Freshman forward led all players with 23 points and nine rebounds. She leads the team in both categories this season.
It was the last seconds of the third quarter, and Megan Carter had just given Kent State a 43-41 lead with a nifty fake and 12-foot jump shot.
Twelve seconds later Ball State’s Jasmin Samz hit a long 3-point shot at the buzzer to give the Cardinals the lead going into the fourth.
Ball State went on to beat the Flashes 66-62 in Muncie in the opening game of the Mid-American Conference season. Neither team led by more than seven points throughout the game.
“It was a big momentum swing,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame interview with David Wilson on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. “A more mature team understands that as long as there’s time ticking off the clock, you’ve got to make sure you’re talking (on defense.)
“We had one person who didn’t talk on that possession, and that left one of their best shooters wide open.”
But Starkey said the game really wasn’t lost on that basket or some plays that didn’t go Kent’s way in the last minutes.
“We flat out beat ourselves,” he said. “This is a game we could have and should have won. We’re playing from behind all the way down the stretch. There were a couple of three-minute stretches where we just completely lost our minds.
“We’ve got to learn from that. If we do, I don’t think there is anybody in the league we can’t beat. If we don’t, I don’t think there’s anybody who can’t beat us.”
After KSU had taken a 48-46 lead on 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, Ball State outscored Kent 7-0 over the next 1:20. Three minutes later, the Flashes closed the score to 56-54, and BSU went on a 5-0 run over the next three minutes.
Ball State freshman Sydney Freeman — a 57% foul shooter going into the game — made six free throws in the last 40 seconds to seal the game.
The first half was as good a defensive performance as Kent State has shown all season. The Flashes held Ball State to 24 points and 30% shooting and led 26-24.
But in the second half, the Cardinals, just a 28.4% 3-point shooting team going into the game, made five of seven 3-point shots. Kent State made one of seven.
KSU freshman Nila Blackford had 23 points and nine rebounds and thoroughly outplayed Oshlynn Brown, Ball State’s preseason all-MAC forward. Blackford scored Kent State’s first six points of the second half and had a three-point play that give the Flashes the lead early in the third quarter. She scored seven points in the last 1:08 AS KSU tried to rally at the end.
Brown had five points and seven rebounds. She had averaged 12.4 and 9.8.
In the end, it was a hard-fought game between two teams that hope to contend in the MAC this season.
“This is the one we wanted,” Starkey said, “and we had a chance to steal it. This would’ve been a great way to get start conference play, but we couldn’t make enough place down the stretch to get the win.
“They’re a tough team. They’ve got good balance. They’re going to win a lot of games this year in the league,
“I think if we can get some things fixed, we’re going to win a lot.”
Kent State is 7-5 on the season. Ball State is 9-4 and already has won more games than it did all last season.
- It was Kent State’s 13th straight loss at Ball State, dating back to 1997. In the same time period, the Flashes are 12-2 in Kent. The two teams meet again at the M.A.C. Center Jan. 29.
- Carter had 13 points for Kent State, eight in the second half. Lindsey Thall had 10, all in the first half when she made two 3-point baskets in the first four minutes. Ball State adjusted its defense, and Thall was able to get off only one 3-pointer the rest of the game and none in the second half.
- Ball State is one of the better rebounding teams in the MAC, and Kent State battled them to a virtual draw (39-38 BSU). 5-4 guard Asiah Dingle had eight, one off her career high. She also had three assists, a block and two steals to go with seven points.
- The Flashes had nine turnovers, tying a season low. But Ball State had eight, lowest of the season for a Kent State opponent. The Cardinals had been committing the most turnovers in the conference. Kent State did outscore BSU off of those turnovers 9-4.
- The Flashes had a season-low six assists on 24 baskets. Getting more assists had been a point of emphasis for Kent State going into the conference season.
- KSU made 39.3% of its shots, about its season average and four points above Ball State’s league-leading defensive average. The Flashes were four of 14 from 3-point distance. Ball State’s shooting percentage was 38.3%, about three points below its average. But the Cardinals’ eight of 17 three-point shooting (47% and a season high by five points) was the difference in the game.
Kent State opens the home part of its MAC schedule at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Eastern Michigan in the M.A.C. Center. The Eagles beat Bowling Green 78-61 in Ypsilanti Saturday and are 6-6.
The view from Ball State
Coach Brady Sallee from video on Ball State website:
On freshman point guard Sydney Freeman, who led Ball State with 16 points and six assists: “It was a really good start for her against a couple of really good point guards with quickness. Every time they made a mistake on a ball screen, she made them pay. To have a freshman be that savvy is pretty special.”
On shutting down Kent State forward Lindsey Thall in the second half: “I might have mentioned her name 340,000 times at halftime. She’s a good player and deserves that much attention. The places she scored…we were supposed to be guarding her. We just had to get back to the plan.”
Other MAC scores
- Central Michigan (8-4) 77, Akron (7-5) 72 at Akron.
- Buffalo (10-2) 86, Miami (7-6) 72 at Miami.
- Ohio (8-4) 87, Northern Illinois 67 (4-8) at Ohio.
- Western Michigan (7-4) 84, Toledo (5-6) 72 at Western.