Coach Todd Starkey and (I think) guards Mariah Modkins (foreground) and Asiah Dingle) after 81-77 win over Ohio. (Photo by David Dermer for KSU sports.)
Kent State (11-6 and 3rd in MAC. 18-10 overall.)
at Buffalo (8-9 and seventh in MAC. 17-11 overall.)
Game starts at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 7, at Alumni Arena at the University of Buffalo.
It’s about a 3 1/2-hour drive. I couldn’t find a street address, but I typed in Alumni Arena at Buffalo and got directions on my GPS. Here are directions from the Buffalo website.
General admission tickets are $10. Parking is $5 to $10. Average attendance for Buffalo’s women’s conference games has been 1,679, fourth in the MAC. Kent State home attendance was third in conference games at 1,830. Though records are sketchy, I think that’s a record. It’s certainly the most in the 32 years I’ve followed the team.
What’s at stake
It’s the last game before next week’s MAC Tournament, but it won’t change Kent State’s situation once. Best as I can puzzle through the MAC’s tie-breaker procedures, Kent has clinched the third seed in the tournament and will play Wednesday in the quarterfinals at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (previously Quicken Loans Arena) in Cleveland.
The Bulls have a chance to finish as high as sixth and as low as ninth, depending on Saturday games. Ninth would be very bad, as it would cost them a home game in the first round. It would take a complicated set of events for that to happen, but all of the MAC tie-breakers are complicated. If Buffalo beats Kent State, the Bulls are guaranteed to be at home.
Both teams have momentum. Kent State has won four in a row and six of their last seven. Buffalo has won four in a row. Before that, the Bulls had lost six in a row for the first time in six years.
Buffalo has been a tough team for Kent State to play for years. The Bulls knocked Kent State out of the MAC Tournament in the quarterfinals both of the last two years. Since 2012, Buffalo holds a 16-3 advantage over the Flashes. Kent hasn’t won in Buffalo since 2011.
Last season KSU upset the Bulls 62-53 in Kent on the last day of the regular season. But four days later, Buffalo pounded the Flashes 85-52 in the MAC quarterfinals. It was Kent State’s worst defeat of the season.
This season Buffalo was picked third in the league and was 9-2 in the non-conference season. The Bulls were 4-3 in the MAC and 13-5 overall after they beat Kent State 57-44 on Jan. 25.
Then things fell apart. The Bulls lost at home to first-place Central Michigan 98-93 in double overtime. Then they lost 64-63 at Northern Illinois. Then they lost to Toledo at home, at Western Michigan and to Ball State at home, all by more than 10 points, then lost to Akron at home by six.
Since then, they’ve beaten Bowling Green by six, Miami by 16, Ohio by one in Athens and Akron by 15.
In the first game between the teams, KSU led 33-30 after three quarters. Both defenses were really good, and both offenses struggled mightily. In the fourth quarter, the Flashes made two-of-15 shots and committed six turnovers. Buffalo made 10 of 19 and committed one turnover. Buffalo outscored KSU 27-11.
Buffalo’s star freshman, guard Dyaisha Fair, was held to four points in the first three quarters but scored 13 and had four assists in the fourth.
LAST TIME OUT: Kent State 81, Ohio 77, to clinch a share of the MAC East title and the third seed in the tournament.
Keys to the game
How much has Kent State improved since the Jan. 25 game? The Flashes are 8-3 since then. The three freshmen who play regularly have a ton more game experience. The KSU defense has gone from seventh in the conference to third. After a midseason slump in offense, the Flashes put up 177 points in their last two games.
Which Buffalo team shows up? The Bulls seem to have righted the ship, but 10 games in the most they have lost in the MAC in four years.
Can Kent State finally win at Buffalo? Most Kent State players were in junior high the last time that happened.
Fair leads Buffalo in scoring at 19.4 points per game in MAC play, which is fourth in the conference. She’s seventh in assists and third in steals. Her shooting percentage has dropped 2 percentage points in MAC play, and her 3-point percentage has dropped four as teams figure how how to defend her.
Senior forward Theresa Onwuka averages 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, and sophomore forward Adebola Adeyeye averages 8.5 rebounder and 8.2 points.
Both Onwuka and Adeyeye are tough, physical bangers on the boards. They’ve helped Buffalo to second in the MAC in rebounding margin and first in offensive rebounding. Kent State is seventh in rebounding margin.
Kent State has rounded into an eight- or nine-player rotation, much deeper than in the first half of the season:
- Sophomore Asiah Dingle has come off the bench for nine straight games and led the Flashes in shooting percentage and scoring in that time.
- Freshman Katie Shumate has scored 47 points in her last two games.
- Senior Megan Carter has done the best rebounding and produced the most assists of her career in the last four games.
- Sophomore Hannah Young has become the bench player the Flashes need all season in the last eight games, averaging 7.4 points a game in that time. She started five of those games as freshman Nila Blackford missed three games with a concussion and came off the bench her first game back.
- Nila Blackford has struggled some with her offensive timing but had 11 points and seven rebounds against Ohio Saturday.
- Lindsey Thall continues to be the Flashes’ top 3-point threat. But she’s developed an inside game and blocks shots better than anyone in the conference.
- Since sophomore Mariah Modkins began starting at point guard, the Flashes are 9-2. She hit two 3-point shots against Ohio.
- Freshman Clare Kelly played 19 minutes against Ohio and led the team with three assists.
- And junior Monique Smith is the first post player off the bench and can be a physical defender. She’ll probably play more agains Buffalo because of that.
All statistics are for conference games only, which are more current and reflect similar competition.
- RPI: Kent State 96 of 351 Division I teams. Buffalo 120. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
- Power rankings: Kent State 93. Buffalo 118. (Adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries.)
- Kent State road record (MAC games): 4-4. Buffalo home record: 4-4.
- Scoring average: KSU fourth in MAC at 69.6 points per game. Buffalo ninth at 67.8.
- Defensive average: KSU third at 66.8. Buffalo sixth at 68.1.
- Field-goal percentage: KSU 10th at 40.4% (seventh on 3-pointers at 30.9%). Buffalo 11th at 39.4% (last on 3s at 25.3%).
- Field-goal defense: KSU fourth at 38.7% (11th on 3s at 35.9%). Buffalo fifth at 39.8 (10th on 3s at 34.3%).
- Free throw shooting: Kent State sixth at 69.6%. Buffalo fourth at 70.3%.
- Rebounding margin: KSU seventh at -1.1. Buffalo second at +3.9.
- Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +1.6. Buffalo fifth at +0.5. KSU seventh in steals at 6.9, Buffalo fourth at 8.2.
- Assists: Kent State 10th at 10.8. Buffalo ninth at 10.9.
- Blocked shots: Kent State first at 4.6. Buffalo sixth at 2.5.
- 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (14.3 points, third in MAC in field-goal percentage at 53.0, sixth in steals at 2.1, 2.5 assists).
- 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, third in 3-point percentage at 40.4, eighth in at field-goal percentage at 45.3, 10th in free-throw percentage at 76.8).
- 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (12.0 points, seventh in rebounding at 8.1).
- 5-7 senior guard Megan Carter (12.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals).
- 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (10.5 points, 1.6 three-point baskets a game, first in MAC in blocked shots at 2.7).
- 5-5 freshman guard Dyaisha Fair (fourth in MAC at 19.4 points per game, seventh at 3.4 assists, third in steals at 2.3.)
- 5-10 senior guard Therese Onwuka (13.1 points, ninth in rebounding at 7.8, second in steals at 2.4).
- 6-2 sophomore forward Adebola Adeyeye (8.2 points, fourth in rebounding at 8.5).
- 5-3 senior guard Hanna Hall (7.9 points, 2.9 assists).
Following the game from home
Video stream on ESPN3 starts at game time at 2 p.m. It’s free if you have a subscription to ESPN on cable, satellite or on the ESPN app
Audio starts at about 1:45 p.m. on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.
Live statistics will be on the Buffalo website during the game.
Kent State website, with links to roster, statistics, schedule and more.
Ohio website, with links.