The Flashes with pieces of the net from their East championship-win over Ohio.
(Front row) senior Megan Carter, senior Ali Poole, senior Sydney Brinlee, sophomore Mariah Modkins. (Second row) junior Monique Smith, sophomore Asiah Dingle, freshman Nila Blackford, junior Margaux Eibel.
(Third row) Assistant coach Morgan Toles, freshman Katie Shumate, sophomore Annie Pavlansky, junior transfer Linsey Marchese, sophomore Lindsey Thall, freshman Clare Kelly, sophomore Hannah Young.
(Back row) Assistant coach Mike McKee, basketball sports performance coach Brice Cox, student manager Camryn Howell, athletic training student Lizzie Spence, head coach Todd Starkey, associate head coach Fran Recchia, director of operations Alexa Golden and athletic trainer Reeona Curseen.
Eight games that told the story of the season, from a last-second win at the beginning to the Flashes’ first quarterfinal win in 10 years.
Sports are full of numbers, so annually I wrap up the season with what I think are key numbers from the season.
I try to keep the first paragraph in each item as clear as I can for casual fans. Then the statistics junkie in me starts to take over.
The score of Kent State’s MAC quarterfinal win over Buffalo, a game that defined a season. The Flashes had four players in double figures, solid defense, lots of points off turnovers and lots of points from the foul line — all things that were critical in the rest of KSU’s 19-11 season.
It had been 10 years since Kent State won a MAC Tournament game in Cleveland. In 2010, the Flashes beat Central Michigan 68-55 in the quarterfinals before losing to Toledo 51-49 in the semis.
The two previous years Buffalo had knocked KSU out of the tournament in the quarterfinals. Earlier in the season, the Bulls had beaten the Flashes twice by double digits and had won 17 of their last 20 games against the Flashes.
It was a most sweet victory.
Coach Todd Starkey has taken the Flashes to the quarterfinals all four years since he arrived in Kent in 2016. Before that, it had been six years since KSU had made it to Cleveland.
Kent State’s winning percentage with its 19-11 record. That’s its best since 2010-11. In Starkey’s four years, the Flashes are 71-56, or .559. That percentage is second only to Bob Lindsay (.620) among the six women and men who have coached Kent State women’s basketball. (Take out Starkey’s one bad season — 13-19 in 2017-18 — and his winning percentage is .611.)
Other overview numbers:
- RPI: 96 of 351 teams, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
In Starkey’s three previous season, it was 83 in 2018-19, 149 in 2017-18, 99 in 2016-17. The year before Starkey arrived, it was 318.
Top MAC teams were Central Michigan at 23, Ball State at 78, Ohio at 83.
RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength. Road wins and home losses get about twice the weight of home wins and road losses.
- Power ranking: 98. This broader ranking adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries to RPI criteria.
- Strength of schedule: 118.
More points a game on offense.
Most of the following statistics for the rest of the post come from HerHoopStats.com, an analytics site. They include only games against Division I teams, which excludes Kent State’ s 92-36 win over Hiram.
Offensive numbers, compared to 2018-19.
- Points per game: 69.6 vs. 64.7.
- Shooting percentage: 39.4% vs. 36.7%.
- 2-point percentage: 43.4% vs. 39.5%. (Last year’s number was 308th of 351 Division I teams. This year’s was 191st.)
- 3-point percentage: 31.4% vs. 32.1%.
And even more:
- Turnovers: 13.8 per game (60th in country) vs. 15.3 (128th).
- Made free throws: 443 (15th in country) vs. 437 (51st).
- Fouls called on opponents: 21.6 per game (fourth in country) vs. 21.0 (seventh).
Opponents also scored five more points a game, though Kent State’s defense got decidedly better as the season went on. The numbers:
- Opponents’ points per game: 68.5 vs. 63.0. (In conference play, it was 67.0 vs. 64.4.)
- Opponents’ field-goal percentage: 39.4% vs. 36.7%. But in conference games, it was better than last season: 38.9% vs. 39.5.
- Opponents’s assists: 11.0 (60th fewest in country) vs. 12.2 (103rd).
- Blocks per game: 4.2 (56th in country) vs. 3.9 (86th).
Kent State’s assist total got slightly better, but it was still pretty weak.
The Flashes averaged 10.9 assists per game. Last season it was 10.6, which was 314th of the 351 Division I teams. This year’s average was 295th.
Starkey has said that part of the explanation is that Kent has a number of players who create their own shot without a pass. Think about Asiah Dingle’s drives to the basket, Megan Carter’s pull-up jumpers, and Katie Shumate, who can do both.
Still, other teams have players who create their own shots. And Kent State was still 56th from the bottom.
How much Asiah Dingle’s shooting percentage improved between the end of last season and the end of this season.
Last season she made 37.6% of her shots. In her last 12 games this year, when she was the first player off the bench, it was 54.7%.
Dingle stepped up her game in a lot of other ways, too.
Her assist rate — the number of teammates’ baskets on which she assisted — was 28.3%. In conference play it was 31.1%. Last season it was 21.3%.
Her assist-to-turnover ratio jumped to 1.01 from 0.77 and was 11th in the MAC this season.
She averaged 2.2 steals a game, up from 2.0. Her steal rate — the percentage of time she stole the ball on an opponent’s possession, was 4%, which was 57th in the country.
When you watch Dingle — who is very fun to watch, her weaknesses are clear. The statistics are even clearer.
She made only two 3-point shots all season (in 20 attempts). She averaged 3.1 turnovers per game. That ranked 3,109th out of 3,321 players. Part of that is that she handled the ball more than anyone on the team. But still….3,109th. And she averaged 3.7 fouls per game — 3,311th in the country. Only 10 players in Division I did worse.
Points per game scored by the team’s freshmen.
People thought it was a big deal when the 2018-19 freshmen scored 45% of Kent State’s points, third best in the country. Five freshmen averaged a total of 30.1 points.
This year’s three freshmen averaged almost as much — 27.2.
Nila Blackford averaged 12.4 points per game, Katie Shumate 12.3 and Clare Kelly 2.5.
When they were freshmen last season, Asiah Dingle averaged 12.9 and Lindsey Thall 10.3, Mariah Modkins 3.2, Hannah Young 3.1, and Annie Pavlansky 0.6.
Blackford and Shumate made the MAC’s all-freshman team. So did Thall and Dingle.
I wondered whether that had happened before. It has, and not all that long ago. In 2011, Central Michigan placed two people on the all-freshman. In 2012, the Chippewas placed three. In the three years the classes were together, they went 14-17, 21-12 and 20-12. CMU won the MAC Tournament in 2013.
This is the fourth time KSU has placed at least two on the all-freshman team. The first two:
- 1991: Michelle Burden, Kathy Carroll and Tracey Lynn, who was MAC freshman of the year.
- 1995: Gwen Hurley, Carrie Templin.
The number of points Kent State players scored off the bench in the team’s first six games.
The number of bench points in KSU’s last six games.
Dingle’s changed role had a great deal to do with that. She became the first player off the bench about two-thirds of the way through the season. Dingle, who led the team in scoring, still played starter minutes. Hannah Young also stepped up her production substantially in the second half of the season.
Having Dingle’s energy off the bench and Young’s solid presence was one of the key factors in KSU’s run to the MAC East title.
The number of points Megan Carter scored in her five-year career. It’s 18th in Kent State history. In her five years, she scored:
- 2015-16: Nine points in the three games she played before tearing her ACL
- 2016-17: 187 points (5.8 per game).
- 2017-18: 204 points (10.2). She missed the first semester — 10 games — for academic reasons.
- 2018-19: 524 points (15.9).
- 2019-20: 322 points (11.9).
Four current players are, barring injury, very likely to be 1,000-point scorers. In two seasons, Dingle has 785 points and Thall 689. In their first season, Shumate had 358 points and Blackford 334. If they continue at anywhere near that pace, the Flashes could have four 1,000-point scorers on the floor at the same time in the 2022 MAC Tournament.
Kent State ranked 18th in the country with 450 made free throws. The Flashes were 29th in free-throw attempts. In eight games — including their big win against Ohio and their quarterfinal victory over Buffalo, KSU’s margin at the foul line was greater than its margin of victory.
All that was in spite of a nine-game slump at the foul line in February that saw KSU shoot only 60.8% from the line and average only 10.5 points per game from free throws. In the other 21 games, the Flashes averaged 16.5 points from the line per game and shot 75.7%.
Free throws have been a speciality of Starkey’s teams. Over the coach’s four years here, Kent has been a cumulative sixth in the country in free throws made and 14th in free throws attempted
Five KSU players averaged in double figures: Dingle (13.3), Blackford (12.4), Shumate (12.3), Carter (11.9) and Thall (11.7). That totals 61.6. No other MAC team had so many double-digit scorers.
The last time that happened in Kent? Maybe the 1989-90 team, which averaged 93.6 points a game. More definitive numbers aren’t on the KSU website.
64 and 63
Lindsey Thall made 64 three-point shots and blocked 63 shots, totals that made her the only Division I player to reach 60 in both categories.
In her two seasons, she has 130 three-point baskets, already fifth all-time at KSU, and 116 blocks, tied for fourth in KSU history.
The Kent State record for 3-pointers in a career is 212, set by Larissa Lurken from 2013 to 2017. The record for blocked shots is 250 by Mary Bukovac between 1986 and 1989. Second highest number of blocks is 162 by Andrea Csaszar between 2000 and 2004.
Thall is Kent’s only player on the roster to start every game in her career.
Number of games Kent State’s starting six plus senior Ali Poole missed because of injury or suspension (just two games for suspension). Poole started 19 games and played in all 33 in 2018-19. She was KSU’s fourth-leading scorer. She partially tore her ACL in summer, then tore it again in January and had career-ending surgery. She scored only nine points in her senior year.
“Starting six” counts point guards Mariah Modkins and Asiah Dingle as starters. Modkins moved into the lineup for KSU’s last 13 games. Dingle played starter minutes off the bench (and led KSU in scoring).
Number of games Kent State’s top seven players missed in 2018-19.
The average home attendance for the Flashes this season, according to the MAC.
Is that a record? I think so, but records are sketchy, especially before 1990. In the 30-odd years I’ve followed KSU women’s basketball, the previous attendance peak was about 1,100 or 1,200 around the turn of the century.
During those years, Dawn Zerman, Julie Studer and Carrie Nance led the best teams in Kent State history.
A digression: Between 1997-98 and 2001-02, Kent State went 91-28, won four MAC East titles and two overall league titles, played Toledo all four years in the tournament finals, winning twice. The 1999-20 team went 25-6, the best record in school history. The 1997-98 team went 18-0 in the MAC.
(And yes, the Amy Sherry-led team in 1995-96 was as good as those teams. It went 24-7, tied for the MAC championship, lost to Toledo in the tournament finals and won its first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. But the previous year, the Flashes went 17-10; the next year they went 20-10.)
Back to this year’s attendance. Top crowds were:
- Ohio State: 4,272, almost certainly the largest crowd for a women’s game in Kent State history. (Again, records are sketchy.)
- Toledo: About 2,200. Official attendance was 5,218, the attendance of the men’s game, which was first of a doubleheader. One ticket got you in both games. But all those fans didn’t all stay for the women. So 2,200 is my estimate.
- St. Bonaventure: 2,104. At least 1,500 of the crowd was under 12 as part of a noon “Kid’s Day” game.
- Bowling Green: 1,961.
- Miami: 1,872.
Toledo, Bowling Green and Miami were all Saturday games, which draw about 400 or 500 more than Wednesday contests.
Four years ago, the Flashes surprisingly won the MAC East in Starkey’s first season. Average attendance was 867.
The report card:
Before the conference season, I wrote a post about “Seven Keys to the Conference Season.” After most games, I did a “report card” on how well the team did on those goals.
Here’s the season wrap-up. First number is for all games. Parenthesis is MAC games, which give a better idea of how the team was doing toward the end of the season:
- Score more than 70 points: 69.6 average per game. (69.0)
- Hold opponent under 70: 68.5. (67.1)
- Make 40% of shots: 39.4%. (40.0)
- Hold opponent under 40%: 41.1%. (39.1)
- Outscore opponent by five on free throws: Average of +1.7.
- Outscore opponent by five off of turnovers: +5.0 per game.
- Have 14 assists: 10.9.
- Get 10 points from the bench: 16.5.
Stats exclude game against Division III Hiram in line with national analytics sites, which count only games agains Division I opponents.