Flashes, still adjusting to young lineup, travel to last-place Northern Illinois

Dingle vs WMU

Asiah Dingle scored 17 points and had four assists against Western Michigan. Her aggressive drives to the basket in the first quarter helped give KSU a 19-12 lead.

One of the biggest challenges this season, coach Todd Starkey has said repeatedly, is meshing a starting lineup that includes two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior.

In Saturday’s 75-63 win over Western Michigan, it was three freshmen and two sophomores. Freshman guard Clare Kelly started in place of senior Megan Carter, who is out with nagging upper-respiratory problems.

In the post-WMU press conference, Starkey and freshman Katie Shumate talked about the issue.

“We’ve got a roster full of really good players and pieces to do some really nice things,” Starkey said. “It’s just a matter of finding a way. There’s a learning curve here. We’ve been playing against a teams with a lot of experience.

“And conference play is different. Every game, every possession is a battle.  We have three freshmen playing major minutes, and they don’t really know how that looks until they get in the middle of it and learn from it.

One adjustment is how point guard Asiah Dingle and the freshmen to adjust to each other.

“It’s tough for a point guard where you have three players in the court that you didn’t play with last year,” Starkey said. “So she’s relearning a little bit.

“And they haven’t played with Asiah either. Asiah is different to play with in most point guards because she’s always trying to create. So sometimes our players off the ball get stuck just watching what she’s going to do next instead of moving off of her. I thought we did better at that today and she did a good job of looking for people.”

Shumate said learning to communicate at the college level has been one of the biggest adjustments.

“I have to talk more, connect with my teammates and just learn what everyone can do,” she said. “In high school, I didn’t have a lot of post players, so it’s looking for Linny and Nila (forwards Lindsey Thall and Nila Blackford) and getting them involved to where they can score.

“And it’s learning to play off Asiah. A lot of times people come into college having had a ball in their hands most of the time. So it’s different now, not having the ball so much.”

The Flashes head to Northern Illinois for a Wednesday game. Here’s the preview:

Kent State (1-2 MAC, 8-6 overall) at Northern Illinois (0-3, 4-10)

7 p.m. Kent time Wednesday at the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University. (That’s 6 p.m. in Illinois.) It’s a long, long way — about six and a half hours straight went in Interstate 80. KSU teams often fly to Chicago and bus the last 90 minutes to NIU. Here are directions from the Northern website. Reserved seats at $8, general admission $5. The NIU women have averaged about 700 fans per game, 10th in the MAC. Kent State is sixth at 1,450.

What’s at stake

Northern Illinois has had a disappointing season to date. It was picked a close second to Central Michigan in the preseason coach’s poll and has five starters back. But the Huskies have the worst record, worst RPI and worst power rating. They’ve lost all three all three MAC games, including one at home, and five games in a row.

Kent State has a chance for a precious road victory in the league. Flashes are coming off one of their best games of season in Saturday’s 12-point win over Western Michigan.

But NIU has talent. Eventually Huskies are going to put together a good game.

What to watch

Northern Illinois forward Courtney Woods, a redshirt senior who missed almost all last season with an injury, has scored more than 20 points six times this season. She’s NIU’s career leader in 3-point shots and the school’s fourth biggest career scorer.

But no other player averages in double figures. Northern had been one of the league’s top scoring teams over the last three years; this season they’re last. They’re also last in scoring defense.

Kent State played two games at home last weekend. The Flashes got off to a terrible start in their 74-69 loss to Eastern Michigan. They got off to a very good start in the win over Western. KSU got its best bench game of the season and its best game from freshman Kelly, who hit two-of-five 3-point shots. Kent also had assists on 11 of 22 baskets.

So watch how the Flashes start, whether they’re scoring off passes and whether Kelly and the bench are playing well.

Team comparisons

  • RPI: Kent State 123 of 351 Division I teams. Northern Illinois 213. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
  • Power rankings: Kent State 128. NIU 253. (Also adds things like injuries, margin of victory, record in recent games.)
  • Kent State road record: 2-2. NIU home record: 1-4.
  • Scoring average: KSU third in MAC at 71.6 per game. NIU last at 63.1.
  • Defensive average: KSU eighth at 68.0. NIU last at 71.4.
  • Field-goal percentage: KSU 11th at 38.6 (sixth on 3-pointers at 31.1%). NIU last at 36.8 (seventh at 26.5).
  • Field-goal defense: KSU 11th at 42.5 (last on 3s at 35.6%). NIU fifth at 39.8 (second on 3s at 31.5).
  • Rebounding margin: KSU 10th at -1.4. NIU ninth at -1.3.
  • Turnover margin: KSU third at +3.79. NIU 11th at -2.71. KSU eighth in steals at 7.57. NIU sixth at 8.50.
  • Blocked shots: KSU first at 4.29. NIU 11th at 1.86.

Top players

Kent State

  • 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (13.6 points per game, 7.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (11.6 points, 40.0 three-point percentage, 1.7 blocks).
  • 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (11.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 1.5 steals).
  • 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (12.1 points, 3.8 assists, 1.9 steals).

Northern Illinois

  • 6-0 senior forward Courtney Woods (16.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists).
  • 6-1 junior forward Riley Blackwell (7.6 points, 5.6 rebounds).
  • 5-10 freshman guard Gracie Hunter (5.8 points, .489 shooting percentage).
  • 6-1 senior forward Ally May (4.5 points, 6.5 rebounds).

Following the game at home

Video on ESPN+ starts at 7 p.m. Kent time. Service costs $4.99 a month and includes about half of all MAC men’s and women’s games. Here’s link to game.

Audio starts at about 6:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.

Live statistics will be on the Northern Illinois website during the game.

Links

Kent State website, with links to roster, statistics schedule and more.

Northern Illinois website, with links.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

 

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