WNIT thoughts: 1,200 miles, 1 big win, 1(?) contract extension, 8 points in 38 seconds

carl at the Q (1)

How I spent my 70th birthday: Final regular season game on March 9, then two MAC Tournament games, preview stories on the MAC Tournament, report on post-season MAC honors. Between the tournament games (March 12), I became a septuagenarian. Then wait to see whether Kent State made the WNIT, writing four posts about the selection.

Then fly to Appleton, Wisconsin, with the Kent Stater reporter, rent a car to Green Bay, write a preview and cover the game. When they won, cancel the flight back, switch rental cars to drive eight hours to Indianapolis for the Flashes’ second WNIT game against Butler. The day after the game, crash for a day in Indianapolis, then drive to Cleveland Hopkins, return the rental and reclaim my own car.

Total: 18 stories in 18 days. About 1,200 miles of travel. I’ve been writing professionally since I was 14. This may be a record.

Now I didn’t have to practice basketball every day, nor play five games, nor get up at 3 a.m. to get to Green Bay. So I’m not saying I worked remotely as hard as Kent State’s players and coaches. But they’re not 70, either.

Photo is me at Quicken Loans Arena, taken by Stater sports editor Henry Palattella.

Carl Schierhorn, retired Kent State journalism professor, wbbFlashes writer and editor.

Thoughts from the tournament appearance that brought Kent State its first postseason victory since 1996 and only the second in school history. (First was a 72-68 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament.)

Road warriors

Kent State has played all five of its WNIT games on the road. The three other MAC teams that made the tournament this year all bid for and got home games, something that costs a minimum of $6,500 for the first round. Toledo and Ohio won, and bought a second-round game. The Rockets lost; Ohio won and will host another game Thursday.

Toledo won the WNIT in 2011, paying for and playing every game at home. Bowling Green just missed the NCAA in 2014 and hosted every game until it lost in the quarterfinals.

Best I can tell, Kent State’s bidding for a home game was never under consideration this season.

The Flashes came close to hosting a WNIT game back in 1999, when the Flashes didn’t make the NCAA despite a 22-7 record and an RPI in the mid-30s. But then coach Bob Lindsay turned down a bid from the WNIT because of the snub from the NCAA.

The Kent State men have hosted NIT games in 2000 (win over Rutgers), 2003 (loss to Charleston), 2004 (loss to West Virginia) and 2010 (win over Tulsa).

Attendance at the Green Bay game was announced at 1,269. At Butler, it was 747. Kent State averaged just over 1,000 this season and had 1,323 at its first-round MAC tournament game against Bowling Green this season.

A new contract for Starkey?

KSU coach Todd Starkey ought to be under serious consideration for a contract extension. He’s finishing the third year of the five-year agreement he signed when he became coach in 2016. When he was hired, the university said his salary was “average” for MAC women’s coaches, or in the $200,000 range.

In his three years, he’s gone 52-45 and 29-25 in the MAC. His first team, picked last in the MAC East, won the division, went 19-13 overall and went to the WNIT. He was MAC coach of the year. Last year’s team was 13-19. This year’s was 20-13, went to the WNIT a second time and won its first round game. His first true recruiting class produced two all-MAC freshman team members this season, and next year’s includes an all-state first-team player from Kentucky and two all-state second-team players from Ohio.

Men’s coach Rob Senderoff received an extension and a raise after his team won the MAC Tournament and went to the NCAA two years ago. He also got salary increases for his assistants, something Starkey achieved last summer.

38 seconds, 8 points

I knew there was a big Kent State flurry as it came back from an 13-point deficit against Green Bay in the second half, but I missed this until I read it in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

With 4:39 to go in the game, Kent State trailed 54-47.

Lindsey Thall hit a 3-point basket from the top of the key, one of three 3-pointers she made in the fourth quarter. It made the score 54-50.

While the ball was in the air, Megan Carter was knocked to the floor as she fought for position for a possible rebound. She made both foul shots. 54-52.

After Green Bay missed a shot, Thall grabbed the rebound and fed Asiah Dingle, who pushed the ball up the court and attacked the basket. The defense collapsed, and she passed to Carter, who dropped her only 3-point basket of the game.

55-54 Kent State. 4:01 to go.

Eight points in 38 seconds.

Thirty second later, Dingle stole the ball and again drove to the basket. This time she kicked out to Thall, who hit another 3.

“A lot, a lot,” Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth told the Press Gazette said of the run that changed the game. “But credit to them, they came back. They just kept going at us, going at us, going at us.”

Carter and Borseth

Scott Venci, the Press Gazette reporter, had done his homework. Right after the game was over — before he had even interviewed the Green Bay coach — he asked KSU assistant sports communication director Jay Fiorello to talk with Carter.

It turns out that when Forseth was head coach at the University of Michigan between 2007 and 2012, he had recruited Carter, who starred at Farmington Hills High School in Michigan.

Carter told Venci that she had followed Green Bay after Forseth left the Wolverines to return to Green Bay.

“Just looking online and seeing Green Bay win the tournament or the Horizon League year after year after year,” Carter said. “They have established a winning culture here. This win was tough. You don’t come by road wins, especially in this place, often.”

Forseth had coached at Green Bay from 1998 to 2007, winning or tying for league titles every year and playing in seven NCAA tournaments and two WNITs.

Forseth went 87-73 at Michigan. In his first year, the Wolverines had their first winning season and WNIT tournament appearance in six years; his last team made the NCAA tournament, Michigan’s first time in 12 years. But in five years in the Big Ten, Forseth was 38-48. He resigned in 2012 to go back to Green Bay, saying he wanted to be closer to home.

Back at Green Bay, he’s been 163-33 since and won the Horizon League every year until this season, when the Phoenix finished second by a game to Wright State.

On KSU’s Dingle, whose drives to the basket game Green Bay problems, Forseth said:

“We did a good job in the first half of containing her. (In the second half), she got in, and they hit a couple 3s behind her. The onus was on us on our end of the court.

“We just imploded like two or three possessions in a row, where we turned the ball over. That really hurt. At that point, we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes, and we made a couple that hurt us.”

4 minutes, 0 shots

The last four minutes of the first half at Butler essentially ended Kent State’s season.

After Kent State had led through most of the first 14 minutes, the Bulldogs had taken a 17-14 lead. Then they turned on four minutes of defense like I have never seen. Kent never came close to getting a shot off and made seven turnovers. Over the second and beginning of the third quarters, Butler outscored KSU 27-2 and shot 71 percent.

In the reverse of the Green Bay game, Butler guard Whitney Jennings by herself scored seven points in 32 seconds.

“When Butler puts it on you, they really scramble you defensively,” Starkey said.

Butler trailed 6-5 after one quarter. Coach Kurt Godlevske told the Indianapolis Star that the Bulldogs were “giving great effort” but not getting results. After they switched to a trapping half-court defense, Kent State turnovers became Butler points.

“Once that happened, our kids’ energy went way up. They saw the ball go in a couple of times,” Godlevske said. “The next thing you know, you’re making three or four in row.”

Seven in a row, to be exact.

Over the next week or two, I’ll be offering some impressions of the people I met this season, wrapping up the season and looking ahead to next year. 

 

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