Point guard Asiah Dingle is one of two Flashes who made last season’s MAC all-freshman team. The other is Lindsay Thall, who’s Not 44 in the background. (Photo from KSU website.)
Tuesday is Game 1 of what looks to be a promising season for the Kent State women’s basketball team.
The Flashes play Duquesne, a traditionally strong program that lost four starters to graduation. The game is at the PPG Paints Arena, home of hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and will start at about 8:30. It’s the second game of a double header with the Duquesne men, who play Princeton at 6 p.m.
Kent State returns 83 percent of its scoring from a team that went 20-13 last season and beat Green Bay in the first round of the WNIT. It was the Flashes’ first postseason win in 23 years. The 20 wins were the team’s most 2011.
Duquesne went 19-13 last season, which actually was second worst in the last 10 years. But the Dukes graduated their top three scorers. Leading returnee is point guard Libby Bazelak, who averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 assists last season. Also returning is 5-10 guard Nina Aho, who played five games last season before an injury. Coach Dan Burt calls Aho, who started 15 games as a freshman, the key to the Duquesne season.
Top freshman is 6-2 wing Amaya Hamilton. Two other freshmen are 6-2 and 6-4, giving the Dukes size the team didn’t have for the last four years.
“We lost a tremendous amount,” Burt said at the Atlantic 10 Conference press day. “We’re completely unproven. We’re not as talented as we’ve been in the past. But we have great size and length and our commitment to one another is outstanding.
“We’re going to have to be different to be good. We haven’t been in this position for a long time because we always had returners. In one way it’s scary, and in another way, it’s absolutely refreshing.”
Kent State’s lineup is still somewhat up in the air. Senior Megan Carter, the team’s returning scorer at 15.9 points per game, suffered an injured thumb in practice about 10 days ago. Senior Ali Poole (8.8 points per game) injured a knee in summer workouts and didn’t practice most of fall. “We’re optimistic,” coach Todd Starkey said Friday.
Almost certain to start are the Flashes’ two members of was season’s MAC all-freshman team, point guard Asiah Dingle (12.9 points per game) and forward Lindsay Thall (10.3). Dingle stepped up her game substantially on the team’s summer exhibition trip to British Columbia. Thall led the MAC in 3-point percentage and blocked shots last season.
Freshmen Katie Shumate, a 5-9 guard from Newark, Ohio, and Nila Blackford, a 6-2 forward from Louisville, also are potential starters. Shumate was second on the team in scoring on their Canadian trip; Blackford led the team in rebounding.
Blackford also led the team in scoring and rebounding in the team’s scrimmage last weekend at the University of Pittsburgh. NCAA rules don’t allow Starkey to talk in detail about scrimmages, but he did say:
“I learned we could still be a pretty good basketball team when we didn’t shoot the ball well. I think that’s kind of validations of what we have the potential to be.”
As he has since summer, Starkey worries about the team’s lack of experience. Tuesday’s starting lineup could well include two freshmen and two sophomores, though both sophomores started almost every game last season.
“We’re going to make some mistakes because our freshmen are going to play considerable minutes. That’s will affect our ability to execute certain things because of lack of experience.
“But when we play connected, communicate on the court and move the basketball, we’re going to be difficult to deal with.”
Duquesne beat Kent State 77-72 in Kent last season, overcoming a KSU lead with a 18-9 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“We beat ourselves,” Dingle said. “It’s time for some payback.”
How to follow the Flashes
The game will start a half hour after the end of the Duquesne men’s game against Princeton. ‘that should be about 8:30 p.m. PPG Paints Arena is a little less than a two-hour drive from Kent. Here is a link to directions and parking from the arena website. Tickets are $25; one ticket gets you in both games.
Audio starts at about 8:15 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.
Video is streamed on ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. You can sign up at the link. Most KSU non-conference games and a number of league games are on ESPN+, as are similar games for other MAC schools and many other mid-majors. Some men’s games are also on the channel.
Live statistics during the game are available through Duquesne website.
Preview from Kent State team site, which has links to roster, schedule, statistics and more.
Preview from Duquesne team site, with links.
A season preview from Allen Moff of the Record-Courier published Monday.
The Flashes travel to Youngstown State Saturday for a 1 p.m. game that will be streamed on ESPN3.
Flashes eighth in preseason ‘power rankings’
Hustle Belt, the website that covers Mid-American Conference sports, ranked KSU eighth in its preseason women’s basketball power rankings. Ohio, the consensus top team in the league, was ranked first. Central Michigan was ranked second.
Hustle Belt said KSU’s rebounding was suspect. The Flashes lost their top two re bounders from 2018-19 — 6-4 center Merissa Barber-Smith and four-year starting guard Alexa Golden. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Flashes’ top two rebounders were freshmen — 6-2 forward Nila Blackford and 5-11 guard Katie Shumate. Blackford led KSU in rebounding on its British Columbia trip.
Ohio was the league coaches’ consensus No. 1 in their preseason rankings, with Buffalo and Kent State second and third in the East and CMU and Northern Illinois first and second in the West. Toledo was third.
Hustle Belt ranked Ohio first, Central second, Toledo and Northern Illinois tied for third, followed by Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Miami, Kent State, Ball State, Akron, Western Michigan and Bowling Green.