KSU freshman Katie Shumate scored 10 points, her third straight game in double figures. (Photo from team Twitter feed.)
Coach Todd Starkey said it wasn’t going to be a long postgame press conference.
The reason for Kent State’s 88-53 loss to Michigan Friday was pretty self evident.
“We just got beat by a bigger and more athletic team that’s better than we are,” he said.
The Wolverines are ranked 24th in the country and picked to finish second in the Big Ten. They start five players 6 foot or taller, including one of the best players in the Big Ten, 6-2 sophomore forward Naz Hillmon. (Kent has that tall on its whole roster),
The game started nicely for Kent State fans. With neither team shooting or handling the ball well, the Flashes fought to a 16-12 lead after the first quarter, scoring six points off of six Michigan turnovers.
But after that, Michigan just played better and better. The Wolverines made 42% of their shots in the second quarter, 68% in the third and 75% in the fourth. They made 53% of their 3-point shots.
KSU didn’t shoot better than 37% in any quarter and made just five of 27 three-pointers (18.5%).
Michigan is now 3-0 on the season. Kent State is 2-1.
“When you play against teams that are that good and that big, your mistakes are magnified,” Starkey said. “And so our quick shots, careless turnovers and our lack of communication and transition defense was exposed in a big way in the second half.”
Starkey has talked about a lack of “consecutiveness” on the team all season. It was evident Friday, he said.
“We’ve got talented players that can make individual plays, but we’re not playing connected,” Starkey said. “Defensively we’re off. You saw some evidence of this in our first two games, but Michigan took advantage of that. They had two games to scout and see our holes. And they exposed them.”
Slowed by Michigan’s length and talent, the Flashes struggled to run any kind of offense. KSU had one assist on 11 first-half baskets and seven on 18 for the game.
On defense, the Flashes watched Michigan score inside, on 3-point shots and on fast breaks.
“In the second half, they decided they were just going to throw it inside and see if we can stop them,” Starkey said. “We had trouble with that. Then they did a good job playing inside-out, they knocked down 3s, and the third quarter got away from us.”
Sophomore point guard Asiah Dingle led KSU with 12 points. Freshman guard Katie Shumate had 10, and sophomore forward Lindsey Thall, freshman forward Nila Blackford and sophomore reserve guard Hannah Young had eight each.
After the game, the team filed back into the James A. Rhodes Arena to watch Akron play Purdue Fort Wayne, Kent’s opponent on Saturday.
“We have to have a short-term memory and put it behind us,” Starkey said.
Said Blackford, “This is not a game that defines us. We learn from it and get better.”
Lots of playing time
Kent State’s starters all had averaged more than 35 minutes in the Flashes’ first two games, and Starkey had said he wanted to use his bench more. He did, but not completely for the reasons he planned.
Thall, Blackford and Dingle all picked up two fouls in the first half. Senior Megan Carter had three. As Michigan ran up the score, the coach cleared the bench. So everybody on the roster played except senior Ali Poole, who has been recovering from a knee injury. She was in uniform but on the bench wearing a very large knee brace.
All of these people played more minutes than in the first two games combined:
- Freshman guard Clare Kelly: (one 3-pointer, an assist and a steal in 21 minutes),.
- Senior forward Sydney Brinlee (two rebounds in 17 minutes).
- Sophomore guard Hannah Young (two-for-two shooting with a 3-pointers and three-for-three shooting in eight minutes).
- Sophomore forward Annie Pavlansky (eight minutes).
- Junior forward Monique Smith (two points in seven minutes) all played more than they did in the first two games combined.
Sophomore guard Mariah Modkins, who played a total of 10 minutes in the first two games, had two assists in eight minutes. Junior guard Margaux Eibel played her first two minutes of the season.
- The two statistics that Kent State won were steals (8-5 KSU) and points off of turnovers, where the Flashes scored 15 to Michigan’s nine. KSU has led in that category all three games. In the game, Kent had 14 turnovers, Michigan 13.
- Otherwise, it was all Michigan: 45-28 rebounding, 48-30 in the paint, 19-7 in assists, 31-13 in bench scoring.
- Attendance was listed at 213,. I’d estimate Kent had 100 or so supporters there.
- It was Michigan’s biggest margin of the year against the three mid-majors it has played. The Wolverines beat Western Michigan 76-55 and Bradley by 77-57. Their shooting percentage against Kent was 9 points higher than it was against either team. Kent’s shooting percentage was slightly higher than either of Michigan’s other opponents.
- It was Kent State’s second-biggest margin of defeat in Starkey’s four years. The Flashes lost to then No. 4 Baylor by 40 his first season.
- Saturday’s game against Fort Wayne is at noon at the JAR with a $6 admission that gets you in both games. (Akron plays Michigan at about 2:30.) It’s all part of the Akron Classic, in which Kent State and Akron play the same two teams over two days. On alternate years, including next season, the event is in Kent and becomes the Kent Classic.
- In Friday’s other game, Akron beat Purdue Fort Wayne 64-53 to go 2-0 on the season. Fort Wayne is 2-2.