Flashes face 2nd-place Ohio and MAC’s top two scorers

Modkins vs. BG

Guard Mariah Modkins has started three straight games and averaged almost 20 minutes a game in MAC play. She scored five points and had four assists against Bowling Green on Wednesday. (Photo by Nick Cammett from team Twitter feed.)

Kent State (5-4 and tied for 4th in MAC, 12-8 overall)

at Ohio (7-3 and 2nd, 14-7 overall)

Game is at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at Convocation Center at Ohio University. It’s about a three-hour drive. Address is 95 Richland Ave., Athens, if you need it for GPS. Here are directions from the OU website.

General admission tickets are $5, $3 if you buy them early online. Average attendance for OU women’s conference games has been 633, 10th in the MAC. Kent State home attendance is seventh in conference games at 1,200.

What’s at stake

It’s the first game of the second half of the season for Kent State. Flashes are in contention for a first-round bye in the MAC tournament, but have a tough second-half schedule. They have to play at first-place Central Michigan and at Buffalo and Western Michigan, both teams also completing for a bye. And they play Ohio twice, starting Saturday in Athens.

Ohio was the overwhelming choice of coaches to win the conference this season. The Bobcats went 30-6 last season and have four key starters back. OU just missed the NCAA tournament and scheduled a tougher schedule to try to make it as an at-large team this year if necessary.

It didn’t work all that well. OU lost to Power Five teams Syracuse, TCU and Texas. The Bobcats also lost to Butler, always one of the country’s stronger mid-majors. They did beat Ohio State in Columbus. OU might have fared better on its Texas road trip, but guard Erica Johnson, their second leading scorer, missed both games with an injury.

In the MAC, Ohio has lost three games by a total of five points. It lost by 73-71 to Central Michigan at home on a 3-point shot with seven seconds left, lost 92-90 in overtime at Central and lost 73-72 at Western Michigan on another shot with seven seconds left.

Kent State is two games behind Ohio in the East Division and the overall standings, which determine seedings.

A win at Ohio would be a significant upset but could propel the Flashes into another strong last half to the season. Last year, KSU went 6-3 in the second round, upsetting Miami and Buffalo in Kent. Kent lost to Ohio twice by two points.

When the Flashes won the East in Starkey’s first year, they went 8-1 in the second half and beat Ohio twice. The win at Ohio was the Bobcats’ first home loss of the year and started Kent State’s run to the East title.


REPORT CARD ON KSU WIN OVER BOWLING GREEN: Good shooting, great defense made the difference.


What to watch

The teams are very much alike. The biggest difference is that Ohio has about a year’s more experience at every position and Ohio’s top players ranked about a level ahead of Kent’s in last season all-MAC teams.

Ohio has three players who average in double figures; two average about 20 points in MAC games. Kent State has four in double figures.

“They’ve got four legitimate all-conference level players,” coach Todd Starkey told KentWired’s Kathryn Rajnicek this week. “So they can beat you in so many different ways.”

All five OU starters, Starkey said, “have the ability to put up 20 points in a game.”

“It’s not a matter of if you can shut down a player or two,” he said. “It’s got to be a really balanced defensive effort.”

OU guard Cece Hooks was first-team all-MAC and defensive player of the year in the league last year. She leads the MAC in scoring in league games at 22.3 points per game and leads the conference in steals at 4.0 per game. Johnson was MAC freshman of the year last season and is second in the MAC in scoring at 21.2 points a game. She also leads Ohio in rebounding at 7.4 per game. Senior Amani Burke averages 12.3 points and junior Gabby Burris 9.9.

The Bobcats have by far the best turnover margin in the conference at plus-8.3. They forced 20.5 a game — best in the conference — and commit only 12.2 — also the best. Kent is second-lowest in turnovers made at 14.1 and fourth in margin at 1.7. This is one key thing for the game: Can Kent State take care of the ball?

Ohio is an average 3-point shooting team but shoots a ton of them — almost 26 a game. The Bobcats make 8.3 3-pointers a game.

Kent State’s biggest defensive weakness has been guarding the 3-pointer, so that’s another thing to watch.

In scoring defense and two-point defense, the Flashes rank well ahead of Ohio.

Kent State is coming off its best defensive game of the season, a 61-47 win over last-place Bowling Green. Against Ohio, BG scored 69 points and shot 49%. (The Falcons shot 32% against KSU).

So the big key to Saturday is defense.

Team comparisons

All statistics are for conference games only, which are more current and reflect similar competition.

  • RPI: Kent State 120 of 351 Division I teams. Ohio 58. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
  • Power rankings: Kent State 120. Ohio 72. (Adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries.)
  • Kent State away record (MAC games): 2-2. Ohio home record: 4-1.
  • Scoring average: KSU 10th in MAC at 66.2 points per game. Ohio second at 78.4.
  • Defensive average: KSU first at 65.6. Ohio ninth at 71.1.
  • Field-goal percentage: KSU 11th at 39.8 (fourth on 3-pointers at 32.4%). Ohio  third at 42.2 (seventh on 3s at 32.0%).
  • Field-goal defense: KSU second at 38.5 (last on 3s at 40.4%). Ohio 10th at 34.3  (fourth on 3s at 29.6).
  • Free throw shooting: Kent State second at 72.8%. Ohio seventh at 68.2.
  • Rebounding margin: KSU 11th at -3.3. Ohio eighth at -1.9.
  • Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +1.7. Ohio first at +8.3. KSU sixth in steals at 6.8. Ohio first at 11.1.
  • Assists: Kent State last at 10.3. Ohio 11th at 10.9.
  • Blocked shots: Kent State first at 4.7. Ohio eighth at 1.8.

Top players

Kent State

  • 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (14.1 points, 7.7  rebounds per game).
  • 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (13.9 points, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals).
  • 5-6 senior guard Megan Carter (12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds).
  • 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (11.5 points, 6.3  rebounds, 44.8% three-point shooting).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (9.9 points, 1.8  three-point baskets a game, first in MAC in blocked shots at 2.6 per game).

Ohio

  • 5-8 junior guard Cece Hooks (leads MAC at 22.3 points per game and with 4.0 steals, 3.9 assists, 6.4 rebounds).
  • 5-11 sophomore guard Erica Johnson (second in MAC at 21.2 points, 46.2% shooting, 42.6% 3-point shooting, 7.4 rebounds.)
  • 5-9 senior guard Amani Burke (12.2 points, 1.8 steals.)
  • 5-11 junior forward Gabby Burris (9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds).

Following the game from home

Video stream on ESPN3 starts at game time at 1 p.m. It’s free if you have a subscription to ESPN on cable, satellite or on the ESPN app.

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

Live statistics will be on the Ohio website during the game.

Links

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

Ohio website, with links.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

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