Flashes face tough MAC opener at Ball State, 8-4 and on 4-game winning streak

Smith vs. Hiram

Kent State’s Monique Smith has averaged almost 11 minutes of playing time over the last four games, totaling more than she played all last season. She’s been among the first post players off the bench and three times has equaled her career high of four points. Smith is a 5-11 junior from San Diego.


Six critical road games could determine Kent’s MAC season.

Six critical numbers for the Flashes to have conference success.


Kent State’s Mid-American Conference opener at Ball State Saturday is reminiscent of the Flashes’ first game of the season.

Kent faces a good team on the road in a game that will help set the tone for the season.

The Flashes managed to win that first game against Duquesne on a last-second shot by Megan Carter. The win looks better and better as the season goes on; Duquesne won 10 games in a row before losing to Oklahoma State this week and is 10-3.

Ball State may be an even tougher game. The Cardinals are 8-4 and have won four straight games, including a three-game sweep of the Lobo Christmas Classic at the University of New Mexico. Their RPI ranking is 94 of 351 teams, fourth best among MAC teams. Kent State is third with an RPI of 75 and a record of 7-4.

BSU is the surprise team of the MAC, having been picked fifth in the MAC West after a  8-23 record last season. It was the only losing season in coach Brady Sallee’s eight years in Muncie. He has taken the Cardinals to the WNIT six times.

Last year’s team had been hit by injuries and unanticipated graduate transfers of its two best players. This year’s team has its top three players back from last season, along with the return of 2018’s top freshman from an injury. The Cardinals have added a freshman to the starting lineup who scored 1,700 points in high school.

“We’re going to have play really good basketball to have a chance to beat Ball State over there,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said. “They have very good balance. They have a very good coach. It’s a tough place to play.”

Statistically Ball State is the best defensive team in the MAC. The Cardinals allow 61.1 points a game, lowest in the league. They lead the MAC in field goal defense at 35.4% and are third in 3-point defense at 28.4%. They’re third in the league in rebounding margin at plus-2.5.

Offensively Ball State averages 67.5 points a game, eighth in the league, and makes 41% of its shots, fourth in the conference. Its 34.1% three-point shooting is third in the MAC.

The Cardinals’ weakness is turnovers, where their minus-2.08 margin in next to last in the MAC. They’ve made more turnovers than any team in the league.

Kent State will try to exploit that. The Flashes’s are third in the MAC with a plus-4.18 margin and make the fewest turnovers per game in the league in non-conference play.

The Flashes’ defense ranks statistically toward the bottom of the conference, especially its 43.8% field goal defense (12th of 12 team). KSU’s offense ranks third in scoring.

Both teams have balanced scoring. All five Kent State starters average in double figures. So do three of Ball State’s starters, and two other player average more than 8.5 points a game.

Ball State’s top player is 6-1 junior forward Oshlynn Brown, a preseason all-MAC West selection who averages 12.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.

All of KSU’s loses have come to teams in the top 50 in the country in RPI — Michigan (48), Ohio State (19) and Purdue (14) of the Big Ten and Troy (40) of the Sun Belt Conference.

Starkey says Kent State’s record reflects its performance well.

“We’re probably right where we deserve to be,” Starkey said. “We won some buzzer beaters, but we gave one away against Troy.

“So now it’s an 18-game (conference) season, and everybody’s good. There isn’t a single easy out in the conference.”

A long time ago

The last time Kent State’s women won at Ball State was 1997.

  • Almost every current player on both teams hadn’t been born.
  • Todd Starkey hadn’t gotten his first coaching job yet.
  • Brady Sallee was a first-year assistant at Kent State under Bob Lindsay.

Since then, the Flashes have gone to Muncie 11 times and lost. They lost under five times under Lindsay, four times under coach Danny O’Banion and twice under Starkey. Last season the Flashes lost 48-44 in their worst offensive game of the season.

In Kent during that time period, KSU has won 12 of 14. The two teams will play at the M.A.C. Center on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

Links

Preview from Kent State website, including links to roster, statistics, links and more.

Detailed media game notes form Kent State.

Ball State website, including links.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

To follow the game

Tipoff is at 1 p.m. at Worthen Arena on the Ball State campus in Muncie, Indiana. It’s about a four-and-a-half hour drive. The address is 2000 W. University Ave., Muncie, if you’re using a GPS.

Video is streamed on ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. This link will connect you and tell you how to pay. More than half of KSU men’s and women’s basketball are on ESPN+, as are games from other MAC schools and other mid-major conferences. Some wrestling, gymnastic, baseball and softball events also are streamed.

Audio starts at about 12:45 on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.

Live statistics during the game will be on the Ball State website.

Alexa Golden gots a promotion

Alexa Golden, who graduated last May after starting for the Flashes four years, has been named director of operations for the women’s team.

She had been a graduate assistant. She took over most the duties of her new job when former operations director Alison Seberger took an assistant job at North Alabama in fall.

Golden got the job officially in December. In her four years playing for the team, she got both a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a masters in sports and recreation management. She started another masters in fall, but said on the team’s trip that she’ll put that on hold as she gets used to her new job.

Golden is only player in Kent State women’s basketball history to have 500 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 steals and 100 three-point field goals. She made the MAC all-defensive team as a senior and was voted as Kent State’s most valuable player last season.

 

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