Kent State’s starting five (from left): Nila Blackford, Asian Dingle (3), Lindsey Thall, Megan Carter (31), Katie Shumate (right). (Photo from team website.)
When Kent State played Michigan four days ago, the Wolverines took charge of the game in the second quarter and did just about everything they wanted to on the way to a 88-53 victory.
When the Flashes played at North Carolina in their opener a year ago, they led the Tar Heels by two points with five minutes to go before losing 73-60.
Is either a pattern for Kent State’s home game against Ohio State on Thursday?
“Is Ohio State good enough to blow us out?” coach Todd Starkey said in an interview Tuesday. “Absolutely. ”
“If we play really well and shoot the ball really well, can we make it interesting and potentially win? I think so as well.”
Ohio State is coming off a 74-68 loss to MAC favorite Ohio University on Sunday. “I suspect they’re pretty mad,” Starkey said. “That doesn’t help our cause a whole lot.”
The Buckeyes are 2-1, beating Valparaiso 89-38 and winning at Cincinnati 78-73 in overtime.
Kent State is 3-1, with road wins over Duquesne 77-75 and Youngstown State 82-71 and a win over Purdue Fort Wayne 75-67 Sunday in the Akron Classic. The Flashes’ loss to Michigan also was in Akron.
Both teams are young and still learning to play as a unit.
Kent State’s second-leading scorer and top two rebounders are both freshman. Two other starters are sophomores.
Ohio State starts a junior transfer, three sophomores and a freshman. The five other players who got into the Oho game were all freshmen. That group’s recruiting class was rated fourth in the country this year.
“They’ve got former Ms. Basketballs and all-state players and all-Americans and all that type of things,” Starkey said. “They’re very talented at every position and have depth at every position. But they’re young and trying to find their way, just like we are.
“They’re playing players together than have not played major minutes together. Even Braxton Miller, who’s a junior transfer from Oklahoma with a lot of experience, hasn’t played with this group before. You’ve got all those freshmen and a group of sophomores who played some last year. But they didn’t play with these players.”
Kent State has enough talent that its starting five all average at least 12 points a game. But Starkey has said after every game that the team wasn’t connected enough.
On offense, that has meant the players have been scoring without a lot of help from their teammates. KSU averages just nine assists a game, which 310th of 350 Division I teams ranked by herhoopstats, an analytics service.
“We have to be more willing passers,” Starkey said. “We have to make the extra pass — pass up average shots for good shots, good shorts for great shots. That comes from experience and time playing with each other, but also from people being conscious of it.”
Still KSU is averaging 71.8 points, highest in Starkey’s four years here.
On defense, a similar lack of “connectiveness” (Starkey’s word) has created problems.
“Everybody is kind of focused on what their individual responsibility is right,” the coach said. “When you’ve got five players kind of on a defensive Island, they may be able to do their specific job. But if they don’t know what the other person’s job is and they don’t know what to do when that person doesn’t do their job, it throws everybody off a little.
“We’ve been very reactionary defensively. You want to be a team that anticipates defensively. Regardless of the talent that you have, if you’re always reacting on the court, it slows down your talent.”
Something has to get better on defense. The Flashes are allowing almost 17 points a game more than they did last season. Some of that 78.9 average is distorted by Michigan’s 88 points. Some is distorted by the extra scoring of their overtime win at Youngstown State. But take those away and and they’re still allowing 68.7 points a game — six more than last season.
Opponents’ are making 46.8% of their shots, a figure that would have been last in the MAC by 3 percentage points last season. Michigan made 54.7% of its shots. Duquesne and Youngstown State each shot above 45%.
Ohio State is perhaps the most intriguing matchup in Kent in school history. But people need to remember it’s still just a game in November, Starkey said.
“My biggest focus is help this team grow on the timeline that they need so they can be playing their best basketball in February and March. We can’t just try to win a single game against Ohio State. We’ve got to figure out how to get better.”
All about the game
It will start about 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the M.A.C. Center. It’s the second game of a doubleheader with the Kent State men, who play Division II Concord (2-2) at 5 p.m. The women’s game will start a half hour after the men’s game ends.
One ticket gets you in both games. Men’s reserved seats are $20, general admission $15. You may have to switch seats between games. Students get in free with their ID. Men’s and women’s season tickets will be honored. Kent State is hoping for a record crowd for a women’s game, which would be more than 4,000 in the 6,000-seat M.A.C.C.
The game is on ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. This link will take you to the ESPN page, which will guide you through paying. Other home and away men’s and women’s basketball games are also on ESPN+, along with those of other MAC teams and other mid-majors and events in other sports like wrestling and gymnastics. Dave Wilson and Tanner Castora are the announcers.
On radio, the game is on WHLO 640 AM and on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. Ty Linder is the announcer.
During the game, you can get live statistics through the KSU website.
All about the Buckeyes
- Starting forward Dorka Juhasz is 6-foot-4 and a preseason all-Big Ten selection. She was second all-Big Ten as a freshman. She led the team in scoring (11.7 points per game) and rebounding (9.0) last season and has 13 career double-doubles, including 16 points and 12 rebounds against Ohio.
- Junior guard Braxtin Miller is a 5-10 Dayton native who transferred back to Ohio from Oklahoma. She got an NCAA waiver to be eligible this year just before the season started. At Oklahoma she averaged 13 points a game and was twice honorable mention All-Big 12.
- Kierstan Bell, a 6-1 guard, played for Canton McKinley High School and was Miss Basketball in Ohio the last three years, The only other person to win three years in a row is LeBron James. She had five steals, 12 points and six rebounds against Ohio, but she also had three turnovers and missed all seven of her 3-point shots.
- Aaliyah Patty is a 6-3 sophomore forward who has averaged nine points and six rebounds in OSU’s three games. Last season she played in all 29 games, made five starts as a freshman and scored 20 points in a win at Minnesota.
- Sophomore Janal Crooms is a 5-10 guard who had 12 assists and 10 points against Cincinnati. She was third on the team in scoring last season and had 27 points of 12-of-15 shooting in Ohio State’s overtime win at Penn State.
Against Ohio, the five people off the bench were all freshmen
- Aixa Wone Aranaz, a 6-3 forward rated 15th best international recruit in her class
- Kaeluynn Satterfield, a 6-foot guard rated a five-start recruit and No. 32 in her class.
- Jay Sheldon, a 5-10 five-star guard from Dublin, Ohio, rated No. 41 in her class.
- Madison Green, a 5-8 guard from Pickerington rated 61st best recruit last season.
- Rebeka Mikuklasikova, a 6-4 forward from Slovakia who has played for at least five international teams.
Game preview from Ohio State team website, which has links to statistics, roster, schedule and more.
All about the Flashes
- Starting guard Megan Carter, a 5-6 redshirt senior from Bloomfield Hills, a suburb of Detroit. She was a preseason all-MAC East selection and made the all-MAC third team last season. She was the team’s leading scorer last year at 15.5 points per game. Her strongest weapon is a pull-up jump shot.
- Point guard Asiah Dingle, a 5-4 sophomore from Stoughton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. Dingle is KSU’s leading scorer so far this season at 15 points per game. She made the MAC’s all-freshman team last season and was runner-up for freshman of the year. She has a wicked drive to the basket.
- Forward Lindsey Thall, a 6-2 sophomore from Strongsville, Ohio. Thall led the MAC in blocked shots last season and made 45.8% of her 3-point shots in league play and 40% all season. She’s making 42.9 of her 3s this season and averaged 12.3 points per game. She also made the league’s all-freshman team last season.
- Guard Katie Shumate, a 5-11 freshman from Newark, Ohio. She leads the team in minutes played, is second in the team in scoring (14.8 points per game) and in rebounding (5.5). She has made 50% of her field goals and 58.3 percent of her 3-pointers.
- Forward Nila Blackford, a 6-2 freshman from Louisville, Kentucky. She leads Kent State in rebounding at 8.8 per game and averages 12.3 points. She was her region’s player of the year in Kentucky last season, which made her a finalist for Kentucky Miss Basketball.
Top reserves are:
- Sophomore guard Hannah Young, who has made all six shots she’s taken this season. She scored 1,998 points in at Brookville High School in Virginia.
- Senior forward Ali Poole, who has been sidelined with a knee injury. She may play Thursday. She has started 48 games in her career.
- Senior forward Sydney Brinlee, a junior college transfer who has become the team’s top reserve forward.
- Freshman guard Clare Kelly, who has been first player off the bench. She was one of Ohio’s best 3-point shooters in high school but hasn’t found the range yet in college.
- Sophomore guard Mariah Modkins, the shortest player on the team at 5-1 but very quick on defense. She backs up Dingle at point guard.
Preview from KSU team webpage, with links to roster, statistics, schedule and more.
- The last and only time an Ohio State basketball team played in the M.A.C. Center was 38 years ago, when the Mid-American Conference and Big Ten weren’t even playing women’s basketball. OSU beat Kent State 67-62 in the championship game of the Ohio Association of Intercollegiate Sports for Women.
- Kent State will play a return game at Ohio State next season.
- The Flashes have lost all six games they’ve played against OSU. All were between 1978 and 1981.
- The game is the first of three straight at home for Kent State. The Flashes play Robert Morris, the preseason favorite in the Northeastern Conference, at 1 p.m. Sunday. They play St. Bonaventure at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 3. (It’s Education Day for local elementary, middle school and high school students.)