Freshman Clare Kelly scored 20 points and had five rebounds against Hiram. She had 11 points in her previous nine games combined. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)
Kent State coach Todd Starkey has been wanting three more things from his team over the last month: points from his bench, more assists and better defense.
He got all three Monday as his team overpowered Division III Hiram 92-36 in KSU’s last non-conference game of the year.
The Flashes will open the Mid-American Conference season at Ball State Saturday with a 7-4 record, the same non-league record they had last season.
Against Hiram, Kent State:
- Got 29 points from its bench, led by 14 points from sophomore guard Hannah Young. That’s three times its season average. The Flashes got 20 more points from freshman Clare Kelly, who usually comes off the bench. She started in place of Katie Shumate.
- Had a season-high 25 assists, led by nine from backup point guard Mariah Modkins and eight from starting point Asiah Dingle. Both were career highs. The 25 assists were KSU’s most since 2012.
- Held the Terriers to 26% shooting, lowest by any opponent this season. Hiram’s 36 points were the lowest against Kent this season.
- Won by the third-biggest margin in school history.
Now this was Hiram, a team with a 3-9 record that, like all Division III schools, gives no athletic scholarships. The Terriers had no starter taller than 5-foot-9.
The individual story of the game was Kelly, whose 20 points were nine more than she had scored all season. The freshman from Olmsted Falls was one of the best 3-point shooters in the state in high school but hadn’t found the range in college. She had made just three of 18 before Monday.
Against Hiram she made five of eight from 3-point distance and 7 of 10 overall. She had five rebounds and a steal in a team-high 26 minutes.
“That’s no surprise to anybody on our team,” Starkey said. “We see her do that routinely in practice. So tonight everybody else got to see that.
“It was good to see her get in a rhythm and her teammates’ get excited about it. But I told her on the bench at the end of the game that I was more pleased with her defense and her rebounding.”
Kelly said it was nice to see the ball go in the basket.
“In past games, some of my shots haven’t been going in,” she said. “But I just have to know to trust my shot and trust my teammates for making great passes to me. They make the game of basketball fun. I’m sharing their energy when they make extra passes.”
The passes and assists were a key part of the game plan, Starkey said.
“The No. 1 thing that we wanted to accomplish was to get over 20 assists,” the coach said. “We really want to emphasize sharing the basketball. We’ve got good individual players who can create for themselves, but one thing we’ve got to do is a better job of creating for each other.”
Young’s 14 points and eight rebounds were both career highs for her. She also had a steal, an assist and blocked a shot. The key to scoring off the bench, she said, is the mantra KSU coaches preach:
“Know your role, stay in your role, star in your role,” Young said.
- Five Flashes scored in double figures for the third time this session. Dingle had 17 points, five rebounds and two steals to go with her eight assists. She had only one turnovers. Nila Blackford joined Young with 14 points and Lindsey Thall had 12.
- Speciality statistics, like the final score, were overwhelmingly in Kent’s favor:
- Points off turnovers: KSU 27-2.
- Points in the paint: KSU 52-12.
- Second-chance points: KSU 31-2.
- Fast-break points: KSU 32-10.
- Shumate was the only KSU player not to get in the game. She had been leading the team in minutes played. “Coach’s decision,” Starkey said, not related to injury or illness. Shumate should be fine going forward, he said.
- Every other person on the roster played at least eight minutes. Only Kelly and Dingle played more than 26.
- Senior Ali Poole scored a season-high seven points and had a season-high seven rebounds. She has struggled with a knee injury suffered in August.