Megan Carter led KSU in scoring with 22 points on eight-of-15 shooting. (File photo by David Dermer from KSU website.)
The game came down to Kent State’s most experienced players, and Megan Carter and Alexa Golden came through in the Flashes’ 56-52 victory at Western Michigan Wednesday.
Carter scored 22 points, her eighth time this season above 20 and the 16th time she has led the Flashes in scoring. She and Golden combined to make five free throws in the final 30 seconds to guarantee the victory.
Golden led the team with eight rebounds and had nine points and two steals.
The victory leaves the Flashes at 8-5 and tied for fifth in the MAC with Northern Illinois. Kent State could move past Buffalo into fourth place, they would get a bye to the quarterfinals at Quicken Loans Arena.
KSU is 15-9 on the season. Western Michigan is tied for 10th in the league at 2-11 and is 8-16 overall. It was the second four-point win for Kent State over the Broncos; the Flashes beat WMU in Kent 55-51 two weeks ago.
“Megan showed up big, especially in key moments,” coach Todd Starkey said in a postgame interview with Golden Flash iHeart Radio announcer David Wilson. “In the second half she wanted the ball in her hands and that’s what we need her to do. She doesn’t really have the type of personality that’s, ‘Give me the ball.’
“She’s so talented. She needs to be more selfish, to be honest. I think her teammates really, really trusted her down the stretch and went to her.”
Carter, who is one of the better three–point shooters in the MAC, got off only two shots off from that distance.
“Coach said just take what they give us,” she said.
Starkey said coaches designed plays to get Carter some mid-range jump shots.
Then, he said, “things started to break loose a little bit for us.”
Carter was the only Kent State player to make more than half of her shots (eight of 15). The rest of the team combined to go 10 of 40.
Three times during the game the Flashes went more than four minutes without scoring. They didn’t score for the first six minutes of the game, fell behind 8-0 but came back to lead 13-10 after the first quarter.
In the third quarter they were stuck on 33 point for six minutes. But Western scored only four in that time. The Broncos scored six points in the quarter, KSU seven.
In the fourth quarter, Kent State pushed its lead to 47-35 with five minutes to go, then didn’t score until 1:40 left after Western had closed the score to 47-42. The Broncos got within 53-50 but didn’t score after that until there were three seconds to go.
“We’ve been talking about the consistency thing all season,” “Starkey said. “And it certainly almost bit us tonight.
“The goal for any coach is to be playing your best basketball in late February and early March. At times, we’re playing really good basketball and at times it looks like we’re setting the game back 20 years.”
But, the coach said, “We found a way again to get a win. And any road win in the conference is so hard to come by.”
Even when Golden doesn’t score, she has been a key player for the Flashes in almost every game.
“Lex is ole Miss Reliable,” Starkey said. “She’s playing hurt right now. I’d say that about 70 percent of the time I’ve been here, she’s been hurt in one form or another. She’s so tough that half the time she doesn’t let us know.
“She played through a lot of pain tonight and still was very reliable with the ball in her hands. She was one of our biggest talkers defensively when it seemed like everybody else wanted to be silent.”
Starkey didn’t specify Golden’s injury, but last season she had such bad shin splints that she didn’t practice most of the last three weeks of the season.
- After the first quarter, Kent State had three turnovers that had led to four WMU points. The Flashes made only seven turnovers for the rest of the game. Western, usually one of the MAC’s best teams at protecting the basketball, had 13 more. For the game, Kent outscored the Broncos 19-7 off turnovers. KSU’s 10 turnovers were its lowest of the season.
- Besides hitting the foul shots to clinch the game at the end, Kent made 14 for the game to nine for Western.
- Kent State’s 34 percent shooting percentage was about 5 points below its average and 9 points below its defensive average. Western’s 37 percent was 3 points below its average and Kent’s defensive average.
- Western, which is last in the MAC in rebounding margin, outrebounded KSU 41-35. Five-foot-seven guard Deja Wimby had 12 rebounds for the Broncos.
- Wimby scored 20 points, with many coming on post moves close to the basket. “I’ve never seen a guard have that good moves down low,” Carter said.
- KSU freshman guard Hannah Young blocked three shots and have five rebounds in nine minutes. She had blocked only four all season before Wednesday.
- Strangely, Kent’s best plus-minus player (points the team outscored the opponent when she was on the floor) was freshman reserve guard Mariah Modkins. Team was plus-15 in the 15 minutes she she was on the floor. She had two points and one steal. Team was plus-two in Carter’s 38 minutes.
- The game was the sixth time in 15 conference games Kent has held its opponents under 60 points.
- Kent State’s six assists were second lowest of season. (Flashes had five in loss to Wright State.)
The Flashes are home Saturday against second-place Ohio, which is 21-3 and beat Kent State 83-81 in Athens in January. Then the Flashes to play first-place Miami in Kent on Wednesday.
Other MAC scores
- Miami (11-2 MAC, 20-4 overall) 65, Toledo (7-6, 15-9) 56 at Toledo.
- Central Michigan (10-3, 19-6) 92, Bowling Green (1-12, 8-16) 54 at BG.
- Buffalo (9-4, 17-7) 97, Ball State (2-11, 7-18) 58 at Ball State.
- Eastern Michigan (5-8, 12-12) 67, Akron (5-8, 14-10) 60 at Eastern.
Ohio and Northern Illinois were off.
Miami leads the conference at 11-2, Ohio and Central Michigan are 10-3, Buffalo is 9-4 and Kent State and NIU are 8-5.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the win clinched a home game in the MAC Tournament. The Flashes’ magic number is two — any combination of KSU wins and Eastern Michigan losses that total two would guarantee the home game. I got incorrect information from a usually very reliable source and didn’t double check the math.