Asiah Dingle drives for two of her 18 points against Akron. Dingle has averaged 15.6 points and 63% shooting over the last seven games. (Photo by Greta Bell from KSU Twitter feed.)
Kent State’s defense keeps getting better, freshman Nila Blackford returned with the team’s biggest rebounding game of the season, and the Flashes are alone in fourth place in the MAC again.
Kent State beat Akron 68-50, holding the Zips to 1-of-14 shooting in the fourth quarter and 30% shooting overall.
The win, combined with Eastern Michigan’s loss at Northern Illinois and Western Michigan’s loss at Central Michigan, leaves the Flashes in fourth at 9-6 with three games to go in the regular season. The team that finishes fourth gets a first round bye and goes directly to the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament in Cleveland next month.
Ohio lost its second straight, 82-68 at last-place Bowling Green. So Kent State is just a game behind the Bobcats in what suddenly is a race for third place. Ohio plays at Kent next Wednesday.
“Defensively it was a really good effort all the way around,” coach Todd Starkey said. “That’s a team that put up 79 points on Ohio three days ago. Here they get 50.
“Our team defense has gotten so much better than the beginning of the conference play, when we were really given up a lot of points. We really have worked on it every day.
“We’re starting to cover up for each other’s mistakes better. Early in the year if somebody made a mistake, they were kind of on their own and they’d score on it. Now we’re doing a better job of seeing where there’s a mistake or somebody needs help, and we’re getting to those spots a lot quicker.”
Blackford had 15 rebounds, seven points, three assists and a blocked shot in her first playing time in two weeks. She had missed three games with a concussion suffered in the last minute of the last game Kent State beat Akron.
7.8 1Q | Kent State 20, Akron 17
— Kent State Women’s Basketball (@KentStWBB) February 27, 2020
“Fifteen rebounds,” Starkey said. “A phenomenal performance. (She was) really pursuing the ball and just being tough and gritty.”
Blackford made just two-of-12 shots; she had been making 41% of her shots before she was injured.
“She struggled with her timing on a few things, and you could tell her shot was off a little bit. But when you’ve been in concussion protocol for a couple of weeks, that’s the first thing that’s going to go.”
Blackford said it felt good to be back.
“I just was really aggressive toward the glass and wanted to do whatever I could to ensure that we got a win,” she said. “That was just snagging rebounds.”
7:14 4Q | Kent State 58, Akron 48
— Kent State Women’s Basketball (@KentStWBB) February 27, 2020
Asiah Dingle continued her string of efficient shooting and scored 18 points. In the last seven games, she’s averaged 15.6 points and made 63% of her shots. A year ago, she was making 38%.
“Asiah has been finishing at the basket much better,” Starkey said. “It’s a focus thing really. She’s getting a lot of the same shots she was getting before but her focus….We always talk about finishing with your eyes. You’ve got pick a spot on a glass and finish it high.”
Dingle said that to her, finishing means being “locked into the game and not worry if I miss a shot or get scored on.”
Dingle also had five assists and seven rebounds, though Starkey grumped about that he would rather “live without some of those reckless turnovers on important possessions.” Dingle had five turnovers, which was her most in five games.
Kent State led 36-26 at halftime, but Akron cut it to four in the middle of the third quarter. Kent called timeout, and Starkey made it clear he and his assistants were not pleased.
“We were like, ‘Listen, you’re taking your foot off the gas.‘ And then we got back to being deliberate defensively and really looking for our stuff on offense.”
In the fourth quarter, Akron couldn’t do anything offensively. The Zips missed all five of their 3-point shots and attacked the basket so aggressively, Starkey said, they were almost taking “reckless shots.”
Life with a concussion
In her postgame interview, Blackford explained what a concussion feels like:
“After I hit my head in the Akron game, I was really sensitive to noise and light. I was really dizzy, really fatigued and tired, had a headache.”
She said it took about a week and a half to feel better, though she was able to go to class much of the time.
- The Flashes overwhelmed Akron 46-27 in rebounding, their biggest margin of the season against a Division I team. (They outrebounded Division III Hiram by 27.) Blackford’s 15 led the way, but Megan Carter and Dingle had seven, Lindsey Thall five and Hannah Young four. Kent State had 16 offensive rebounds, led by Blackford’s seven, and outscored Akron on second-chang\ce points 19-7.
- Akron came into the came with slightly better rebounding statistics than KSU. Akron’s Haliegh Reinoehl was second in the MAC in rebounding at 9.6 a game. She had one rebound Wednesday.
- Carter had four of Kent State’s five steals. Thall blocked three shots to maintain her No. 1 standing in the MAC.
- Senior Sydney Brinlee had five points, one off her career high, on a 3-point basket and two free throws.
- Akron’s Jordyn Dawson was the only Zip in double figures with 17 points and led her team with seven rebounds. She didn’t play in the first Kent State game (“coach’s decision,” which usually means disciplinary action). “She’s a really good player — very strong,” Blackford said. She guarded Dawson. Akron’s second leading scorer, much of the night.
- The win is Kent State’s fifth in a row against the Zips and also breaks Akron’s three-game winning streak. Starkey is 7-1 against the Zips in his four years in Kent. The Flashes get a half-point in the Chrystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge for the win and now lead the competition 3.5-2.5. Akron has won it the last four years.
- Akron’s 50 points were the second fewest Kent State has allowed in MAC play, fourth lowest this season.
- Attendance was 1,729 and keeps Kent State on track for its best season in at least 30 years.
The Flashes travel to Bowling Green for a 2 p.m. Saturday game. KSU beat the Falcons 61-47 in Kent earlier this month but have lost two straight on the BG court.
Other MAC scores
- Central Michigan (15-0 MAC 22-4 overall), 76, Western Michigan (8-7, 15-11) 60 at Central. The win clinches the regular season championship for Central.
- Buffalo (6-9, 15-11) 88, Miami (4-11, 11-16) 72 at Buffalo.
- Northern Illinois (5-10, 9-17) 65, Eastern Michigan (8-7, 13-13) 59 at NIU.
- Ball State (11-4, 19-8) 66, Toledo (6-9, 11-15) 60 at Ball State.
- Bowling Green (2-13, 9-18) 82, Ohio (10-5, 17-9) 68 at BG.