Flashes, tied with Toledo in MAC, host Rockets in big game Saturday

Shumate vs. Akron

Katie Shumate has averaged 13.5 points and 10 rebounds in Kent State’s last two games. (Photo from team Twitter feed.)

Toledo (6-5 and tied with KSU for 5th in MAC)

at Kent State (6-5 and 13-9 overall)

Game starts at about 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, at the M.A.C. Center. It’s second game of doubleheader with KSU men, who play Ohio at 1 p.m. Women’s game will start a half hour after men’s game ends. One ticket gets you in both games

Women’s game is Kent State’s annual “Play4Kay” game that honors cancer survivors and raises money to fight women’s cancers. Kent State is asking fans to support its fundraising by donating for every free throw the Flashes make in February. Here’s link to donation page. The event is named after Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame coach at North Carolina State, who several battles with cancer. Most college teams have such a game.

Men’s tickets range from $12 to $37 and will get you in both games. Women’s general admission tickets are $5. There is free admission for cancer survivors. Kent State women’s home attendance averages 1,200, seventh in the MAC.

What’s at stake

This is a very big game for both teams.

Kent State and Toledo are tied for fifth place in the MAC, a half game behind Eastern Michigan. The top four teams in the league get a first-round bye in the conference tournament next month.

Kent State lost at Toledo last month. If they lose again, Toledo will get the higher seed if the teams tie at the end of the season. If Kent wins, the teams will go to a secondary tie-breaker, which can get complicated and won’t be clear until the end of the season.

In the teams’ first game, Kent State led 31-28 at halftime, but Toledo made 15 more free throws than the Flashes did in the second half and won 69-60.

It was the first of four games that have seen Kent State struggle to draw and make free throws. Earlier in the season, KSU led the MAC in free throw percentage. In their last four games, they’ve shot only 43 free throws and made only 24. That’s 56%.


REPORT CARD ON KSU’s WIN OVER AKRON: Flashes played good defense for third game in a row.


What to watch

The game at Toledo was third in a string of six games in which Kent State has found its defense but lost its offense.

The Flashes have held those teams to an average of 57 points but scored an average of 58.5. Kent State has made only 27% of its 3-point shots in that time. Add KSU’s troubles at the foul line.

So the big things to watch are:

  • Is Kent State’s defense holding up?
  • Are Kent State’s shots — especially long-range shots — falling?
  • Are the Flashes getting their share of free throws?

Toledo’s Mariella Santucci, a senior point guard, has been on a tear over the Rockets’ last four games, averaging 20 points. That’s double her season average. She scored her 1,000th point Saturday in Toledo’s 60-58 loss at home to Ball State. Santucci also is third in the MAC in assists.

Nakiah Black leads Toledo in scoring at 13.6 points per game in MAC play.

Asiah Dingle didn’t play against the Rockets in the first game because she was finishing a suspension. Since then, she’s come off the bench and averaged almost 14 points a game, making 64% of her field goal attempts.

KSU coach Todd Starkey said it was questionable whether freshman forward Nila Blackford, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, could play Saturday. Blackford hit her head hard on the floor after a battle for a rebound in the last 30 seconds of the Akron game. She lay on the floor for more than a minute before she was helped off.

Blackford’s backup, junior Monique Smith, turned her ankle early in the Akron game. She returned for a few minutes in the second half.

Team comparisons

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

  • RPI: Kent State 105 of 351 Division I teams. Toledo 153. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
  • Power rankings: Kent State 115. Toledo 162. (Adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries.)
  • Kent State home record (MAC games)3-2. Toledo road record: 2-3.
  • Scoring average: KSU 12th and last in MAC at 64.9 points per game. Toledo sixth at 69.6.
  • Defensive average: KSU first at 64.4. Toledo fourth at 68.3.
  • Field-goal percentage: KSU 10th at 40.0 (eighth on 3-pointers at 30.2%). Toledo second at 42.6 (third on 3s at 33.8%).
  • Field-goal defense: KSU second at 37.8 (last on 3s at 35.7%). Toledo ninth at 42.7 (ninth on 3s at 33.5).
  • Free throw shooting: Kent State sixth at 68.6%. Toledo second at 72.5.
  • Rebounding margin: KSU seventh at -1.3. Toledo third at +3.5.
  • Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +0.3. Toledo 11th at -3.0. KSU seventh in steals at 6.5. Toledo 11th at 6.2.
  • Assists: Kent State last at 10.6. Toledo third at 14.0.
  • Blocked shots: Kent State first at 4.6. Toledo eighth at 2.0.

Top players

Kent State

  • 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (13.6 points, 2.6 assists, 1.7 steals per game).
  • 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (13.4 points, 7.7 rebounds).
  • 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (11.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 41.0% three-point shooting).
  • 5-7 senior guard Megan Carter (10.8 points, 3.5 rebounds).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (8.9 points, 1.6 three-point baskets a game, first in MAC in blocked shots at 2.6 per game).

Toledo

  • 5-10 junior guard Nakiah Black (13.6 points per game, 4.4 rebounds).
  • 5-8 senior guard Mariella Santucci (12.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists.)
  • 5-9 freshman guard Quinesha Lockett (10.2 points, 1.2 steals.)

Following the game from home

Video stream on ESPN3 starts at game time at about 3:30 p.m. It’s free if you have a subscription to ESPN on cable, satellite or on the ESPN app. David Wilson is the announcer.

Audio starts at about 3:15 p.m. on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. Dan Griffin is the announcer.

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

Links

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

Toledo website, with links.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

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