72-50 in the MAC tournament.
On Wednesday, Kent State plays at Eastern Michigan (3-7 MAC, 10-11 overall). The Flashes beat Eastern 71-64 in their conference opener.
Other MAC scores
Ohio held on to first place in the MAC by beating Central Michigan at Central 78-75. It was Ohio’s second victory of the season over the Chippewas. The Bobcats lead the MAC at 10-2, a half game ahead of Miami and Buffalo. Overall Ohio is 20-2. Central is 7-3, fourth in the conference and 16-6 overall.
The rest of Saturday’s action:
- Toledo (6-4, 14-7 MAC) 63, Eastern Michigan (3-7, 10-11) 43 at Toledo.
- Miami (8-2, 17-4) 82, Bowling Green (0-10, 7-14) 75 at BG.
- Northern Illinois (6-4, 14-8) 93, Ball State (2-8, 7-15) 83 at Ball State.
- Akron (4-6, 13-8) 69, Western Michigan (2-7, 8-12) 62 at Akron.