Asiah Dingle had 16 points, near her average in the last five games, when she’s come off of the bench. She made six of 11 shots and continues to shoot about 60% in that time. (File photo by John Conley from KentWired.)
The Kent State offense that scored 87 points against Toledo Saturday looked just as good in the first quarter against Central Michigan Wednesday.
Then it vanished, and first-place Central Michigan went on to a 71-58 victory over the Flashes to stay unbeaten in the Mid-American Conference.
The Flashes made 50% of their shots in the first quarter and were tied 25-25 with CMU, which has the MAC’s best offense statistically.
Central is now 13-0 in the MAC, 20-4 on the season and has won 20 of its last 21 games. Kent State is 7-6 in league play and 14-10 overall. The Flashes are tied for fourth with Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan with five games to go in the conference season.
“We were missing a lot of shots,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame radio interview with David Wilson. “We weren’t finishing around the basket. I don’t think we were very tough around the basket to finish.
“You get an opportunity to hold a team like Central Michigan nine points under their season average, you have to be tough enough to keep coming at them and finish plays.”
Central Michigan coach Heather Oesterle saw Kent State’s struggles on offense as her team’s good defense.
“After that first quarter, our defense won us the game,” she said. “We played a little zone, tried to press a little, but in the end it was our man-to-man.”
Kent State made only 29% of its shots after the first quarter. It made one of 15 three-point attempts after making three of five in the first quarter. Central led by eight at halftime and by double digits through most of the second half.
“I thought we allowed missed shots to affect us way too much,” Starkey said. “We have to be more mentally tough than that. Sometimes young players think that their value as a player is based on whether they made or missed their last shot.”
Starkey said his team missed leading scorer and rebounder Nila Blackford, who missed her second straight game because of a concussion.
The Flashes were able to score without her Saturday because of good matchups for KSU’s other players, Starkey said.
“It worked favorable for us against Toledo,” the coach said. “But throughout the season, you want your most talented players available to play. We need Nila to be a complete team. She’s so strong around the basket, maybe we finish a lot of those closer baskets.”
CMU point guard Molly Davis, looking like a freshman-of-the-year candidate, scored 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and had seven assists. She averages about 16 points a game in conference play. Buffalo’s Dyaisha Fair, who seemed like the only possible candidate early in the season, averages 18, and her team has lost six straight games.
“(Davis) is a very talented player,” Starkey said. “We made her look really good tonight. We were undisciplined and tried to reach (for the ball) and not make her take tough shots. We’re trying to gamble for steals, and she did a really good job of getting by us and score a lot at the basket.”
CMU guard Micaela Kelly, the MAC’s leading candidate for player of the year, had 16 points and 11 rebounds. She had led the MAC in assists; she had zero against the Flashes. Kent also held Bowling Green’s Katie Hempfling, then the MAC leader, to zero assists.
The Flashes were led by sophomore guard Asiah Dingle, coming off the bench for the fifth straight game. Dingle had 16 points on six-of-11 shooting and had two steals.
Lindsey Thall had 14 points, eight in the first quarter, and blocked three shots. Megan Carter also had 14. along with three steals.
“As well as we’ve been playing lately, we played without composure and without mental toughness,” Starkey said. “Sometimes that happens with a young team on the road, but against a team like Central Michigan, the margin for error is so small.
“It was disappointing. But at the same time, nobody else has been able to (beat CMU) either.”
- Central Michigan shot 50% from the field (28 for 56) for the game. In the first half, it was 60%. KSU was 23 of 66 for 35%.
- Kent State had nine steals, its second highest in MAC play. That contributed to Central’s 16 turnovers. Kent State had 10. But the teams were 12-12 in points off turnovers.
- Central had 42 rebounds to KSU’s 32, though much of that was due to Central getting a lot more chances for rebounds because of Kent’s 43 missing shots. Katie Shumate led the Flashes in rebound with seven.
- Blackford didn’t travel with the team. Starkey said trainers evaluate her in concussion protocol daily but that it’s impossible to tell when she will return.
- Freshman Clare Kelly played 13 minutes for Kent State, her most in six games. She had five points, her third highest of the season. Sophomore Annie Pavlansky played six minutes, tying her second most of MAC play.
- The victory made Central the first team to clinch a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament next month. The Chippewas are closing in on their fourth-straight overall league championship and have won at least 20 games in nine of the last 10 seasons.
- Central remains the only MAC team Starkey hasn’t beaten in his four years in Kent. CMU has won eight straight games against the Flashes, going back to 2013, Kent State hasn’t won at Central since 2007.
- Attendance was 1,817. Central is second to Toledo in attendance this season. (Toledo has been first for 25 years.)
Kent State plays at home Saturday afternoon against Miami, a team it beat on the road 78-75 in January. It will be Senior Day, honoring Carter, Ali Poole and Sydney Brinlee.
Other MAC scores
- Ohio (10-3, 17-7) 86, Toledo (6-7, 11-13) 58 at Ohio.
- Akron (5-8, 12-12) 69, Buffalo (4-9, 13-11) 63 at Buffalo.
- Western Michigan (7-6, 14-10) 69, Bowling Green (1-12, 8-17) 55 at Western.
- Ball State (10-3, 18-7) 97, Northern Illinois (4-9, 8-16) 89 at Ball State.
Eastern Michigan (7-6, 12-12) and Miami (4-9, 11-14) had byes.