KSU’s freshman Nila Blackford had her second double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. She’s led KSU in rebounding every game. (Photo from team website.)
Kent State had been looking for a spark off the bench all season, and got a good one Saturday from sophomore Hannah Young.
Young led a third-quarter rally that saw the Flashes make their first 11 shots from the field after halftime. Young went four for four with a 3-point basket during that time.
KSU’s shooting cooled in the fourth quarter, but the Flashes made all 14 of their free throws in the last two minutes to post a 75-67 win over Purdue Fort Wayne.
Kent State’s record is now 3-1; Fort Wayne is 2-3.
Young had scored eight points off the bench against Michigan Friday on two-of-two shooting. Her 17 points off the bench this weekend are more than all other Kent State reserves combined this season.
“I knew we could use a little bit of a spark,” Young said, “and I came out with every thing I had.”
How does it feel when every shot is going in — for her and the team?
“Honestly, you take your shot and you forget what just happened. Then you keep on going and keep playing your game.”
Coach Todd Starkey said Young played “really well.”
“We always talk about that — you never know what it’s going to be your opportunity,” he said. “And certainly it was hers today., and she took full advantage of it. So I’m really pleased. She’s been working hard.”
Even though Kent State led for all but 15 seconds of the game, it was probably the team’s worst game in its three victories. The Flashes made 22 turnovers — seven more than their next highest. Fort Wayne had only 12, the fewest an opponent has had all season, though somehow Kent State outscored the Mastodons 13-12 from turnovers.
“We got careless,” Starkey said. “We weren’t playing connected with each other, and we didn’t execute our press offense very well.”
The cure, freshman Katie Shumate, said, is to “slow down, get set up and stop thinking too much.”
“Having that many turnovers is not going to get us where we want to be.”
Fort Wayne had lost to fellow MAC school Ball State by 31 points and to Akron by 11.
“We’re finding ways to win, but we definitely have a large margin for improvement,” Starkey said. “We have to play much more disciplined on the defensive end. We had way too many turnovers. We gave up way too many offensive rebounds.
“This team is young, but we have to continue to grow.”
The key, Starkey said, is more consistency in games and in practice. How does the coaching staff teach consistency?
“By the discipline that you have in practice every day. So we gotta got gotta tighten the screws a little bit in practice and not letting them get away with some things. We’ve tried to be patient because of our youth, but sometimes when you’re when you’re a little bit too patient, some complacency creeps in.”
Asiah Dingle led KSU with 17 points. Nila Blackford had her second double-double of the season with 16 and 10 rebounds, and Katie Shumate scored 16 points and had three steals. Young and Lindsey Thall had nine points and Megan Carter eight.
Next for the Flashes is their second Big Ten opponent in five days.
Ohio State visits the M.A.C. Center Thursday for the the teams’ first game in 37 years. The Buckeyes are 2-0, including a 78-73 overtime win at Cincinnati. They play MAC favorite Ohio in Columbus Sunday.
Thursday’s game starts about 7:30 p.m. and is the second game of a doubleheader with the KSU men, who play Division II Concord at 5 p.m.
Akron plays Michigan tough but falls 80-71
The Zips led No. 24 Michigan going into the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines outscored Akron 25-13 the rest of the game to win 80-71.
Michigan had beaten Kent State 88-53 on Friday.
On Saturday the Zips made the 3-point shots Kent State had missed the previous day. Michigan had a far lower 3-point percentage than against KSU.
Akron trailed by 15 in the first quarter but rallied to trail by seven at halftime. Then the Zips outscored Michigan 24-14 in the third quarter, finishing the period with two 3-point baskets to take a 68-65 lead.
Michigan went ahead 62-61 on a three-point play two minutes into the fourth quarter and controlled the rest of the game, shooting 70% in the fourth quarter. Against Kent State, Michigan shot 75% in the last 10 minutes.
For the game, Michigan made 59.6% of its shots, even better than the 54.7% they shot against Kent State. But the Wolverines were two of 10 from 3-point distance for the game. Against Kent, Michigan was nine of 17.
Akron made 11 of its 27 three-point shots for 40.7%. Friday KSU was five of 27 for 185%.
Akron is 2-1 on the season. Michigan is 4-0 against four mid-major teams, three of them from the MAC. (The Wolverines beat Western Michigan 76-55 in their opener. They play Notre Dame Saturday and at Eastern Michigan, another MAC team, Nov. 27.)
More on the game is on the Akron website.
- Kent State outrebounded the Mastodons 41-24. The Flashes had 12 offensive rebounds, Purdue Fort Wayne 11. Fort Wayne outscored KSU on second-chance points 16-7.
- The Flashes continue to struggle with their passing game on offense. They had only nine assists on 24 baskets and are averaging fewer assists than last year, when they were 311th of 351 Division I teams in assist per game.
- Kent State made 49% of its shots, its highest of the season by 7 points. The Flashes struggled from the 3-point line for the third straight game. After going 10-for-19 from distance in its opener, KSU has made 14 for 56 since. That’s 25%.
- Thall had eight rebounds, one off her career high, and blocked two shots. She has blocked eight in four games; last season she led the MAC in blocks. Her three assists equaled a career high.
- Blackford, a 6-2 freshman from Louisville, Kentucky, has led the team in rebounding in every game and averages 8.8 a game. She was fouled 10 times Saturday and drew nine against Michigan Friday. When she was on the floor Saturday, Kent State outscored Fort Wayne by 18 points.
- Kent State’s weekend games were part of the Akron Classic, in which Kent and Akron play the same two teams in a two-day event. Next year the games will be in Kent as the Kent Classic.
An earlier version of this story said Kent State made 12 free throws in the last two minutes. I counted wrong. It was 14.
Lindsay Thall is Kent State’s second-leading scorer at 16 points a game and has blocked six shots in two games. (Photo by David Dermer.)
Kent State coach Todd Starkey had just been asked about the challenges No. 24 Michigan will present to his team in its game on Friday.
“Oh, wow,” he said. “Where do I begin?”
Let’s try this:
- Michigan starts two sophomores who were high school all-Americans.
- One, 6-2 forward Naz Hillmon, was Big Ten freshman of the year last season and a unanimous preseason all-Big Ten selection this year.
- All five starters are taller than six feet. (“Bigger than we are at every position,” Starkey said.)
- 6-foot-4 freshman Izabel Varejão, niece of former Cav Anderson Varejao, comes off the bench.
- Michigan was 22-12 last season and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. Media members picked the Wolverines second in the Big Ten this season.
Michigan is 2-0, with 20-point home wins over mid-majors Western Michigan and Bradley. Both of those teams ranked lower than KSU last season. Kent State is also 2-0 with close road wins over mid-majors Duquesne and Youngstown State.
The game is at the unusual time of 2 p.m. Friday at the James A. Rhodes Arena at the University of Akron. It’s part of the Akron Classic, a two-day event in which Kent and Akron play the same teams. Next year the event will be in Kent and be the Kent State Classic.
The Flashes will play Purdue Fort Wayne at noon Saturday.
“It’s going to be a task for us,” Starkey said. “We’re going to have to play much better and more efficient basketball than we have in our first two games.”
Like Michigan, Duquesne was bigger than Kent State at most positions. The Dukes outrebounded KSU 29-17 on the way to a seven-point first-half lead. Kent State managed a 17-15 rebounding edge in the second half, when some of Duquesne’s bigger, more experienced players were in foul trouble.
“In our first two games, we didn’t come out and play our best to start with,” Starkey said, a statement echoed by players Asiah Dingle and Megan Carter after the Youngstown State game, when KSU trailed by five at halftime.
“And we’ve have to get much better ball movement,” Starkey said. “We’re trying to do way too much one-on-one basketball, trying to create things ourselves as opposed to sharing the ball. Ball movement and spacing are the enemy of defenses. So we’ve got to get better.”
The Flashes have 17 assists on 53 baskets this season. Their 8.5 average is even worse than last year, when the Flashes ranked 311th of 351 teams at 10.6 per game.
“Defensively we’ve have to be be a lot more connected,” the coach said. “When there’s better communication on the defensive side, you can do some things to counter the other team is doing.”
Starkey has talked a lot about “connection” this season. It’s more than just players talking to each other on defense, he said.
“It’s a level of comfort with playing with the people around you,” he said. “And that only comes with experience. When you’re playing three players that weren’t even a part of the program last year, that affects the chemistry onto court — not how they get along, but how they function together as a unit. We’re going to get better. But it’s something that we knew was probably going to be the case” early in the season.
KSU’s top five players — Carter, Dingle, freshman guard Katie Shumate, freshman forward Nila Blackford and sophomore forward Lindsay Thall — have averaged 37 minutes apiece in two games. (That’s somewhat distorted by the five-minute overtime at Youngstown State.)
Next highest is freshman guard Clare Kelly’s seven minutes and senior forward Sydney Brinlee and sophomore guard Mariah Modkins’ five and a half minutes.
“That’s a puzzle piece that we’re working through, and it’s certainly on the front burner,” Starkey said. “I just have to do a better job of our substitution patterns. It’s my continuing to grow my level of trust with certain lineups.
“We’ve got to get more minutes from our bench players, but it can’t just be a matter of just playing people to play them. We need people that are ready to come in and contribute.”
Kent State’s top five all average in double figures. Outside of them, KSU has scored a total of eight points this season.
- Senior Ali Poole, who suffered a knee injury in August, didn’t dress against Youngstown after playing 13 minutes at Duquesne. “It’s kind of tweaked again,” Starkey said. “We’re working to get her back on the court, but we don’t know the exact timeline.” Poole started 19 games last season and was KSU’s fourth leading scorer.
- Michigan’s Hillmon went to high school at Cleveland’s Gilmour Academy and was twice Ohio Division II player of the year. She is a close friend of Kent State guard Mariah Modkins, who played with her in AAU basketball. Modkins went to Solon High School.
- Wolverine point guard Amy Dilk was a five-star recruit out of Carmel High School in Indiana. She was the state’s Miss Basketball in 2018.
- Kent State has played Michigan twice in Starkey’s four seasons. The Flashes have played well in both games, but lost 67-60 in the WNIT in 2016 and 54-41 in non-conference play in December 2016 after leading at halftime. Overall KSU is 0-5 against the Wolverines. All of the games have been in Ann Arbor.
- Purdue Fort Wayne, KSU’s Saturday opponent, is 2-1 but lost to the MAC’s Ball State by 31 points on Tuesday. The school has variously been called Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne, IPFW and just Fort Wayne over the last five years.
- Akron is 1-0 after a 63-54 victory at St. Bonaventure Monday. Kent State plays Bonaventure at the M.A.C.C. on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
- Kent State’s RPI, which was eighth of 353 Division I teams earlier in the week, has dropped to 63rd without the Flashes’ playing a game. Ball State, which is 1-1, is the new eights. Early season RPIs make no sense because there is not enough data for a decent computation.
How to follow the game
The game starts at 2 p.m. in Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena, which is a 20-minute drive from Kent. If you’re using a GPS, the address is 373 Carroll St, Akron. Here are directions and parking information from the school website. Tickets are $6 and also get you into the Akron-Fort Wayne game, which starts a half hour after the KSU game ends. Parking at UA’s nearby garages is $3 to $5.
Saturday’s game against Fort Wayne starts at noon.
As far as I can tell, neither game is televised.
Radio broadcast should start about 1:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio and WHLO (640 AM). Broadcast of the Fort Wayne game should start about 11:45 a.m.
Live statistics during both games can be found on the Akron website.
Preview from KSU team website, including links to roster, schedule, statistics and more.
Detailed media game notes from Kent State.
Preview from Michigan website, including links.
KSU recruits Casey Santoro (photo from a tweet from her father and coach) and Lexi Jackson (from KSU Twitter feed).
Kent State signed the two Class of 2020 recruits it had expected on Wednesday, and both look like strong additions to the Flashes for next year and beyond,
Wednesday was the first day high school players could sign a national letter of intent and the first day coaches could comment on their new players. Both players had tweet earlier that they planned to sign with Kent State.
The new Flashes are:
5-4 guard Casey Santoro
She’s a two-time first-team all-state guard from Bellevue High School, which is about halfway between Cleveland and Columbus. Santoro was district player of the year both her sophomore and juniors years.
She averaged 21.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 4.0 steals per game during her junior year and 22.5 points as a sophomore. Santoro last year scored 40 points in a game where she made 10 three-point shots.
“What I love first about Casey is her toughness,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said in an interview Wednesday. “She’s hyper competitive and a very smart player. She makes players around her better.
“As a point guard, she’s a phenomenal shooter. So you can’t help off of her; you have to know where she is at all times.”
Starkey said KSU had watched Santoro in high school and AAU basketball for several years.
“She was a player that we wanted in our program. She came to campus, enjoyed it and committed,” the coach said. “Sometimes a fit just happens quickly.”
Santoro is 5-4, about the same size as current sophomore point guard Asiah Dingle.
“She’s feisty,” the coach said “She doesn’t back down from anybody, I’m a results coach. I don’t care what their size is.”
Bellevue last season went 24-3 and was ranked eighth in the state in Division II. It lost in the regional finals. The team has won nine straight championships in two different leagues and five district titles in the past six seasons.
Casey is the sister of Carly Santoro, who was an all-MAC player for Bowling Green. Carly graduated early and transferred to Ohio State, where she started last season. The Santoro sisters’ father, Kory, is Bellevue’s head girls coach. A younger sister, Corey, is a junior on the Bellevue team and was second-team all-district last season.
6-4 center Lexi Jackson
Jackson is either 6-3 or 6-4, depending on what website you’re reading. She was a third-team member of the Pennsylvania Sports Writers 5A all-state team last season. One recruiting service ranked her the third best power forward in Pennsylvania.
At Gateway High School in suburban Pittsburgh, she averaged 16 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks a game last season. In one game, she had a triple-double of 37 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks.
“When you see her walking in the door, she has a presence with her size, ” Starkey said. “As you with her play, you really feel like her best basketball is definitely ahead of her. She’s still kind of learning how good she could be. I think she’ll just grow in her confidence and strength in as she goes through her senior year and gets here next year.”
Her team finished 19-4 last season, won its league title and lost in the regional quarterfinals.
Jackson had offers from at least four other mid-majors, including Western Michigan and James Madison, according to TribLive, a Pittsburgh online news site.
How they fit in
Kent State will lose seniors Megan Carter, Ali Poole and Sydney Brinlee to graduation. Carter was KSU’s leading scorer last season and was a preseason all-MAC East player this year. Poole has played both forward and wing and started 19 games last season. She was the team’s fourth leading scorer at 8.8 points a game but currently is limited because of a knee injury. Brinlee is a reserve forward who averaged five minutes a game last season and probably will play more this year.
Besides the two incoming freshmen, next year’s Flashes will have 6-4 Indiana transfer Linsey Marchese, who can practice but not play this season because of NCAA transfer rules. Marchese was a highly ranked high school recruit out of Georgia who was recruited by Starkey when he was an Indiana assistant. ESPN ranked her as a three-star recruit and the 14th best high school center in the country. Marchese was a backup at Indiana, averaging about 11 minutes a game over two years.
She, Jackson, current 6-2 freshman Nila Blackford and current 6-2 sophomore Lindsay Thall will give the flashes as much size on the front line as they’ve had in my memory.
“It’s going to be really good for both Lexi and Linsey to have to play against each other in practice every day,” Starkey said.
Santoro will have a chance to compete to replace Carter. Starkey has shown that he has no problem with playing two point guards together. But Santoro will have lots of competition; current freshman Clare Kelly was one of the best shooters in Ohio in high school. Current sophomore Hannah Young was the team’s top backup at shooting guard and wing last season.
The two-person class is the smallest in Starkey’s four years at Kent State. He said he didn’t expect to sign anyone else in the early signing period but that the team was still recruiting for possible spring signings. Undergraduate or graduate transfers are common in this era, and most of them are announced in April or later.
The Flashes still have two open scholarships for 2020 — more if someone transfers out, which has happened the last two years.
KSU will graduate guard Margaux Eibel and forward Monique Smith in 2021. Neither has played major minutes for the Flashes. Their recruiting class was put together in just four months after Starkey was named head coach in 2015. Three other members of that class have left the team. Eibel was a walk-on who earned a scholarship.
When Jackson tweeted her verbal commitment to Kent State in October, I wrote that she was the third member of the new recruiting class. KSU coaches had tweeted of a commitment in June, but NCAA rules don’t allow them to name names until signing day. It turns out that recruit was Jackson.
Freshman Nila Blackford had 19 rebounds and 25 points in two games last week. (Photo from KSU website.)
We’re No. 8.
Want a crazy number? Kent State is eighth in the country in super-early RPI rankings, according to RealTimeRPI, the service I use most. That’s out of 353 Division I teams.
Of course RPIs based on two games don’t mean much of anything. But, heck, it’s fun to see it. Kent State got its ranking by winning two games on the road against decent opponents. Road wins count heavily toward a good ranking.
RPI is based on a team’s record, its opponents record and opponents’ opponents’ record. Home wins count 0.6. Road wins count 1.4. Neutral site games — like KSU’s game against Michigan at the Akron Classic this Friday — count 1.0. RPI is used to some extent for seedings in postseason tournaments and as fodder for fan discussions.
According to the RealTimeRPI rankings, No. 1 is TCU. Princeton is second and Navy third. Oregon, the top-ranked team in both the Associated Press and coaches’ poll, isn’t even ranked yet because it hasn’t played a regular season game. It only beat the U.S. National team in an exhibition game Sunday.
RealTimeRPI also does Power Rankings, which also take into account a team’s record last season, margin of victory and other factors. Kent State is 180th in that one. And so early-season rankings go.
If you follow the link, the rankings may well have changed. ReadTimeRPI updates them constantly.
About the freshmen and the defense
It’s Michigan week — featuring the first of three games against Big Ten teams — for the Kent State women’s basketball team.
The Flashes face the No. 24 Wolverines at 2 p.m. Friday in the Akron Classic at the James A. Rhodes Arena. Later in the preseason, they face Ohio State in Kent and Purdue in West Lafayette.
Michigan is 2-0, with wins in Ann Arbor over Western Michigan (76-55) and Bradley (77-57). We’ll be writing a lot more about the Wolverines this week, but first let’s take stock of Kent State, which is 2-0 with road wins against Duquesne and Youngstown State.
First-year players Nila Blackford and Katie Shumate played key roles in the Flashes’ wins. Shumate scored 17 points against Duquesne and 16 against YSU and leads the Flashes in scoring at 16.5 points a game. Blackford led KSU in rebounding in both games (nine against the Dukes, 10 against the Penguins). She also averages 12.5 points a game.
“It’s a nice thing to have those two,” coach Todd Starkey said, “and they’re just learning as they go. They’ll continue to get better and better. I’ve just told them, ‘You two just play hard, and we’ll make corrections as you go. I don’t want you to play passive.'”
Blackford worked very hard under the basket in both games. She had six offensive rebounds in the first half against YSU. Against Duquesne, she grabbed a rebound in traffic in the last minute to keep the score tied.
“She’s a lot to handle,” Starkey said. “She got really frustrated (against Youngstown) when she struggled to finish. If she makes some of those layups, she’s probably got 25 points instead of 14.”
Blackford is a 6-2 forward from Louisville. She was all-state first team, regional player of the year and a finalist for Kentucky Miss Basketball. She comes from an athletic family. Her mother played basketball and her father played football at the University of Louisville.
Shumate, a 5-11 guard from Newark, is from another family of athletes. Her father, JR, was her high school coach and leads one of the most successful programs in the state. Her sister, Emma, just verbally committed to West Virginia. Her brother was a sophomore at Walsh University and was freshman of the year in the Division II Great Midwest Athletic Conference. Katie was second team all-state and district player of the year in high school.
Shumate is second on the team in rebounding to Blackford, averaging six per game. She’s also second on the team in steals and tied for second in assists and blocked shots. She’s probably been KSU’s best defender in both games. Saturday she held Youngstown point guard Chelsea Olson, who had a triple-double in YSU’s opener, to five points, three assists and six rebounds.
“Katie always takes on the difficult tasks,” senior guard Megan Carter, KSU’s leading scorer last season, said after the Youngstown game. ” and I think that starts in practice. She guards me every day. So Megan, I’ll be there. We go at it pretty much every day.”
Still, Starkey thinks the Flashes need the most work on defense. In both games, Kent had one terrible quarter and was solidly behind after the first half.
“The defense right now is a little bit of our Achilles heel,” the coach said. “We’ve got to get better at communication and shore things up, especially against Michigan on Friday.”
Opponents shot better than 50% in the first half of both games. But the Flashes allowed Duquesne to 13 in the fourth quarter and YSU to 12 in the fourth quarter and seven in overtime.
“Much better defense down the stretch,” Starker said after both games.
The view from Youngstown State
Coach John Barnes, as quoted in the Jambar, YSU’s student newspaper:
““I think it was a hard fought game against a good team. [We were] in a position to win the game. They did either a good job of taking it away from us, or we did a good job of giving it to them.”
“We just were very soft. I think our toughness was not there when it came down the stretch. Throughout the game, we played hard and we were pretty tough, but when it came to crunch time, we had a lot of bad turnovers and mental mistakes.”
““Turnovers (YSU 22, KSU 10) and offensive rebounds (KSU 18, YSU 9) were the difference.”
- Kent State averaged 79.5 points in its first two games and gave up 74.0. That’s well above both numbers last year, when KSU averaged 65.5 and allowed 63.2. KSU’s shooting percentage is 39.0, slightly better than last year’s 37.2. Its defensive percentage is 46.3, way above last season’s 38.4. Three-point defense is about the same, so opponents are doing much better inside the arc, where the new lineup struggling some with team defense.
- Kent State’s turnover margin averaged plus-9.5 in the two games. They averaged 14.5 more points off turnovers than their opponents. Last season the turnover margin was plus-5.2 and points-off-turnover margin was plus-2.7. Starkey has made it a point of emphasis this season to score more off the other team’s mistakes.
- All five Kent State starters average in double figures. But all five average more than 34 minutes a game. Shumate played all but one minute against Duquesne; Blackford played all but one minute against Youngstown. Next highest is another freshman, Clare Kelly, who played seven minutes in both games.
- Sophomore guard Hannah Young saw her first action of the season Saturday, playing three minutes. She was one of the team’s top reserves last season.
- Sophomore Annie Pavlansky, just about the last person off the bench last year, played minutes in a close game for the second straight time. She’s from Cortland, about 17 miles from Youngstown. She has filled in for Blackford and Lindsay Thall at forward.
- KSU has averaged just 8.5 assists in the two games. Last season the Flashes averaged 10.6 assists, which was 311th of 351 Division I teams.
Around the MAC
- Ohio (1-1) 81, American (0-1) 69 at Ohio. Ohio, which lost its opener to No. 21 Syracuse, is the MAC favorite. American was picked fifth in the Patriot League. Ohio’s Erica Johnson had the team’s first triple-double in history — 24 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists.
- Northern Illinois (1-1) 74, North Dakota State (0-2) 68 in overtime at North Dakota State. NIU was picked second in the MAC West. North Dakota State was picked seventh in the Summit League.
- Bowling Green (2-0) 79, Morehead State (0-1) 65 at Bowling Green. BG was picked last in the MAC East. Morehead State made the WNIT last season and was picked fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference.
- Dayton (2-0) 60, Toledo (1-1) 42 in Toledo. Dayton was picked second in the Atlantic 10. Toledo was picked third in the MAC East.
- Buffalo (2-0) 81, Niagara (0-2) 67 at Niagara. Buffalo is picked second in the MAC East. Niagara was picked seventh in the Metro Atlantic.
- Akron (1-0) 63, St. Bonaventure (1-2) 65 at St. Bonaventure. Akron was picked fifth in the MAC East. St. Bonaventure, which plays at Kent Dec. 3, was picked 13th in the Atlantic 10.
- No. 18 DePaul 98 (1-0), Miami (0-1) 79 in preseason WNIT at DePaul. Miami was picked fourth in the MAC East.
- No. 24 Michigan 76 (2-0), West Michigan (0-1) 55 at Michigan. Kent State plays Michigan Friday. Western was picked fifth in the MAC East.
Kent State’s Asiah Dingle Drives on Duquesne’s Amanda Kalin during Tuesday’s game, won by KSU 77-75. Dingle had 12 points, four assists and two steals. (Photo by David Dermer.)
Both Kent State and Youngstown State got the victories they wanted in their openers.
Now the teams meet Saturday in the second big road challenge for the Flashes this season. The game is at 1 p.m. in the Beeghley Center at YSU.
A second-half rally brought KSU from 13 points behind to a 77-75 win at Duquesne Tuesday. Senior Megan Carter hit a four-foot floater with 0.2 seconds to go for the game-winning basket.
Youngstown routed Canisius 87-59 behind a triple-double from junior guard Chelsea Olson, who had 13 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
This game should be very different for the Penguins. Canisius hasn’t had a winning season since 2008-09 and had lost to YSU three straight times.
Kent State has beaten Youngstown all three years Todd Starkey has been head coach. Last year KSU destroyed the Penguins 62-34 in Kent, the Flashes’most lopsided win of the year against a Division I team and the most lopsided loss of the year for YSU.
KSU held Youngstown to 17.2% shooting in that game. Carter led the Flashes with 20 points; Mariah Modkins, starting in place of an injured Asiah Dingle, had 14.
Youngstown State went on to a 22-10 season and a berth in the WNIT. The Penguins were 15-1 at home last season.
The Penguins lost their top two scorers from last season to graduation but have added 5-5 transfer guard Ny’Dajah Jackson from Providence, who led YSU in scoring with 22 points Tuesday. 5-8 redshirt freshman guard Taylor Petit scored 15 and 6-3 senior forward Mary Dunn had 13. Dunn was first-team all-Horizon League last remember; Olson was second team.
Here’s link to YSU story on Canisius game, which in turn links to the box score, comments from coach John Barnes and players, the team roster and schedule and more.
Like Duquesne, Youngstown is a successful program, averaging 18 wins a season over the last five years.
Against Duquesne, five Kent State players scored in double figures, something that happened only once last season. Sophomore forward Lindsay Thall scored 22, freshman guard Katie Shumate 17, Dingle and Carter each had 12, and freshman forward Nila Blackford had 11. Blackford led the Flashes with nine rebounds.
KSU made 52.6% of its 3-point shots, include five of six in the second half. Thall made six of nine, one basket off the school record. Shumate made two of two.
In the second half, Kent State shot 53.9% overall and outrebounded Duquesne 17-15 after being beaten on the boards 29-13 in the first half.. In the game, KSU forced 21 Duquesne turnovers and scored 24 points off of them.
To follow the game
The game is at 1 p.m. at the Beeghly Center, which is at 224 W. Spring St. in Youngstown. It’s “Food Can Drive” game. Tickets are $5 if you bring a canned good. Others, they are $12. Here is information on tickets, parking and more from the YSU website.
Audio starts at about 12:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.
Video is streamed on ESPN3, which is a free streaming service if you get EPSN.
Live statistics during the game are available through Youngstown State website.
Kent State team site, which has links to roster, schedule, statistics and more.
Youngstown State site, with links.
Point guard Asiah Dingle is one of two Flashes who made last season’s MAC all-freshman team. The other is Lindsay Thall, who’s Not 44 in the background. (Photo from KSU website.)
Tuesday is Game 1 of what looks to be a promising season for the Kent State women’s basketball team.
The Flashes play Duquesne, a traditionally strong program that lost four starters to graduation. The game is at the PPG Paints Arena, home of hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and will start at about 8:30. It’s the second game of a double header with the Duquesne men, who play Princeton at 6 p.m.
Kent State returns 83 percent of its scoring from a team that went 20-13 last season and beat Green Bay in the first round of the WNIT. It was the Flashes’ first postseason win in 23 years. The 20 wins were the team’s most 2011.
Duquesne went 19-13 last season, which actually was second worst in the last 10 years. But the Dukes graduated their top three scorers. Leading returnee is point guard Libby Bazelak, who averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 assists last season. Also returning is 5-10 guard Nina Aho, who played five games last season before an injury. Coach Dan Burt calls Aho, who started 15 games as a freshman, the key to the Duquesne season.
Top freshman is 6-2 wing Amaya Hamilton. Two other freshmen are 6-2 and 6-4, giving the Dukes size the team didn’t have for the last four years.
“We lost a tremendous amount,” Burt said at the Atlantic 10 Conference press day. “We’re completely unproven. We’re not as talented as we’ve been in the past. But we have great size and length and our commitment to one another is outstanding.
“We’re going to have to be different to be good. We haven’t been in this position for a long time because we always had returners. In one way it’s scary, and in another way, it’s absolutely refreshing.”
Kent State’s lineup is still somewhat up in the air. Senior Megan Carter, the team’s returning scorer at 15.9 points per game, suffered an injured thumb in practice about 10 days ago. Senior Ali Poole (8.8 points per game) injured a knee in summer workouts and didn’t practice most of fall. “We’re optimistic,” coach Todd Starkey said Friday.
Almost certain to start are the Flashes’ two members of was season’s MAC all-freshman team, point guard Asiah Dingle (12.9 points per game) and forward Lindsay Thall (10.3). Dingle stepped up her game substantially on the team’s summer exhibition trip to British Columbia. Thall led the MAC in 3-point percentage and blocked shots last season.
Freshmen Katie Shumate, a 5-9 guard from Newark, Ohio, and Nila Blackford, a 6-2 forward from Louisville, also are potential starters. Shumate was second on the team in scoring on their Canadian trip; Blackford led the team in rebounding.
Blackford also led the team in scoring and rebounding in the team’s scrimmage last weekend at the University of Pittsburgh. NCAA rules don’t allow Starkey to talk in detail about scrimmages, but he did say:
“I learned we could still be a pretty good basketball team when we didn’t shoot the ball well. I think that’s kind of validations of what we have the potential to be.”
As he has since summer, Starkey worries about the team’s lack of experience. Tuesday’s starting lineup could well include two freshmen and two sophomores, though both sophomores started almost every game last season.
“We’re going to make some mistakes because our freshmen are going to play considerable minutes. That’s will affect our ability to execute certain things because of lack of experience.
“But when we play connected, communicate on the court and move the basketball, we’re going to be difficult to deal with.”
Duquesne beat Kent State 77-72 in Kent last season, overcoming a KSU lead with a 18-9 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“We beat ourselves,” Dingle said. “It’s time for some payback.”
How to follow the Flashes
The game will start a half hour after the end of the Duquesne men’s game against Princeton. ‘that should be about 8:30 p.m. PPG Paints Arena is a little less than a two-hour drive from Kent. Here is a link to directions and parking from the arena website. Tickets are $25; one ticket gets you in both games.
Audio starts at about 8:15 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.
Video is streamed on ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. You can sign up at the link. Most KSU non-conference games and a number of league games are on ESPN+, as are similar games for other MAC schools and many other mid-majors. Some men’s games are also on the channel.
Live statistics during the game are available through Duquesne website.
Preview from Kent State team site, which has links to roster, schedule, statistics and more.
Preview from Duquesne team site, with links.
A season preview from Allen Moff of the Record-Courier published Monday.
The Flashes travel to Youngstown State Saturday for a 1 p.m. game that will be streamed on ESPN3.
Flashes eighth in preseason ‘power rankings’
Hustle Belt, the website that covers Mid-American Conference sports, ranked KSU eighth in its preseason women’s basketball power rankings. Ohio, the consensus top team in the league, was ranked first. Central Michigan was ranked second.
Hustle Belt said KSU’s rebounding was suspect. The Flashes lost their top two re bounders from 2018-19 — 6-4 center Merissa Barber-Smith and four-year starting guard Alexa Golden. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Flashes’ top two rebounders were freshmen — 6-2 forward Nila Blackford and 5-11 guard Katie Shumate. Blackford led KSU in rebounding on its British Columbia trip.
Ohio was the league coaches’ consensus No. 1 in their preseason rankings, with Buffalo and Kent State second and third in the East and CMU and Northern Illinois first and second in the West. Toledo was third.
Hustle Belt ranked Ohio first, Central second, Toledo and Northern Illinois tied for third, followed by Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Miami, Kent State, Ball State, Akron, Western Michigan and Bowling Green.
Senior Jordan Korinek in action last season. She’s became Kent State’s 21st 1,000-point scorer last season and is the only active MAC player at the level going into this season. (Photo from kentstatesports.com)
The Kent State women open their 2017-18 season Saturday at Northern Kentucky, the first step in life without Larissa Lurken and — for a semester — without Megan Carter.
Lurken, who graduated in May, was MAC player of the year in 2016-17 after what almost certainly was the best season in Kent State basketball history, men’s or women’s. Her 23.5 scoring average was sixth in the country and highest in KSU history. She placed among MAC leaders in 9 of 13 statistical categories. If a team ever had a go-to player, it was she.
Carter, a redshirt sophomore, came on strong at the end of last season as a point guard. She never started but played more minutes than the woman who did, Naddiyah Cross. Starkey calls her the team’s most dynamic perimeter player.
But because of struggles in some lab classes in her former pre-med major, she’s academically ineligible. Coach Todd Starkey said this week that working around her absence was one of the hardest tasks of the non-conference season. (“The players would certainly say so, too,” Starkey said.
The Flashes, 19-13 last season and defending MAC East champions, still have a lot of firepower against Northern Kentucky, which was 9-22 last season but has nine new players on its roster.
6-2 senior forward Jordan Korinek, a preseason all-MAC East selection, is back. She averaged 15 points a game last season (18 in the second half) and is the only active 1,000-point scorer in the conference. Forward McKenna Stephens, back as a graduate student for a redshirt eligibility season, started every game but one last season. She made 44 percent of her three-pointers in conference play last season, best in the MAC, has a deadly 15-foot jumper and can rebound and score inside.
“Everybody who scouts us knows we’re going to play through Jordan,” Starkey said on Kent State’s Flashtalk radio show Thursday. “We just have to make sure we’re moving her around enough so it’s not predictable where she’s going to be. If we go two consecutive trips without the ball touching her hands, we’re not doing what do need to do.
“She doesn’t need to shoot every possession, just touch the ball. When people collapse on her, it opens up things for others, and if she can go one-on-one down low, she’s hard to defend.”
On the perimeter, Starkey said, the Flashes hope to get scoring from redshirt sophomore Tyra James, who is back after missing last year with an injury. James, an athletic 5-11 player, was third on the team in scoring a 9.4 points a game two seasons ago. Starkey also mentioned sophomore Ali Poole, another 5-11 guard who Starkey said had a very good off-season. Poole averaged 4 points in 14 minutes a game last season. She was a big scorer at Carrollton High School and scored in double figures three times last year, including 17 points and 5 for 5 shooting from three-point distance at Wright State.
Starkey said freshman Monique Smith, a 5-10 guard/forward from San Diego, could help the scoring through offensive rebounding and on fast breaks.
Beyond that, we’re likely to see Cross at point guard and Alexa Golden, a two-year starter and defensive specialist, at a guard spot. Golden did some good three-point shooting at the end of last season. Starkey would like to see her keep that up.
We also should see a good bit of Merissa Barber-Smith, a 6-foot-4 junior who averaged three rebounds in seven minutes a game last season and was third on the team in blocked shots. She had 11 rebounds against Western Michigan and 13 against Michigan , both teams with strong front lines, in less than a half of play.
Northern Kentucky is what Starkey called “a hard scout.” NKU has only four players back from last year’s team, which finished seventh in the Horizon League. Redshirt sophomore Molly Click led them with 13 points in a 94-55 romp over NAIA Division II Asbury in an exhibition game Saturday. Click was on the Horizon all-freshman team two years ago but was hurt in the first game of last season.
Six other players scored in double figures, including three freshmen. Senior guard Mikayla Terry, who was the only junior or senior to play, had 11, five assists and six turnovers. 5-10 freshman Kailey Coffee led the Norse with eight rebounds. 6-3 freshman Grayson Rose, who played at Garfield High School in Garrettsville, about 10 miles from Kent, had seven rebounds and 12 points.
Northern Kentucky is smaller than KSU in the post and a little larger at guard.
The game is the first of a road-heavy non-conference schedule for the Flashes. Kent has only two home games before MAC play starts. It plays five away games and five games at neutral sites, including two in the Akron Classic next weekend. Last season the Flashes were 7-7 on the road and 6-6 in the preseason.
The game preview on the team’s website, which has links to the roster, schedule, record book, etc.
Game preview from the Northern Kentucky website, with links to roster, schedule, etc.
To follow the game
The game starts at 1 p.m. Saturday and is on ESPN3. You can watch it online if you subscribe to ESPN on cable or satellite TV.
Audio starts at 12:50 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.
Live statistics will be available through the Northern Kentucky website.
- Northern Kentucky is in Covington, across the river from Cincinnati. Here are directions if you’re thinking about making the trip. The team’s nickname is the Norse. Mascot is a Viking.
- On the Flashtalk broadcast, Starkey said tentative plans for next season are for the Flashes to open with a weekend visit to North Carolina on Friday and North Carolina State on Sunday. The coach has said many times he believes in a tough non-conference schedule; that’s quite a start.
- Starkey wasn’t ready to name a starting line-up when I met with him this week. Korinek, Stephens and Golden, all starters last season, almost certainly will open the game. Cross, who has started 62 games over three years, probably will, though Starkey was experimenting with James at the point in practice. My guess on the fifth starter would be James if Cross starts at guard and Poole if she doesn’t. It’s possible Smith, the freshman guard/forward, could be in the lineup. I doubt she will be Saturday; I’m pretty sure she will at some point this season.
- Kent State’s next game is at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at Youngstown State. First home game isn’t until Thursday, Nov. 30, when the Flashes host Detroit Mercy.
- Here’s a preview on the Flashes from Hustle Belt, the website that covers the MAC. The site picked KSU third in the MAC East (coaches picked the Flashes second). An interesting insight from the preview: KSU was third in the conference in turnovers last season; that’s something they’ll need to improve on this year.