Hannah Young’s hair goes wild as she drives to the basket against Miami. Young has averaged six rebounds a game — third on the team — in her last six games. (File photo by Jeff Glidden from KSU Twitter feed.)
Akron (6-8 and tied for 7th in MAC. 13-12 overall)
at Kent State (8-6 and tied for 4th. 15-10 overall)
Game starts at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the M.A.C. Center.
General admission tickets are $5. Students get in free with a Kent State ID. KSU’s average home attendance is 1,870, third in the MAC and Kent State’s highest in decades.
What’s at stake
With four games to go in the regular season, every game becomes more important. The Kent State-Akron rivalry will make Wednesday’s game even more intense.
The Flashes remain tied for fourth in the MAC, the last spot that avoids a first-round game in the league tournament and gets a bye straight to the quarterfinals at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. (That’s what used to be called Quicken Loans Arena. It’s the same sponsoring company.)
The Flashes have a little bit of a schedule advantage over Eastern and Western Michigan, the teams they’re tied with. Both of those schools have to play first-place Central Michigan on the road. They also play each other, so somebody has to lose that one.
Kent State still has to play second-place Ohio in the M.A.C. Center next Wednesday. They play at Bowling Green, a team they beat 61-47 Feb. 5 but one they’ve lost to on the road two straight years. They finish at Buffalo, which outscored KSU by 16 in the fourth quarter to beat the Flashes 57-44 in Kent Jan. 25. Buffalo just broke a six-game losing streak at Bowling Green Saturday.
And there’s Akron.
Kent State beat the Zips 60-55 in Akron two weeks ago. It took a 7-2 run in the last two minutes to pull out the game.
Since then Akron has won three games in a row, beating second-place Ohio 79-76 Saturday and winning at Buffalo 69-63 and at Eastern Michigan 64-53 the week before.
It’s pretty clear the Zips are playing the best basketball of their season.
Biggest difference from the first KSU-Akron game will be the presence of Jordyn Dawson, the Zips’ second leading scorer. She didn’t play in the first game (“coach’s decision,” which usually means a suspension). In the three games since, Dawson has averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds. She had 20 and 14 rebounds against Ohio. Dawson is a 5-11 transfer from Wabash Junior College in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, the No. 1-ranked junior college last season.
Dawson is second to Akron senior forward Haliegh Reinoehl in scoring (13.3 points in MAC games) and rebounding (7.5) and leads the Zips in assists (3.1) and steals (1.6).
With a 6-8 record, Akron has a long-shot chance at the fourth seed. The Zips probably would have to win the rest of their games and hope for Kent, Eastern and Western to lose at least two.
It looks as if Nila Blackford, Kent State’s leading scorer and rebounder, could be back in the lineup Wednesday. In Akron, she hit her head hard on the floor in a scramble after a rebound and has missed all three games since. Blackford dressed for Saturday’s game against Miami and went through pregame drills. But she didn’t play.
“It looks favorable,” coach Todd Starkey told Allen Moff of the Record-Courier this week. “It will be a game-time decision, but there’s a little better chance that she’ll play then there was last Saturday. She’s continued to progress nicely.”
REPORT CARD ON KSU’s 80-75 WIN OVER MIAMI: Flashes missed 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, but pulled game out thanks to senior Megan Carter’s first double-double of her career.
What to watch
I’d start with Dawson. If she’s scoring and rebounding at a good rate, Kent State will have to step up its game.
“We’re playing against one of the hottest teams in the league right now,” Starkey said in the Record-Courier interview. “Akron’s really coming into form. They’re defending well and playing with a level of experience and toughness that makes them really tough to beat.”
Statistically, the teams are very close. Kent State has a significant lead in turnover margin and blocked shots. Akron has more assists. Otherwise they are within one or two places of each other in every category.
The biggest different is that Kent State has won more close games — including the first Akron game. The Flashes are 3-3 in conference games decided by fewer five points or fewer. Akron is 1-5.
All statistics are for conference games only, which are more current and reflect similar competition.
- RPI: Kent State 103 of 351 Division I teams. Akron 152. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
- Power rankings: Kent State 114. Akron 153. (Adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries.)
- Kent State home record (MAC games): 5-2. Akron road record: 3-4.
- Scoring average: KSU ninth in MAC at 67.1 points per game. Akron 10th at 66.4.
- Defensive average: KSU second at 65.9. Akron fourth at 67.5.
- Field-goal percentage: KSU 10th at 40.3 (10th on 3-pointers at 30.0%). Akron ninth at 40.8 (11th on 3s at 38.6%).
- Field-goal defense: KSU third at 38.7 (last on 3s at 36.8%). Akron second at 38.4 (ninth on 3s at 30.2).
- Free throw shooting: Kent State sixth at 68.1%. Akron fifth at 69.0.
- Rebounding margin: KSU ninth at -2.3. Akron seventh at -1.3.
- Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +1.7. Akron eighth at -1.45. KSU eighth in steals at 6.7, Akron ninth at 6.5.
- Assists: Kent State 11th at 10.5. Akron seventh at 12.1.
- Blocked shots: Kent State first at 4.4. Akron eighth at 1.8.
- 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (14.3 points, 51.2% on field goals, fourth in MAC; 2.0 steals per game, eighth in MAC; 2.6 assists).
- 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (13.4 points, 7.7 rebounds).
- 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (12.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 45.4% on field goals).
- 5-7 senior guard Megan Carter (11.5 points, 4.0 rebounds).
- 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (10.4 points, 1.7 three-point baskets a game, first in MAC in blocked shots at 2.6 per game).
- 6-2 senior forward Haliegh Reinoehl (15.9 points per game, ninth in MAC; 9.6 rebounds, second in MAC).
- 5-11 junior forward Jordyn Dawson (13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals.)
- 5-4 senior guard Shaunay Edmonds (9.9 points, 1.5 steals.)
Following the game from home
Video stream on ESPN+ starts at game time at 7 p.m. Service costs $4.99 a month and includes about half of all MAC men’s and women’s games. It will include all men’s and women’s MAC Tournament games except those broadcast on network TV. This link takes you to to the game, where you can sign up.
Audio starts at about 6:45 p.m. on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.
Live statistics will be on the Kent State website during the game.
Kent State website, with links to roster, statistics, schedule and more.
Akron website, with links.