Freshman forward led all players with 23 points and nine rebounds. She leads the team in both categories this season.
It was the last seconds of the third quarter, and Megan Carter had just given Kent State a 43-41 lead with a nifty fake and 12-foot jump shot.
Twelve seconds later Ball State’s Jasmin Samz hit a long 3-point shot at the buzzer to give the Cardinals the lead going into the fourth.
Ball State went on to beat the Flashes 66-62 in Muncie in the opening game of the Mid-American Conference season. Neither team led by more than seven points throughout the game.
“It was a big momentum swing,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame interview with David Wilson on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. “A more mature team understands that as long as there’s time ticking off the clock, you’ve got to make sure you’re talking (on defense.)
“We had one person who didn’t talk on that possession, and that left one of their best shooters wide open.”
But Starkey said the game really wasn’t lost on that basket or some plays that didn’t go Kent’s way in the last minutes.
“We flat out beat ourselves,” he said. “This is a game we could have and should have won. We’re playing from behind all the way down the stretch. There were a couple of three-minute stretches where we just completely lost our minds.
“We’ve got to learn from that. If we do, I don’t think there is anybody in the league we can’t beat. If we don’t, I don’t think there’s anybody who can’t beat us.”
After KSU had taken a 48-46 lead on 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, Ball State outscored Kent 7-0 over the next 1:20. Three minutes later, the Flashes closed the score to 56-54, and BSU went on a 5-0 run over the next three minutes.
Ball State freshman Sydney Freeman — a 57% foul shooter going into the game — made six free throws in the last 40 seconds to seal the game.
The first half was as good a defensive performance as Kent State has shown all season. The Flashes held Ball State to 24 points and 30% shooting and led 26-24.
But in the second half, the Cardinals, just a 28.4% 3-point shooting team going into the game, made five of seven 3-point shots. Kent State made one of seven.
KSU freshman Nila Blackford had 23 points and nine rebounds and thoroughly outplayed Oshlynn Brown, Ball State’s preseason all-MAC forward. Blackford scored Kent State’s first six points of the second half and had a three-point play that give the Flashes the lead early in the third quarter. She scored seven points in the last 1:08 AS KSU tried to rally at the end.
Brown had five points and seven rebounds. She had averaged 12.4 and 9.8.
In the end, it was a hard-fought game between two teams that hope to contend in the MAC this season.
“This is the one we wanted,” Starkey said, “and we had a chance to steal it. This would’ve been a great way to get start conference play, but we couldn’t make enough place down the stretch to get the win.
“They’re a tough team. They’ve got good balance. They’re going to win a lot of games this year in the league,
“I think if we can get some things fixed, we’re going to win a lot.”
Kent State is 7-5 on the season. Ball State is 9-4 and already has won more games than it did all last season.
- It was Kent State’s 13th straight loss at Ball State, dating back to 1997. In the same time period, the Flashes are 12-2 in Kent. The two teams meet again at the M.A.C. Center Jan. 29.
- Carter had 13 points for Kent State, eight in the second half. Lindsey Thall had 10, all in the first half when she made two 3-point baskets in the first four minutes. Ball State adjusted its defense, and Thall was able to get off only one 3-pointer the rest of the game and none in the second half.
- Ball State is one of the better rebounding teams in the MAC, and Kent State battled them to a virtual draw (39-38 BSU). 5-4 guard Asiah Dingle had eight, one off her career high. She also had three assists, a block and two steals to go with seven points.
- The Flashes had nine turnovers, tying a season low. But Ball State had eight, lowest of the season for a Kent State opponent. The Cardinals had been committing the most turnovers in the conference. Kent State did outscore BSU off of those turnovers 9-4.
- The Flashes had a season-low six assists on 24 baskets. Getting more assists had been a point of emphasis for Kent State going into the conference season.
- KSU made 39.3% of its shots, about its season average and four points above Ball State’s league-leading defensive average. The Flashes were four of 14 from 3-point distance. Ball State’s shooting percentage was 38.3%, about three points below its average. But the Cardinals’ eight of 17 three-point shooting (47% and a season high by five points) was the difference in the game.
Kent State opens the home part of its MAC schedule at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Eastern Michigan in the M.A.C. Center. The Eagles beat Bowling Green 78-61 in Ypsilanti Saturday and are 6-6.
The view from Ball State
Coach Brady Sallee from video on Ball State website:
On freshman point guard Sydney Freeman, who led Ball State with 16 points and six assists: “It was a really good start for her against a couple of really good point guards with quickness. Every time they made a mistake on a ball screen, she made them pay. To have a freshman be that savvy is pretty special.”
On shutting down Kent State forward Lindsey Thall in the second half: “I might have mentioned her name 340,000 times at halftime. She’s a good player and deserves that much attention. The places she scored…we were supposed to be guarding her. We just had to get back to the plan.”
Other MAC scores
- Central Michigan (8-4) 77, Akron (7-5) 72 at Akron.
- Buffalo (10-2) 86, Miami (7-6) 72 at Miami.
- Ohio (8-4) 87, Northern Illinois 67 (4-8) at Ohio.
- Western Michigan (7-4) 84, Toledo (5-6) 72 at Western.
Kent State’s Monique Smith has averaged almost 11 minutes of playing time over the last four games, totaling more than she played all last season. She’s been among the first post players off the bench and three times has equaled her career high of four points. Smith is a 5-11 junior from San Diego.
Kent State’s Mid-American Conference opener at Ball State Saturday is reminiscent of the Flashes’ first game of the season.
Kent faces a good team on the road in a game that will help set the tone for the season.
The Flashes managed to win that first game against Duquesne on a last-second shot by Megan Carter. The win looks better and better as the season goes on; Duquesne won 10 games in a row before losing to Oklahoma State this week and is 10-3.
Ball State may be an even tougher game. The Cardinals are 8-4 and have won four straight games, including a three-game sweep of the Lobo Christmas Classic at the University of New Mexico. Their RPI ranking is 94 of 351 teams, fourth best among MAC teams. Kent State is third with an RPI of 75 and a record of 7-4.
BSU is the surprise team of the MAC, having been picked fifth in the MAC West after a 8-23 record last season. It was the only losing season in coach Brady Sallee’s eight years in Muncie. He has taken the Cardinals to the WNIT six times.
Last year’s team had been hit by injuries and unanticipated graduate transfers of its two best players. This year’s team has its top three players back from last season, along with the return of 2018’s top freshman from an injury. The Cardinals have added a freshman to the starting lineup who scored 1,700 points in high school.
“We’re going to have play really good basketball to have a chance to beat Ball State over there,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said. “They have very good balance. They have a very good coach. It’s a tough place to play.”
Statistically Ball State is the best defensive team in the MAC. The Cardinals allow 61.1 points a game, lowest in the league. They lead the MAC in field goal defense at 35.4% and are third in 3-point defense at 28.4%. They’re third in the league in rebounding margin at plus-2.5.
Offensively Ball State averages 67.5 points a game, eighth in the league, and makes 41% of its shots, fourth in the conference. Its 34.1% three-point shooting is third in the MAC.
The Cardinals’ weakness is turnovers, where their minus-2.08 margin in next to last in the MAC. They’ve made more turnovers than any team in the league.
Kent State will try to exploit that. The Flashes’s are third in the MAC with a plus-4.18 margin and make the fewest turnovers per game in the league in non-conference play.
The Flashes’ defense ranks statistically toward the bottom of the conference, especially its 43.8% field goal defense (12th of 12 team). KSU’s offense ranks third in scoring.
Both teams have balanced scoring. All five Kent State starters average in double figures. So do three of Ball State’s starters, and two other player average more than 8.5 points a game.
Ball State’s top player is 6-1 junior forward Oshlynn Brown, a preseason all-MAC West selection who averages 12.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.
All of KSU’s loses have come to teams in the top 50 in the country in RPI — Michigan (48), Ohio State (19) and Purdue (14) of the Big Ten and Troy (40) of the Sun Belt Conference.
Starkey says Kent State’s record reflects its performance well.
“We’re probably right where we deserve to be,” Starkey said. “We won some buzzer beaters, but we gave one away against Troy.
“So now it’s an 18-game (conference) season, and everybody’s good. There isn’t a single easy out in the conference.”
A long time ago
The last time Kent State’s women won at Ball State was 1997.
- Almost every current player on both teams hadn’t been born.
- Todd Starkey hadn’t gotten his first coaching job yet.
- Brady Sallee was a first-year assistant at Kent State under Bob Lindsay.
Since then, the Flashes have gone to Muncie 11 times and lost. They lost under five times under Lindsay, four times under coach Danny O’Banion and twice under Starkey. Last season the Flashes lost 48-44 in their worst offensive game of the season.
In Kent during that time period, KSU has won 12 of 14. The two teams will play at the M.A.C. Center on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
Preview from Kent State website, including links to roster, statistics, links and more.
Detailed media game notes form Kent State.
Ball State website, including links.
To follow the game
Tipoff is at 1 p.m. at Worthen Arena on the Ball State campus in Muncie, Indiana. It’s about a four-and-a-half hour drive. The address is 2000 W. University Ave., Muncie, if you’re using a GPS.
Video is streamed on ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. This link will connect you and tell you how to pay. More than half of KSU men’s and women’s basketball are on ESPN+, as are games from other MAC schools and other mid-major conferences. Some wrestling, gymnastic, baseball and softball events also are streamed.
Audio starts at about 12:45 on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.
Live statistics during the game will be on the Ball State website.
Alexa Golden gots a promotion
Alexa Golden, who graduated last May after starting for the Flashes four years, has been named director of operations for the women’s team.
She had been a graduate assistant. She took over most the duties of her new job when former operations director Alison Seberger took an assistant job at North Alabama in fall.
Golden got the job officially in December. In her four years playing for the team, she got both a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a masters in sports and recreation management. She started another masters in fall, but said on the team’s trip that she’ll put that on hold as she gets used to her new job.
Golden is only player in Kent State women’s basketball history to have 500 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 steals and 100 three-point field goals. She made the MAC all-defensive team as a senior and was voted as Kent State’s most valuable player last season.
Freshman Nila Blackford leads the Flashes in scoring at 13.5 points a game. But at one time or another, Sophomores Asiah Dingle and Lindsey Thall and senior Megan Carter all have held the scoring lead. All average in double figures, as does freshman Katie Shumate. (Photo from team Twitter feed.)
Earlier this week we wrote what Kent State needed to do to have a successful MAC season. But how successful can they be?
Everything — for the Flashes and every other team in the league — depends on how well they play on the road.
Let’s look at the league as a whole. Here’s how I’d rank the teams right now, grouped as teams I see as fairly even):
1-2-3. Central Michigan (7-4, RPI 55), Buffalo (9-2, RPI 70), Ohio (7-4, RPI 123).
4-5. Ball State (8-4, RPI 88), Kent State (7-4, RPI 76).
6-7-8. Akron (8-4, RPI 135), Miami (7-5, RPI 133), Bowling Green 76-5, RPI 119).
9-10. Western Michigan (7-4, RPI 176), Northern Illinois (4-7, RPI 165).
11-12. Eastern Michigan (5-6, RPI 199), Toledo (5-6, RPI 218).
RPI takes into account a team’s record and strength of schedule. Road wins are rewarded. Home losses hurt more.
I think that Akron, Bowling Green and Western Michigan may not be as good as the records say. Northern Illinois and Toledo may be better. But but that’s a discussion for another time.
Two things to notice: The MAC has no outstanding team so far. Last year, Central, Buffalo and Ohio all ranked in the top 35 in the RPI. Central and Buffalo made the NCAA tournament. Ohio was one of the best teams that didn’t.
But the MAC has no particularly weak team either. There are 351 Division I teams. The MAC’s lowest is Toledo at 218.
So we may see a lot of upsets this season, and upsets often come when a weaker team wins on its home court.
That’s why I say that road wins are the key to the season for KSU and all MAC teams.
GAMES THE FLASHES SHOULD WIN: Home games against Miami, Akron, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Toledo. (6 wins)
GAMES THE FLASHES SHOULD BE FAVORED: Ball State at home. Western Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois on the road. Say they win three of four. (3 more wins.)
That would be nine wins or a .500 season.
TOSS-UPS: Akron, Bowling Green, Miami on the road.
KSU AS UNDERDOG: Buffalo and Ohio at home. At Ball State.
HARD TO WIN: Central Michigan, Buffalo and Ohio on the road.
Win two of three of the toss-ups and one of the three “underdog games” and the Flashes are 12-6.
Win none of those, lose one more “favored” game and get upset at home, and it could be 7-9.
Win an extra “favored” game and knock off Buffalo or Ohio once, and we’re looking at 14-4 and a chance for the MAC title.
One last look at the key games: At Akron. At Bowling Green. At Northern Illinois. At Western. At Toledo. At Northern. At Ball State.
See the pattern?
In non-conference play, Kent State went 2-1 in true road games. The Flashes won by two points at Duquesne, a team similar in record and RPI to Ball State. They won in overtime at Youngstown State, a team similar to Akron and Miami.
At a neutral site, they lost in the last 20 seconds to to Troy, a team similar in record to Buffalo, Central and Ohio. (Other losses were to Ohio State at home, Purdue away and Michigan at a neutral site. No MAC team looks that good.)
7-9 to 12-6. Watch the road games, starting Saturday at Ball State.
Flashes in the huddle late in their 92-36 win over Hiram Monday. (WbbFlashes photo.)
Since the start of the blog, I’ve done a “Keys to the Season” and/or a “Keys to the Conference Season.”
I’m going to do it a little differently this season, instead listing some benchmark numbers I think the team has to meet in order to have a good MAC season. I define that as finishing in the top four and getting a bye to the quarterfinals of the league tournament in Cleveland.
The Flashes have scored 70 points in six of their seven non-conference wins. They haven’t scored 70 in any of their four losses. Last year’s team averaged just 65.5 points a game and won on defense; this year’s has to score.
The team struggled on defense early in the season but has allowed an average of 63.5 over the last four games. Two were against good teams (loss to Purdue 77-64 and loss to Troy 71-64. Two were to less-good teams (St. Bonaventure and Georgia Southern).
(I’m not counting statistics from KSU’s 92-36 win over Hiram in any of this. The Flashes won’t play a team anywhere near as weak as Division III Hiram in the MAC.)
So 70 in the benchmark: Score at least 70. Hold the opponent under 70.
40 percent shooting.
Here’s another number that can count both on offense and defense.
Kent State has made more than 40% of its shots in only three games — Duquesne, Fort Wayne and Robert Morris.
Seven opponents have shot better than 40%.
That’s not sustainable. The last four opponents — none of which were great shooting teams — have averaged almost exactly 40%. That’s encouraging. The average shooting percentage in the MAC last season and so far this year is about 40.
So once again the goal is to shoot at least 40% and hold opponents below that number.
+5 free throws
Kent State has made up for its below-average shooting at the foul line and with turnovers.
The Flashes outscored opponents at the foul line by about six a game so far this season. It’s been a lot more than that — plus-13 — in the six games they’ve won. Over coach Todd Starkey’s four seasons, the Flashes have been among the nation’s leaders in free throws attempted and made. It’s made a difference in many games.
+5 points off turnovers
It’s hard to believe I’m writing this. Throughout the five years before Starkey arrived and through his first two years, the Flashes were near the bottom of the MAC in turnover margin. Currently they’re second.
The number I’m using is points off turnovers, however. As Starkey has said consistently after games, turnovers don’t do much good unless they become points.
Kent State has on average scored six more points off turnovers than its opponents. It even had an advantage against the three Big Ten teams it lost to. But a warning: Troy was the toughest mid-major the Flashes have played and the kind of team they will have to beat to compete in the MAC. The Flashes were even in turnovers through three quarters and minus-10 in the fourth quarter, and the game slipped away.
“We’re a much better team when we share the ball,” Starkey said after the Hiram game, when the Flashes had 25 assists, their most in seven years.
But KSU hasn’t done that very well over the last two years. The Flashes were in the bottom 40 in the country in assists per game last season at 10.8 per game. This season isn’t a lot better at 11.2 (not counting the Hiram game).
14 was the Starkey mentioned after the Flashes beat Robert Morris 82-81. They had 18 assists in that game. But over the last three, they’ve averaged 10.7.
Fourteen is a pretty modest goal. It would have been sixth in the MAC last season.
10 points a game from the bench
Kent State’s most significant victories have been in one-possession games against Duquesne, Youngstown State and Robert Morris. Its closest loss came in the last 19 seconds when Troy outscored the Flashes 7-0 in the last 19 seconds.
In those four games, KSU got a total of 10 points from its reserves. It was 0 against Duquesne, two versus Robert Morris and Troy and five against YSU. (I’m counting Megan Carter as a starter in the opener. She wasn’t in the lineup because of an injury but came in and played 35 minutes. She’s started every other game.)
Kent’s five starters all average in double figures. But no one else averages more than four points per game. Clare Kelly scored 20 points against Hiram; Hannah Young had 14. If they can score six or eight in most games, and reserve forwards Ali Poole, Sydney Brinlee and Monique Smith can add a couple of baskets, life will be a lot easier.
I’ll update how the team is doing on this numbers throughout the conference season.
Freshman Clare Kelly scored 20 points and had five rebounds against Hiram. She had 11 points in her previous nine games combined. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)
Kent State coach Todd Starkey has been wanting three more things from his team over the last month: points from his bench, more assists and better defense.
He got all three Monday as his team overpowered Division III Hiram 92-36 in KSU’s last non-conference game of the year.
The Flashes will open the Mid-American Conference season at Ball State Saturday with a 7-4 record, the same non-league record they had last season.
Against Hiram, Kent State:
- Got 29 points from its bench, led by 14 points from sophomore guard Hannah Young. That’s three times its season average. The Flashes got 20 more points from freshman Clare Kelly, who usually comes off the bench. She started in place of Katie Shumate.
- Had a season-high 25 assists, led by nine from backup point guard Mariah Modkins and eight from starting point Asiah Dingle. Both were career highs. The 25 assists were KSU’s most since 2012.
- Held the Terriers to 26% shooting, lowest by any opponent this season. Hiram’s 36 points were the lowest against Kent this season.
- Won by the third-biggest margin in school history.
Now this was Hiram, a team with a 3-9 record that, like all Division III schools, gives no athletic scholarships. The Terriers had no starter taller than 5-foot-9.
The individual story of the game was Kelly, whose 20 points were nine more than she had scored all season. The freshman from Olmsted Falls was one of the best 3-point shooters in the state in high school but hadn’t found the range in college. She had made just three of 18 before Monday.
Against Hiram she made five of eight from 3-point distance and 7 of 10 overall. She had five rebounds and a steal in a team-high 26 minutes.
“That’s no surprise to anybody on our team,” Starkey said. “We see her do that routinely in practice. So tonight everybody else got to see that.
“It was good to see her get in a rhythm and her teammates’ get excited about it. But I told her on the bench at the end of the game that I was more pleased with her defense and her rebounding.”
Kelly said it was nice to see the ball go in the basket.
“In past games, some of my shots haven’t been going in,” she said. “But I just have to know to trust my shot and trust my teammates for making great passes to me. They make the game of basketball fun. I’m sharing their energy when they make extra passes.”
The passes and assists were a key part of the game plan, Starkey said.
“The No. 1 thing that we wanted to accomplish was to get over 20 assists,” the coach said. “We really want to emphasize sharing the basketball. We’ve got good individual players who can create for themselves, but one thing we’ve got to do is a better job of creating for each other.”
Young’s 14 points and eight rebounds were both career highs for her. She also had a steal, an assist and blocked a shot. The key to scoring off the bench, she said, is the mantra KSU coaches preach:
“Know your role, stay in your role, star in your role,” Young said.
- Five Flashes scored in double figures for the third time this session. Dingle had 17 points, five rebounds and two steals to go with her eight assists. She had only one turnovers. Nila Blackford joined Young with 14 points and Lindsey Thall had 12.
- Speciality statistics, like the final score, were overwhelmingly in Kent’s favor:
- Points off turnovers: KSU 27-2.
- Points in the paint: KSU 52-12.
- Second-chance points: KSU 31-2.
- Fast-break points: KSU 32-10.
- Shumate was the only KSU player not to get in the game. She had been leading the team in minutes played. “Coach’s decision,” Starkey said, not related to injury or illness. Shumate should be fine going forward, he said.
- Every other person on the roster played at least eight minutes. Only Kelly and Dingle played more than 26.
- Senior Ali Poole scored a season-high seven points and had a season-high seven rebounds. She has struggled with a knee injury suffered in August.
Arena at Thursday halftime warmup, when attendance was announced at 120. At the start of Friday game, I counted — literally counted — 49 people in the stands. (wbbFlashes photo.)
Twice this season Kent State has won games in the last minute. A third game went to overtime (KSU won).
But in Las Vegas Friday, the last-minute rally went the other way as Troy pulled out a victory over the Flashes 71-64.
Kent State had led for almost the entire game, but Troy used a pressure defense to rally in the fourth quarter.
With the score tied 64-64 and 19 seconds to play, Troy senior forward Japonica James stepped between Kent players who weren’t more more three feet apart on an inbounds pass in front of the Kent bench. She tipped the ball, then grabbed it and drove the length of the court for a layup. She was fouled and made the free throw.
“She shot the gap,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said. “A really good player made a great play.”
“They just jumped it,” said senior Megan Carter, who was inbounding the ball.
On the next possession, the Flashes got the ball to forward Nila Blackford, who looked to have a clear path to the basket. But she traveled as she went up for a layup.
The loss at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic leaves the Flashes’ record at 6-4.
Troy is 9-2. Its RPI, a ranking system based on record and schedule strength, is now 59th of 351 teams. That’s higher than any team in the MAC. The Troy radio announcer called the win the team’s biggest of the season.
Starkey was far more upbeat after the loss than he was about the team’s 62-48 win over 2-7 Georgia Southern on Thursday.
“I thought we played a really good basketball game,” the coach said. “I thought we showed incredible toughness against a really good Troy team.
“We kind of gave that game away. Their pressure was intense, so we obviously needed to take care of the ball the way we needed to.
“We learned that we need to execute down the stretch, show our composure a little bit — and understand that we’re a really good basketball team when we play with that kind of intensity.”
The Flashes took an 8-5 lead six minutes into the game and led for the next 33 minutes.
But in the fourth quarter, Troy went to a full-court press, and the Flashes has seven turnovers in the last four minutes and got off just four shots. The Trojans ended the game on a 14-2 run.
“They amped up their defense, but I think we just got careless,” Carter said. ‘We weren’t managing our possessions well.”
Kent State, which hadn’t played in 11 days before the Las Vegas tournament, is now off another 10 for Christmas. The Flashes will play their last non-conference game against Hiram on Dec. 30 at the M.A.C. Center, then start MAC play the next week.
“We gotta keep our heads up,” she said. “It’s one loss. We should have had this game, but you can’t dwell on the past. It’s learn from it and take that anger that we should have won and put it on the next opponent.”
- Troy leads the country in offensive rebounding at 25 a game. It had 11, its lowest of the season, against Kent State. The Flashes had 12 offensive rebounds. “If we can play with that kind of intensity, we can rebound with anybody,” Starkey said. “If you can rebound with Troy, you can rebound with anybody.”
- Total rebounding was 40-28 Troy.
- Carter led Kent State with 24 points, her high for the season. She also had three assists against two turnovers and a steal. Carter ran the offense for most of the game, even when point guard Asiah Dingle was on the court. Dingle sat out 12 minutes with foul trouble.
- Freshman Katie Shumate had her first double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds (‘phenomenal,” Starkey said). Blackford had 11 points and seven rebounds.
- The Flashes took their most 3-point shots of the season — 33 — and made 10. Carter made four of 11, Shumate four of seven.
- Troy scored 23 point off of 18 turnovers, KSU’s second highest total of the year The Flashes scored 13 points off of 19 turnovers. Going into the fourth quarter, points off turnovers were even at 11-11.
- Troy, which is fourth in Division I in foul shots made, outscored Kent State 20-10 from the free-throw line. The Flashes had averaged 20 points a game from foul shots in its six wins.
- Monique Smith, Clare Kelly, Sydney Brinlee and Ali Poole all played more than nine minutes. That’s about as much as Kent has used its bench this season. Poole, a starter last year who has been fighting a knee injury since summer, played 15 minutes, her most of the season. The reserves, however, scored only two points on a basket by Smith.
- Kent’s shooting percentage was 34,4, about 5 points below its average. The Flashes shot only 23% in that disastrous fourth quarter. Troy’s shooting percentage was 39.7% and 50% in the fourth quarter.
- KSU had 12 assists on 22 baskets. Dingle had four and Carter three.
- The 71-64 score was exactly the same as Troy’s victory over Toledo on Thursday.
The view from Troy
Coach Chanda Coach Rigby quoted on Troy’s website
“We were down for the pretty much the whole game and every time we would score, they would score. Finally, we broke it down to two and one point deficits but couldn’t never get over that hump. Other than that, the first score of the game, James’ layup was the first lead we had.”
On the late game rally
“I can’t say enough about our senior leadership. Kayla’s been in these battles for four years and she’s hungry. She’s been coming off the bench for us and has been playing her role fantastic.
“I can’t say enough about Japonica either. She couldn’t get going the entire tournament. She couldn’t get anything except fouls called against her but she kept her spirit up and made the play of the game for us.”
Kent State’s Asiah Dingle (No. 3 in white) on defense vs. Georgia Southern. Dingle had six of Kent State’s 14 steals. It was a career high for the point guard. (WbbFlashes photo.)
Kent State had just beaten Georgia Southern 62-48, but coach Todd Starkey wasn’t pleased.
“I thought we played a very poor basketball game,” Starkey told announcer David Wilson on his postgame radio show. “When you play against a team who has only four assists and 25 turnovers, you better win by more than 14 and score more than 62 points.
“We had some good moments, but in order to be good in the MAC, you have to be a good team for four quarters. And we weren’t.”
It was Kent State’s first game in 11 days, so it might have been a case of needing to “shake the rust off,” Starkey said. After the Flashes lost to Purdue Dec. 11, the team took a week off for finals. This week has been travel and preparation for the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
The win moves Kent State’s record to 6-3. Georgia Southern, a Sun Belt Conference team, is 2-7.
The Flashes played their best defense statistically this season. Georgia Southern’s 48 points were the lowest KSU has allowed by 10 points. The Eagles shooting percentage of 35.8 was the first time Kent State had held a team below 40%.
Kent had 14 steals, and Georgia Southern’s 25 turnovers were the most against KSU this season. The Flashes outscored the Eagles 25-3 off of those turnovers. They had 12 turnovers themselves, Georgia Southern had been forcing almost 20 a game.
So why was Starkey so unhappy?
- Georgia Southern is far from a good team. The Eagles’ RPI ranking was 291 of 351 teams. (Kent’s was 61.) Kent’s Friday opponent, Troy, has an RPI of 85 and record of a record of 8-2.
- The Flashes missed nine of 18 layups, some of those coming after steals and turnovers.
- KSU’s offense went stagnant several times. The team didn’t score at all for the last seven minutes of the second quarter, though it still held a 29-24 halftime team. The Flashes’ 62 points were the second lowest they had scored this season.
“We’re a much better basketball team when we get ball movement,” Starkey said in his postgame interview with wbbFlashes. “Especially in the second quarter, we were trying to make way too many individual plays instead of really executing our offense and sharing the ball.”
A minute into the third quarter, freshman guard Katie Shumate grabbed three straight offensive rebounds, then sank a 8-foot jump shot. They sparked a 9-2 run, with eight of those points coming on baskets by Shumate.
“I had been struggling a little bit,” said Shumate, who had made just 26% of her shots in the last four games after leading the team in shooting percentage earlier in the season. “So it was nice to see some fall.”
And the offensive rebounds?
“After someone on my team puts a shot up, I see an opportunity to get another possession.”
Freshman Clare Kelly gave Kent a lift late in the third quarter with a 3-point basket and a determined offensive rebound just before the buzzer. After grabbing the ball, she slipped it to Megan Carter for a layup to give KSU a 47-34 lead.
The Flashes extended the lead to as many as 18 in the fourth quarter. Georgia Southern never got within nine.
Tomorrow vs. Troy
One reason Starkey may have been unhappy was thinking about tomorrow’s opponent.
Troy is on the opposite end of the Sun Belt from Georgia Southern. The Trojans were picked second in the league; Georgia Southern was picked 11th.
Troy leads Division I in rebounding and offensive rebounding (25 per game). It is fourth in the country in free throws made.
The Trojans have had eight different players lead the team in scoring this season and average 82.8 points a game, 10th in the country. They also give up 69 points a game, 24th in the country. Don’t expect a low scoring game.
Troy does miss a lot of shots. Its season field-goal percentage is 34.5, lowest of any team Kent has played.
Troy beat Toledo, which has had a disappointing season so far, 71-64 on Thursday.
“This is a much bigger, more physical team,” Starkey said. “They’re very good in transition, and man, do they have athletes. They keep coming at you in waves. We’re going to have to play significantly better tomorrow in order to come away with a second win.”
- Asiah Dingle led Kent State with 16 points, five assists and career-high six steals. Asked about the defense, she smiled and answered, “I just like stealing the ball.” Shumate on the steals: “Well, we have Asiah.”
- Carter had 11 points, including three 3-point baskets in four attempts. She had two steals.
- Just Dingle and Carter scored in double figures, the fewest number for the team this season.
- Nila Blackford had two steals and two blocked shots to go with six points and five rebounds.
- Lindsey Thall blocked four shots and had seven points and a steal.
- Georgia Southern outrebounded KSU 42-34, though rebounding was much closer until the fourth quarter. Shumate led KSU with six rebounds.
- KSU got 12 points from its bench, the most this season. Junior forward Monique Smith had four points, equaling a career high for the third time this season. She also had two steals, and Starkey said her energy game the team a lift in the first half.
- Sophomore Annie Pavlansky made her first basket of the season and the first 3-pointer of her career with 22 seconds to go.
- Ali Poole, who has been hampered with knee problems, since a summer injuiry, made her first basket of the season and played six minutes.
- All 14 KSU players got into the game. Georgia Southern played 13, sometimes substituting five at a time.
- Attendance was listed at 120. Thirty or 40 looked to be Kent State fans.
The view from Georgia Southern
Coach Anita Howard, quote on the team website:
“I’m not happy at all, I’m not pleased with us coming out to Vegas and showing no fight. We weren’t competing. The turnovers was because we were too lackadaisical.”
On moving forward:
“Its’s nothing with the Xs and Os. It’s all about what pumps inside your chest, and that’s your heart. Hopefully we’ll get that message across and come out with a renewed sense of energy tomorrow.”
For statistics junkies
Jay Fiorello is the assistant athletic communications director for women’s basketball. As we waited to interview Starkey and players after the game, he told me that a lot of the numbers in the box score didn’t look right.
They weren’t. The postgame box had Lindsey Thall was zero blocks. The revised had her with four. Asiah Dingle’s steal total went from four to six, a career high. As a team, Kent State picked up seven more rebounds; Georgia Southern added five. Points off turnovers rose to 25 for the Flashes, which might make coach Starkey a little happier.
How could things get that messed up? The folks running the tournament aren’t basketball people. The arena is used far more for rodeos.
They did get the final score right. Earlier this season, the people at Youngstown State at first had Kent winning 61-53. But the Flashes scored 62 points.
Flashes huddle at the end of practice on Wednesday. They play Georgia Southern Thursday and Troy Friday, both at 3 p.m. Kent time (noon in Las Vegas, where the tournament is being played).
A player for Georgia Southern’s women’s basketball team — Kent State’s tournament opponent in Las Vegas Thursday — sniffed as she walked into the arena at the South Point Hotel inn Las Vegas.
“It smells like horse,” she said.
Indeed. The arena is used most for the hotel’s resident rodeo. Workers shoveled out tons of dirt earlier this week to make way for the six teams that will compete here Thursday and Friday.
Kent State plays Georgia Southern at 3 p.m. Kent time (noon in Nevada) Thursday in the first game of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
The court on the floor was a little dusty from the removed dirt; KSU coach Todd Starkey stopped practice Wednesday for a moment so that his players could wipe their feet on a specially designed board. Arena seats are set well back from the court, which will make for a quieter game — more so because all of the teams are a long way from home.
Still, it’s pre-Christmas in Las Vegas for players and fans.
It will be the Flashes’ first game in 11 days. They broke for exams after their 77-64 loss at Purdue Dec. 9 and flew to Las Vegas Monday. Tuesday they practiced at the high school where a friend of KSU coach Todd Starkey is based. They also toured the neighboring Hoover Dam.
Wednesday’s 90-minute practice saw the team running plays and defenses against a simulated Georgia Southern schemes and getting used to the new rims.
The Flashes are 5-3, with all three losses coming to Big Ten teams. Georgia Southern is 2-6 and coming off a 69-66 loss to the SEC’s Mississippi in a game decided in the last minute on Monday.
“I think we’re one of the better teams here,” Starkey said after practice. “It’s a good field. We’re going to have to play our best basketball.”
Georgia Southern’s strength is rebounding; the Eagles outrebounded Ole Miss 44-42. But the team also was picked 11th in the 12-team Sun Belt Conference and ranks in the bottom 50 in the country in field-goal percentage, field-goal defense and assists per game. Its leading scorer is guard Tatum Barber at 12.3 points per game, Guard Alexis Brown averages 108 and was a second-team all-Sun Belt selection last season.
Starkey said the problems with a long layoff are more mental than physical.
“You can get a little bit complacent, a little bit out of game rhythm,” he said “So we’ve got to make sure that we are sharp. That’s our job as coaches.”
Kent State has won games decided in the last minute against Duquesne, Youngstown State and Robert Morris and beat Purdue Fort Wayne by eight points and St. Bonaventure by 23. It lost to Big Ten teams Michigan, Ohio State and Purdue.
Its game against Purdue before finals was the team’s best of the season. Save for a 12-2 run at the end of the second quarter, the Flashes played the Boilermakers evenly for most of the game despite both of KSU’s post players struggling with foul trouble.
All five KSU starters average in double figures, led freshman forward Nila Blackford at 14.6 points per game and sophomore forward Lindsay Thall (14.2). Blackford also leads the team in rebounding at 8.3 per game.
The Flashes have been scoring about seven more points a game than they did last season, when they went 20-13. But they’ve struggled on defense, where opponents have made 47% of their shots. The defense did play its best in the most recent games against Purdue and St. Bonaventure.
Friday’s opponent: the Sun Belt’s Troy
KSU plays Troy, which was picked second in the Sun Belt, at 3 p.m. Kent time Friday.
Troy is 7-2 and is one of the nation’s strongest rebounding teams, leading Division I in rebounds and offensive rebounds per game. The Trojans push the ball hard, ranking second in the country at possessions per 40 minutes (84.6). By comparison, Kent State averages 72.6 possession a game.
The tale of the RPI
Kent State’s RPI is 61 of 351 Division I teams. Georgia Southern is 291 and Troy 85. RPI is based 25% on a team’s record, 25% on its opponents’ record and 50% on its opponents’ opponents’ records. Road wins and home losses are weighted more heavily. To some extent, the RPI is used in postseason tournament selection and seeding.
To follow the game
The game starts at 3 p.m. Kent time (noon in Nevada).
Video is live streamed on Vimeo through the hotel.
Audio starts at about 2:45 Kent time on Golden Flash IHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.
Live statistics are available during the game through the tournament.
Yesterday we gave you an overview of the MAC and its East Division. Today it’s the MAC West.
Central Michigan (4-3). RPI 104. Power rating 74.
CMU, two-time defending MAC champions, lost its first three games to very good teams — Green Bay (5-4, RPI 60), No. 7 Louisville (9-1, RPI 5) and Western Kentucky (7-2, RPI 28). Since then the Chippewas have won four in a row against somewhat lesser competition, the best being Marist (5-2, RPI 103).
Central lost all-MAC players Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost to graduation and coach Sue Guevara to retirement. But junior guard Micaela Kelly is playing like an all-conference guard for new coach Heather Oesterle, averaging 20.4 points a game. Forward Kyra Bussell is seventh in the league in scoring at 15.3 points a game.
In the next three weeks, Central will play South Dakota State (6-4, RPI 67), Bethune-Cochran (6-1, RPI 193) and Central Florida (4-4, RPI 98). All those teams look to be the caliber of the MAC’s first division.
Ball State (4-4). RPI 130. Power rating 104.
The Cardinals have a 2-3 record against five teams in the RPI top 100. Their win over Butler may be the league’s second best (after Ohio’s win at Ohio State.) Games against Providence (7-1, RI 62) and New Mexico (6-3, RI 109) in the Lobo Invitational before Christmas will tell us how good they are.
Ball State has the best field goal defense (36.5%) and the third best scoring defense (63.3) in the league. Junior forward Oshlynn Brown has the third highest field goal percentage (55.6) and is the second leading rebounder (9.5 per game) in the conference.
Western Michigan (4-3). RPI 223. Power ranking 241.
The three Division I teams the Broncos have beaten have a combined record of 3-24. The three teams they’ve lost to have a combined record of 20-6. After exams, they play Chicago State (0-10), Stony Brook (7-1) and Loyola Chicago (8-0). The only non-conference team WMU plays that’s close to its level is Denver (4-4, RPI 299) in the Puerto Rico Classic. It’s hard to get an overall impression from that.
The Broncos have forward Brianna Mobley back from injury. She’s one of the MAC’s best post players, leading the league in rebounding (10.3 per game) and ranking 17th in scoring (12.7). Redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Walker, who like Mobley missed all last season, is averaging 14.6 points per game. Junior forward Leighah-Amori Wool is fourth in the MAC in rebounding (8.4 per game).
Northern Illinois (3-5). RPI 161. Power ranking 196.
The Huskies have lost three close games to good teams — six points to Harvard (7-3, RPI 124), three points to Illinois Sate (5-2, RPI 27) and five points to Purdue (7-2, RPI 25). They also won two games in overtime to teams that are a combined 4-15 and lost to Milwaukee (2-6, RPI 172) by 13. So here’s another team we don’t know quite what to make of.
NIU has preseason all-MAC forward Courtney Woods back from an injury that sidelined her for most of last season. She’s averaging 18.4 points. The Huskies also had four starters back, but none is averaging in double figures.
The Huskies, who averaged 85 points two years ago and 73 last season, are scoring 66.4 this year.
Toledo (2-5). RPI 272, Power ranking 174.
If I had had to guess the MAC team with the worst RPI at this point in the season, it certainly wouldn’t have been Toledo. But here the Rockets are, tied for the fewest wins in the conference. All of their losses have come to teams with winning records and RPIs between 110 and 160 — except for a three-point defeat at Notre Dame (5-7, RPI 73). Four of the five losses have been by fewer than eight points. So the Rockets are another team that might be better than their record.
The Rockets lost last season’s two best players to graduation and haven’t really found replacements. Toledo doesn’t have a player in the MAC’s top 25 scorers or top 15 rebounders. Nakiah Black averages 10.4 points; point guard Mariella Santucci averages 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Eastern Michigan (3-6). RPI 195. Power ranking 246.
The Eagles have played one of the MAC’s toughest schedules — 11th most difficult in the country by one measure I saw. They lost by more than 30 points to No. 19 Michigan State and No. 24 Michigan and four other games by an average of 14. Their best win is against Southeast Missouri (4-2, RPI 162) by five.
Oklahoma State transfer Areanna Combs, a 5-10 junior guard, played her first game Dec. 1 and has averaged 19 points, including 29 in an 11-point loss at 8-0 Binghamton. With her in the lineup, the Eagles also lost by 11 to 5-3 Wichita and beat 3-8 Purdue Fort Wayne by 24. Freshman guard Aaliyah Stanley averages 13.1 points.
MAC statistics, including standings.
RPI rankings are from WarrenNolan.com.
Power rankings from Omni Rankings.
Ohio was the clear favorite to win the Mid-American Conference women’s championship this season. The next best teams were pretty unclear.
After eight or so non-conference games for league teams, it’s even more unclear.
With almost all MAC schools on break this week for students to take finals, it’s a good time to take stock of the MAC.
Ohio is 6-2 with the league’s only marquee win, a six-point victory over Ohio State in Columbus. But Ohio has only the third highest RPI in the conference. Kent State and Buffalo rank better.
The league doesn’t look as strong as it’s been for the last two years, when it ranked eighth in the country. By most rankings I’ve seen, the MAC is about 11th this season.
Just Kent State (65th) and Buffalo (88th) are in the top 100 in the RPI rankings of WarrenNolan.com,the service I used most. Central Michigan (102), Ohio (106) and Bowling Green (111) are fairly close.
At the end of last season, the MAC had six teams in the top 100, led by Buffalo (26), Ohio (31 and Central Michigan (35).
RPI is based 25% on a team’s record, 25% on its opponents’ record and 50% on its opponents’ opponents’ record. Road wins and home losses are weighted more heavily. There are 351 Division I teams.
Omni Power rankings, which takes into account other factors like recent results and margin of victory, also has two MAC schools in the top 100 — Central Michigan at 74th and Ohio at 77th. (Kent State is 150th behind Ball State, Bowling Green and Buffalo).
Only Buffalo (7-2), Ohio (6-2) Kent State (5-3), Bowling Green and Central Michigan (both 4-3) have winning records.
The league’s non-conference record is 48-45 against Division I competition, a 51.6 winning percentage; last season it was 87-41 —70.0%. Two years ago it won 65% of its non-conference games.
Buffalo is better than expected, considering graduation losses. The Bulls have the best freshman in the conference — Dyaisha Fair, who is second in the country in scoring.
Bowling Green was picked last in the MAC East and is 4-3 and has shown a pretty potent offense. But the Falcons haven’t beat a really good team yet. Ball State is 4-4 with wins over Butler (6-3) and Lehigh (6-2) and losses of less than 12 points to Cincinnati (5-4), Wisconsin (6-3) and Western Kentucky (7-2).
Surprise teams in a disappointing way are Toledo, which is 2-5 after being picked third in the West, and Northern Illinois, 3-5 after being picked in a virtual tie with Central Michigan.
Most teams have three or four non-conference games left. Ohio plays at TCU (7-1, RPI 27) and Texas (5-4) next week. A win or two would be impressive. Central Michigan plays South Dakota, Belmont, Bethune Cookman and Central Florida, all good mid-majors. Almost every other team plays at least one strong team; some upsets could shake things up and boost the league’s overall RPI ranking.
Here’s a look at the MAC East. MAC West post is here.
Buffalo: 7-2. RPI 89. Power ranking 114.
The Bulls lost the MAC’s leading scorer, Cierra Dillard, and have replaced her with the MAC’s new leading scorer, freshman DyaishaFair. She’s averaging 23.4 points per game. Senior forward Theresa Onwuka is averaging 18.8 points per game.
The Bulls’ schedule makes it hard to figure how good they are. The best team they’ve beaten is Drexel, which is 5-4 with an RPI of 65. They lost at No. 1 Stanford by 19 points.
Wild card for the Bulls is the status of Summer Hemphill, one of the best best post players in the conference. She hasn’t played at all because of an injury.
Ohio: 6-2. RPI 108. Power ranking 77.
The Bobcats are picked to win the MAC. After just missing the NCAA tournament last season, they scheduled a much tougher schedule. So far they’ve lost to Syracuse of the ACC and beaten Ohio State. They’ve lost fairly close games to Syracuse and Butler, both good teams. How they do against TCU and Texas may tell us if Ohio is a national-caliber team.
OU has the league’s best scoring defense at just 58.9 points per game, best 3-point defense at 25.4% and second-best field-goal defense at 37.4%.
The four starters returning from last season — senior guard Amani Burke, junior guard Cece Hooks, sophomore wing Erica Johnson and junior forward Gabby Burris — all average in double figures.
Kent State: 5-3. RPI 66. Power ranking 150.
The Flashes have beaten five mid-majors of varying quality and lost to three Big Ten teams that are in the top 40 in RPI rankings. They’ve added freshmen Nila Blackford (8.3 rebounds per game) and Katie Shumate (6.0 rebounds) to the starting lineup, and they are KSU’s top two rebounders.
Kent State has struggled on defense — its field goal defense of 47.2% is last in the league by three percentage points, but its last two games have shown improvement. KSU is averaging 72.4 points per game, more than seven points about last season.
All five starters average in double figures.
Bowling Green: 5-3. RPI 110. Power ranking 112.
The Falcons lead the MAC in points per game (79.5), field goal percentage (47.2), 3-point percentage (41.2), and rebounding margin (plus-7.5). They have the league’s leader in shooting percentage — 6-2 junior center Angela Perry at 72.3% and in 3-point percentage — junior Madison Parker at 51.2%.
But the best team BG has beaten is Cleveland State, which has a 7-1 record but an RPI of 152. They’ve lost to Valparaiso (4-3, RPI 107), Green Bay (5-4, RPI 59) and San Francisco (5-4, RPI 95).
Bowling Green plays at Loyola-Chicago (8-0, RPI 64) and at Purdue (7-2, RPI 24) later in January.
Akron: 4-4. RPI 169. Power ranking 159.
The Zips beat 5-3 Youngstown State and played well against No. 24 Michigan, losing 80-71. But the other teams they’ve beaten — St. Bonaventure, Purdue Fort Wayne and Detroit Mercy — have a combined two wins against Division I competition. They’ve lost three in a row to Cleveland State (7-1, RPI 152), Duquesne (8-2, RPI 112) and Butler (6-3, RPI 78).
Their plus-4.1 turnover margin is third in the MAC; their field goal defense of 44% is second worst. Junior college transfer Jordyn Dawson, a 5-11 forward, is fifth in the conference in field goal percentage (48.8) and fifth in steals (2.4 per game). Senior forward Haleigh Reinoehl is fifth in the league in rebounding at 7.9 per game.
Miami: 4-5. RPI 154. Power ranking 162.
Returning stars Lauren Dickerson (17.2 points per game) and Savannah Kluesner (12.8 points, 8.2 rebounds) have played well, and Redhawks have added freshman guard Peyton Scott, who averaged 27.4 points in high school and is averaging 12.8 in college.
But Redhawks’ only victory against a team with a winning record is against Eastern Kentucky (5-3, RPI 201). They’ve lost to No. 16 DePaul by 19, No. 25 Miami of Florida by 18 and Cincinnati (5-4, RPI 146) by 30. Miami is last in the league in field goal percentage (36.6) and 10th in field goal defense (43.4).
Link to the MAC West rundown.
MAC statistics, including standings