Sophomores Asiah Dingle (3) and Mariah Modkins celebrate after overtime. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)
The KSU women’s basketball team knew its first two games were going to be important and difficult.
The Flashes managed to win both of them — but they were so very close.
After beating Duquesne 77-75 on a last-second shot Tuesday, Kent State rallied to force overtime at Youngstown State Saturday. Then they polished off the Penguins 82-73.
The games were critical for a Kent team that has aspirations of a big season. Both opponents were strong mid-majors (they won a total 41 games last season). Both games were on the road, where statistics show a team is less than half as likely to win as at home.
“We knew these first two games were going to be really difficult,” coach Todd Starkey said after the game. “We knew that if we were going to have any success in the non-conference, we needed to get off to a good start.
“I’m happy we found another way to win.”
The game followed the pattern of the win over Duquesne. The Flashes fell behind in the first half (seven points at Duquesne, 32-27 at YSU). They rallied behind good defense and timely scoring.
“We had talked about it in the locker room, trying to start off strong so that we don’t have to fight at the end,” said sophomore guard Asiah Dingle, who had 18 points. “But I guess it means we’re good at fighting, right?”
Kent State trailed 54-47 going into the fourth quarter. The Flashes held YSU to four of 11 shots in the fourth quarter and two of nine in overtime.
“We were doing some light pressure to try to keep them out of rhythm offensively,” Starkey said. “They were doing a good job of running all the way through their offense and hitting on the third of fourth option.
“When our players were picking up more full court, (the Penguins) were working off more of a 23-second shot clock. By pressing, they could only get to the first or second option before they needed to take a shot.”
The pressure also helped lead Kent to seven steals in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Flashes scored 13 points on 10 YSU turnovers in that time.
A key stretch came after the Penguins had taken their biggest lead of the game — 61-53 — with 7:26 to go. The Flashes ran off nine points in a row over three minutes to take the lead on two free throws by Lindsay Thall. The teams were within two points until the end of regulation. Thall hit two more free throws with 43 seconds to go to tie the game.
In overtime, the teams were tied at 71 with 2:16 to go when play stopped for almost three minutes while the referees sorted out whether a foul on Thall was her fourth or fifth. (It was the fourth.)
Dingle waited at the scorer’s table to check in all that time. When she got in, she scored on a driving layup 22 seconds later to give Kent State the lead for good. Seventeen seconds later, Nila Blackford stole a pass. Then Megan Carter was fouled on a three-point attempt with the shot clock expiring. She made all three shots and Youngstown State could never regroup.
For the second game in a row, five KSU players scored in double figures. Dingle had 19 and Carter 18.
Dingle also had five steals, equaling her career high, and eight rebounds, which is one off her career high. She made eight of 16 shots.
Carter made nine of 11 free throws, had two steals and drew 10 YSU fouls.
Freshman Katie Shumate had 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot. For much of the game she guarded Chelsea Olson, who had a triple-double with 11 assists in YSU’s 87-59 win over Canisius Tuesday. Against Shumate, Olson had three assists and fouled out.
“(Shumate) is going to keep improving” Starkey said. “She still doesn’t know college defensive concepts well. She’s just a really good player and acts on instinct. When she starts picking up some of the intricacies of defense, she’s going to be really difficult to handle.”
Blackford had 14 points and 10 rebounds, including six offensive rebounds in the first half. She also had two assists, two steals and blocked two shots while playing all but 26 seconds of the game. Blackford was one rebound short of a double-double in her first game.
Thall had 10 points, two steals and two blocks. She has blocked six shots in two games. Thall led KSU with 22 points against Duquesne, but Youngstown allowed her only four shots. “They had a really good game plan for us,” Starkey said.
- Kent State outrebounded YSU 41-36 and had 18 offensive rebounds. The Flashes led Youngstown in second-chance points 18-12.
- Kent State made 26 of 72 shots for 36.1%. In a difficult second quarter, the Flashes made only four of 22. The Penguins made 45.2% of their 62 shots. Kent won its second straight game while shooting worse than its opponent.
- Also for the second game, the Flashes forced the other team into far more fouls. Youngstown committed 27 and had two starters foul out. KSU made 24 of 36 free throws. The Flashes had 17 fouls.
- Senior Sydney Brinlee hit a three-point shot for her first points of the season. Sophomore guard Mariah Modkins hit two free throws for her first points. But the YSU bench outscored Kent’s 21-5.
- Senior Ali Poole, who has been fighting a knee injury, didn’t dress. She had played 13 minutes against Duquesne.