Lindsey Thall scored a career-high 22 points and made six three-point baskets. (File photo from KSU Twitter feed.)
Kent State is four points and two bad first quarters away from being a first-division team in the Mid-American Conference.
The Flashes’ 69-67 loss to second-place Ohio Saturday was the second time this season they’ve lost to the Bobcats by two points. In both games, a slow start made KSU play from behind almost the whole game.
Saturday the Flashes did catch up, coming from 16 points behind to tie the game at 67 with 1:14 to go. But Ohio’s Amani Burke made a layup on a play that could have been an offensive foul with 44 seconds to go. Then Megan Carter’s jump shot in the paint was blocked with two seconds left.
The loss leaves Kent State (8-6) tied for fifth place in the MAC with Toledo and Northern Illinois. Ohio (11-3) is still tied for second with Central, one game behind first-place Miami. The Redhawks play at Kent State Wednesday night.
Overall Ohio is 22-3 and KSU 15-10.
“I told them I’m tired of coming here after playing against really good teams and saying, ‘Hey, you guys fought,'” coach Todd Starkey said. “Fight’s great. But at some point you’ve got to come out on the right side against good teams.”
Kent’s record against the top four teams in the league is 0-5, with four of the losses by nine points or less. Against the rest of the league, the Flashes are 8-1.
KSU missed its first five shots of the game and didn’t make a basket for five minutes, falling behind 12-2. It was similar to KSU’s first game with Ohio, when the team trailed by 13 after the first quarter.
“You can’t spot a team that good so many points — open looks, straight-line drives,” Starkey said. “I’ve been saying all year that consistency is everything for this team. We’ve got to find a way to play at a level defensively the way we played in the fourth quarter the whole game.
“The time for talking about youth and growing up and being on a learning curve is over. We’ve got four games left in the season.”
KSU trailed by 16 points in the second quarter, then closed it to eight at halftime. Ohio extended its lead against to 12 going into the fourth quarter.
The last quarter was one of Kent State’s best of the season. The Flashes held Ohio, the 13th-highest scoring team in Division I, to 10 points. KSU hit four-of-seven three-point shots and scored 20.
“We got good ball movement,” Carter said. “We were able to drive, kick it out and knock down shots.”
Freshman forward Lindsey Thall had 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a cross-court drive for a layup that tied the game at 67.
On the next possession, the Bobcats had to call timeout when they couldn’t get the ball in on an out-of-bounds play. When they got the ball in, Amani Burke moved toward the basket with the shot clock running out. As the shot, KSU’s Alexa Golden went to the floor and Burke banked in a layup.
“I thought they were going to call a charge,” Carter said. “And when you see it go through the hoop, it’s kind of deflating. But you can’t let it distract you from the next play.
The next play belonged to Carter. The Flashes held for the last shot to tie or win. Carter drove the the center of the free throw lane, but three Ohio defenders surrounded her and Gabby Burris blocked her shot with 2.8 seconds left.
“We wanted to go one-on-one and they kind of collapsed on me,” Carter said.
“We thought we had a favorable match-up,” Starkey said. “She drew three players and probably should have kicked it out. She just didn’t make the right read there. But we want the ball in her hands in that situation.”
Thall’s best offense
Thall finished with a career-high 22 points and made six-of-eight three-point shots. It was the most three-pointers made by a Kent State player since Larissa Lurken went six of eight against Eastern Michigan two years ago.
“I just got the hot hand,” Thall said. “They tell me to hunt my shot down, and that’s what I tried to do in the second half.”
“Hunt,” she said, “means looking for spots and screens that get her open.”
She hit two three-pointers from the left corner. Her shots more often come from in front of the basket. “It’s not my favorite spot,” she said, “but I’ve worked on it.”
Starkey said it was certainly one of Thall’s best games offensively. But both he and Thall agreed that her defense wasn’t as good.
Thall had three blocked shots to maintain her spot as second highest in the MAC. She hadn’t blocked a shot in her three previous games. Thall also had six rebounds.
- Carter was the only other player to scored in double figures with 18, including three for three from three-point distance. She also blocked a shot and had five rebounds.
- Kent State made 44 percent of its three-point shots but only 34 percent overall. Ohio made 31 percent of its three-pointers, eight points below its 25th-in-the-country average. Overall the Bobcats shot 40 percent, slightly below its average and about KSU’s defensive average.
- Ohio’s 69 points tied for its third-lowest point total of the season. The Bobcats average 82.5 points a game.
- Merissa Barber-Smith had eight rebounds in six minutes in the third quarter. She finished with 11, six of them offensive. Kent State outrebounded Ohio 26-15 in the second half and 44-36 for the game. The Flashes had 19 second-chance points to Ohio’s nine.
- Golden had seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
- Freshman Asiah Dingle equaled her career best with six assists and had three steals. But she went two-of-12 shooting.
- Junior Ali Poole went three-of-18. She had been second on the team in shooting at 40 percent.
- Kent State committed 18 turnovers and Ohio 16, but KSU outscored the Bobcats 18-8 off turnovers.
- The Flashes had 14 assists on 23 baskets, one of its best performances on the season.
- Ohio redshirt freshman Erica Johnson had 24 points and 12 rebounds. Cierra Hooks had 15 and Burke 14.
The view from Ohio
Coach Bob Bolden: “We got a road win, and road wins are hard to come by. We also understand that we still have some work to do. I think if we’re a team continues to try and get better until the end of the season, maybe we’ll make it.”
Assistant coach Tavares Jackson: “You can’t take for granted plays like Gabby’s block to win it. These kids put in so much work to get to this point. You don’t win this game if it’s not for the habits that we work on in practice. It was an excellent play by her to get on the basketball and defend the shot the way she did.”
As quoted on the Ohio team website.
Around the MAC
Akron (6-8 MAC, 15-10 overall) did Kent State a big favor by upsetting Buffalo (9-5, 17-8) 70-59 at Akron. Buffalo’s loss keeps KSU a game behind the Bulls for the fourth seed and a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament.
- Toledo (8-6, 16-9) 63, Ball State (2-12, 7-19) 62 at Ball State.
- Miami (12-2, 21-4) 75, Bowling Green (1-13, 8-17) 62 at Miami.
- Central Michigan (11-3, 20-6) 76, Northern Illinois (8-6, 16-10) 52 at Central.
- Western Michigan (3-11, 9-16) 71, Eastern Michigan (5-9, 12-13) 68 at Western.