A bittersweet end to a banner season for Kent State women’s team

The Flashes and their fans celebrate after quarterfinal win over Buffalo. (Photo by John Conley from KentWired.)

Kathryn Rajnicek covered the women’s basketball team for the Kent Stater and its online arm, KentWired.

Numbers that made a season: 19 wins, 27.2 freshman points, 5 points more offense

Team photo

The Flashes with pieces of the net from their East championship-win over Ohio.

(Front row) senior Megan Carter, senior Ali Poole, senior Sydney Brinlee, sophomore Mariah Modkins. (Second row) junior Monique Smith, sophomore Asiah Dingle, freshman Nila Blackford, junior Margaux Eibel.

(Third row) Assistant coach Morgan Toles, freshman Katie Shumate, sophomore Annie Pavlansky, junior transfer Linsey Marchese, sophomore Lindsey Thall, freshman Clare Kelly, sophomore Hannah Young.

(Back row) Assistant coach Mike McKee, basketball sports performance coach Brice Cox, student manager Camryn Howell, athletic training student Lizzie Spence, head coach Todd Starkey, associate head coach Fran Recchia, director of operations Alexa Golden and athletic trainer Reeona Curseen.

Eight games that told the story of the season, from a last-second win at the beginning to the Flashes’ first quarterfinal win in 10 years.


Sports are full of numbers, so annually I wrap up the season with what I think are key numbers from the season.

I try to keep the first paragraph in each item as clear as I can for casual fans. Then the statistics junkie in me starts to take over.


The score of Kent State’s MAC quarterfinal win over Buffalo, a game that defined a season. The Flashes had four players in double figures, solid defense, lots of points off turnovers and lots of points from the foul line — all things that were critical in the rest of KSU’s 19-11 season.

It had been 10 years since Kent State won a MAC Tournament game in Cleveland. In 2010, the Flashes beat Central Michigan 68-55 in the quarterfinals before losing to Toledo 51-49 in the semis.

The two previous years Buffalo had knocked KSU out of the tournament in the quarterfinals. Earlier in the season, the Bulls had beaten the Flashes twice by double digits and had won 17 of their last 20 games against the Flashes.

It was a most sweet victory.


Coach Todd Starkey has taken the Flashes to the quarterfinals all four years since he arrived in Kent in 2016. Before that, it had been six years since KSU had made it to Cleveland.


Kent State’s winning percentage with its 19-11 record. That’s its best since 2010-11. In Starkey’s four years, the Flashes are 71-56, or .559. That percentage is second only to Bob Lindsay (.620) among the six women and men who have coached Kent State women’s basketball. (Take out Starkey’s one bad season — 13-19 in 2017-18 — and his winning percentage is .611.)

Other overview numbers:

In Starkey’s three previous season, it was 83 in 2018-19, 149 in 2017-18, 99 in 2016-17. The year before Starkey arrived, it was 318.

Top MAC teams were Central Michigan at 23, Ball State at 78, Ohio at 83.

RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength. Road wins and home losses get about twice the weight of home wins and road losses.

  • Power ranking: 98. This broader ranking adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries to RPI criteria.
  • Strength of schedule: 118.


More points a game on offense.

Most of the following statistics for the rest of the post come from  HerHoopStats.com, an analytics site. They include only games against Division I teams, which excludes Kent State’ s 92-36 win over Hiram.

Offensive numbers, compared to 2018-19.

  • Points per game: 69.6 vs. 64.7.
  • Shooting percentage: 39.4% vs. 36.7%.
  • 2-point percentage: 43.4% vs. 39.5%. (Last year’s number was 308th of 351 Division I teams. This year’s was 191st.)
  • 3-point percentage: 31.4% vs. 32.1%.

And even more:

  • Turnovers: 13.8 per game (60th in country) vs. 15.3 (128th).
  • Made free throws: 443 (15th in country) vs. 437 (51st).
  • Fouls called on opponents: 21.6 per game (fourth in country) vs. 21.0 (seventh).


Opponents also scored five more points a game, though Kent State’s defense got decidedly better as the season went on. The numbers:

  • Opponents’ points per game: 68.5 vs. 63.0. (In conference play, it was 67.0 vs. 64.4.)
  • Opponents’ field-goal percentage: 39.4% vs. 36.7%. But in conference games, it was better than last season: 38.9% vs. 39.5.
  • Opponents’s assists: 11.0 (60th fewest in country) vs. 12.2 (103rd).
  • Blocks per game: 4.2 (56th in country) vs. 3.9 (86th).


Kent State’s assist total got slightly better, but it was still pretty weak.

The Flashes averaged 10.9 assists per game. Last season it was 10.6, which was 314th of the 351 Division I teams. This year’s average was 295th.

Starkey has said that part of the explanation is that Kent has a number of players who create their own shot without a pass. Think about Asiah Dingle’s drives to the basket, Megan Carter’s pull-up jumpers, and Katie Shumate, who can do both.

Still, other teams have players who create their own shots. And Kent State was still 56th from the bottom.


How much Asiah Dingle’s shooting percentage improved between the end of last season and the end of this season.

Last season she made 37.6% of her shots. In her last 12 games this year, when she was the first player off the bench, it was 54.7%.

Dingle stepped up her game in a lot of other ways, too.

Her assist rate — the number of teammates’ baskets on which she assisted —  was 28.3%. In conference play it was 31.1%. Last season it was 21.3%.

Her assist-to-turnover ratio jumped to 1.01 from 0.77 and was 11th in the MAC this season.

She averaged 2.2 steals a game, up from 2.0. Her steal rate — the percentage of time she stole the ball on an opponent’s possession, was 4%, which was 57th in the country.


When you watch Dingle — who is very fun to watch,  her weaknesses are clear. The statistics are even clearer.

She made only two 3-point shots all season (in 20 attempts). She averaged 3.1 turnovers per game. That ranked 3,109th out of 3,321 players. Part of that is that she handled the ball more than anyone on the team. But still….3,109th. And she averaged 3.7 fouls per game — 3,311th in the country. Only 10 players in Division I did worse.


Points per game scored by the team’s freshmen.

People thought it was a big deal when the 2018-19 freshmen scored 45% of Kent State’s points, third best in the country. Five freshmen averaged a total of 30.1 points.

This year’s three freshmen averaged almost as much — 27.2.

Nila Blackford averaged 12.4 points per game, Katie Shumate 12.3 and Clare Kelly 2.5.

When they were freshmen last season, Asiah Dingle averaged 12.9 and Lindsey Thall 10.3, Mariah Modkins 3.2, Hannah Young 3.1, and Annie Pavlansky 0.6.

Blackford and Shumate made the MAC’s all-freshman team. So did Thall and Dingle.

I wondered whether that had happened before. It has, and not all that long ago. In 2011, Central Michigan placed two people on the all-freshman. In 2012, the Chippewas placed three. In the three years the classes were together, they went 14-17, 21-12 and 20-12. CMU won the MAC Tournament in 2013.

This is the fourth time KSU has placed at least two on the all-freshman team. The first two:

  • 1991: Michelle Burden, Kathy Carroll and Tracey Lynn, who was MAC freshman of the year.
  • 1995: Gwen Hurley, Carrie Templin.


The number of points Kent State players scored off the bench in the team’s first six games.


The number of bench points in KSU’s last six games.

Dingle’s changed role had a great deal to do with that. She became the first player off the bench about two-thirds of the way through the season. Dingle, who led the team in scoring, still played starter minutes. Hannah Young also stepped up her production substantially in the second half of the season.

Having Dingle’s energy off the bench and Young’s solid presence was one of the key factors in KSU’s run to the MAC East title.


The number of points Megan Carter scored in her five-year career. It’s 18th in Kent State history. In her five years, she scored:

  • 2015-16: Nine points in the three games she played before tearing her ACL
  • 2016-17: 187 points (5.8 per game).
  • 2017-18: 204 points (10.2). She missed the first semester — 10 games — for academic reasons.
  • 2018-19: 524 points (15.9).
  • 2019-20: 322 points (11.9).

Four current players are, barring injury, very likely to be 1,000-point scorers. In two seasons, Dingle has 785 points and Thall 689. In their first season, Shumate had 358 points and Blackford 334. If they continue at anywhere near that pace, the Flashes could have four 1,000-point scorers on the floor at the same time in the 2022 MAC Tournament.


Kent State ranked 18th in the country with 450 made free throws. The Flashes were 29th in free-throw attempts. In eight games — including their big win against Ohio and their quarterfinal victory over Buffalo, KSU’s margin at the foul line was greater than its margin of victory.

All that was in spite of a nine-game slump at the foul line in February that saw KSU shoot only 60.8% from the line and average only 10.5 points per game from free throws. In the other 21 games, the Flashes averaged 16.5 points from the line per game and shot 75.7%.

Free throws have been a speciality of Starkey’s teams. Over the coach’s four years here, Kent has been a cumulative sixth in the country in free throws made and 14th in free throws attempted


Five KSU players averaged in double figures: Dingle (13.3), Blackford (12.4), Shumate (12.3), Carter (11.9) and Thall (11.7). That totals 61.6. No other MAC team had so many double-digit scorers.

The last time that happened in Kent? Maybe the 1989-90 team, which averaged 93.6 points a game. More definitive numbers aren’t on the KSU website.

64 and 63

Lindsey Thall made 64 three-point shots and blocked 63 shots, totals that made her the only Division I player to reach 60 in both categories.

In her two seasons, she has 130 three-point baskets, already fifth all-time at KSU, and 116 blocks, tied for fourth in KSU history.

The Kent State record for 3-pointers in a career is 212, set by Larissa Lurken from 2013 to 2017. The record for blocked shots is 250 by Mary Bukovac between 1986 and 1989. Second highest number of blocks is 162 by Andrea Csaszar between 2000 and 2004.

Thall is Kent’s only player on the roster to start every game in her career.


Number of games Kent State’s starting six plus senior Ali Poole missed because of  injury or suspension (just two games for suspension). Poole started 19 games and played in all 33 in 2018-19. She was KSU’s fourth-leading scorer. She partially tore her ACL in summer, then tore it again in January and had career-ending surgery. She scored only nine points in her senior year.

“Starting six” counts point guards Mariah Modkins and Asiah Dingle as starters. Modkins moved into the lineup for KSU’s last 13 games. Dingle played starter minutes off the bench (and led KSU in scoring).


Number of games Kent State’s top seven players missed in 2018-19.


The average home attendance for the Flashes this season, according to the MAC.

Is that a record? I think so, but records are sketchy, especially before 1990. In the 30-odd years I’ve followed KSU women’s basketball, the previous attendance peak was about 1,100 or 1,200 around the turn of the century.

During those years, Dawn Zerman, Julie Studer and Carrie Nance led the best teams in Kent State history.

A digression: Between 1997-98 and 2001-02, Kent State went 91-28, won four MAC East titles and two overall league titles, played Toledo all four years in the tournament finals, winning twice. The 1999-20 team went 25-6, the best record in school history. The 1997-98 team went 18-0 in the MAC.

(And yes, the Amy Sherry-led team in 1995-96 was as good as those teams. It went 24-7, tied for the MAC championship, lost to Toledo in the tournament finals and won its first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. But the previous year, the Flashes went 17-10; the next year they went 20-10.)

Back to this year’s attendance. Top crowds were:

  • Ohio State: 4,272, almost certainly the largest crowd for a women’s game in Kent State history. (Again, records are sketchy.)
  • Toledo: About 2,200. Official attendance was 5,218, the attendance of the men’s game, which was first of a doubleheader. One ticket got you in both games. But all those fans didn’t all stay for the women. So 2,200 is my estimate.
  • St. Bonaventure: 2,104. At least 1,500 of the crowd was under 12 as part of a noon “Kid’s Day” game.
  • Bowling Green: 1,961.
  • Miami: 1,872.

Toledo, Bowling Green and Miami were all Saturday games, which draw about 400 or 500 more than Wednesday contests.

Four years ago, the Flashes surprisingly won the MAC East in Starkey’s first season. Average attendance was 867.

The report card:

Before the conference season, I wrote a post about “Seven Keys to the Conference Season.” After most games, I did a “report card” on how well the team did on those goals.

Here’s the season wrap-up. First number is for all games. Parenthesis is MAC games, which give a better idea of how the team was doing toward the end of the season:

  • Score more than 70 points: 69.6 average per game. (69.0)
  • Hold opponent under 70: 68.5. (67.1)
  • Make 40% of shots: 39.4%. (40.0)
  • Hold opponent under 40%: 41.1%. (39.1)
  • Outscore opponent by five on free throws: Average of +1.7.
  • Outscore opponent by five off of turnovers: +5.0 per game.
  • Have 14 assists: 10.9.
  • Get 10 points from the bench: 16.5.

Stats exclude game against Division III Hiram in line with national analytics sites, which count only games agains Division I opponents.

A last-second win at the beginning, the first quarterfinal win in 10 years at the end: Eight key games for the Flashes

bench quarterfinals Dermer

Clare Kelly (left) and Monique Smith celebrate on the bench in Kent State’s MAC Tournament win over Buffalo. (Photo by David Dermer for Kent State sports.)

It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago, we were playing basketball, and Kent State had just won its biggest game of the season.

This is the first of two posts wrapping up the 2019-20 season. It’s covers eight key games in the Flashes’ 19-11 season, starting with their opening win at Duquesne and ending with their quarterfinal win over Buffalo.

Nominate your own games if you like in the comments, either here on on Facebook or Twitter.

The numbers that made a season: 27.2 points from the freshmen, five more points a game on offense, a 17-percentage point improvement in Asiah Dingle’s shooting.

The games in chronological order:

Nov. 5: Kent State 77, Duquesne 75

In the season opener in Pittsburgh, the Flashes proved to themselves and the rest of the world that they could win with a starting lineup of freshmen and sophomores. That first-game lineup included freshman guard Clare Kelly, who started in place of senior Megan Carter.

Carter had a hand injury, months later acknowledged as a fracture. But she came off the bench two minutes into the game and played 35 minutes. Carter scored 12 points, including a basket in the last second that gave Kent the victory.

Duquesne finished the season 20-11.

Jan. 6: Eastern Michigan 74, Kent State 69

One of the two lowest spots of the season. As Starkey said a game later, the Flashes “kind of laid an egg” in the first half at the M.A.C. Center. Kent State missed its first eight shots and made only seven baskets in the first half. The game wasn’t as close as the final score. The Flashes trailed by double digits for most of the game, then rallied in the last two minutes.

The slow start was a pattern that the team fought with mixed success for the rest of the season.

The loss left Kent State in an 0-2 hole to start the MAC season. Digging out of it was one of the team’s biggest accomplishments.

Those two games (the first was a 66-62 loss at Ball State in the MAC opener) were Kent State’s only losing streak of the season. Every other loss was followed with a win.

Jan. 11: Kent State 75, Western Michigan 63

This game broke the losing streak. The Flashes did well most of the things that had gone badly in their last game. They led 19-12 after the first quarter and 43-27 at halftime. They played with energy that was lacking against Eastern. All season, when the Flashes played with energy, they were a tough team to handle.

Kent State won this game without senior Megan Carter, who missed the first of three straight games with mononucleosis. Carter fought upper respiratory problems most of the season and still led the Flashes in scoring five times.

Jan. 25: Buffalo 57, Kent State 44

This is lowlight No. 2. Actually the fourth quarter was the lowlight of the season. Kent State led 33-30 after three quarters. Then the Flashes missed 13 field goals out of 15 tries, missed six free throws and turned the ball over six times.

Buffalo’s fourth-quarter statistics were almost the opposite, led by 13 points from Dyaisha Fair. The eventual MAC freshman of the year, Fair had only four points in the first three quarters.

But this game had one giant plus. Kent State found its defense. Before that game, the Flashes had held only five of 16 teams under 70 points. After the Buffalo game, they held six straight teams under 70.

Jan. 29: Kent State 69, Ball State 68

A game after the Buffalo loss came Kent State’s first win over a MAC contender. The Flashes had lost 66-62 at Ball State in its league opener, and the Cardinals were in third place.

Carter, two games back from mononucleosis, played 36 minutes and scored 20 points. She made what proved to be the winning basket on a broken play with 10 seconds left.

Feb. 29: Kent State 96, Bowling Green 86 in double overtime

This game could have been a classic trap game. Kent State had beaten Bowling Green by 14 points in Kent three weeks earlier. The Flashes were coming off a 68-50 win over Akron, always an emotional game. Last-place Bowling Green had just upset second-place Ohio at home. And Kent had lost at Bowling Green the two previous seasons.

And it looked like a loss for the first quarter. BG led 9-0, then 23-4. But Kent dominated the second quarter to pull within four points at halftime, then took the lead in the third quarter and fought to a 72-72 tie in regulation.

The Flashes were down by two points with four seconds to play in the first overtime. But Katie Shumate made a brilliant pass to Nila Blackford for a layup at the buzzer to send the game to a second overtime, which Kent State dominated.

It was the wildest game of the KSU season.

March 4: Kent State 81, Ohio 77

This game clinched third place for the Flashes and a tie (with Ohio) for the MAC East title. It avenged an early 63-57 loss in Athens. It provided a win against the team that had been unanimously chosen in the preseason to win the MAC.

Freshman Katie Shumate led Kent State with 20 points and eight rebounds. She made the key play of the game when she took a charge from Ohio star guard Erica Johnson with six seconds to go and Kent leading 78-77.

March 11: Kent State 72, Buffalo 66

KSU’s first quarterfinal win in 10 years. Its first win over Buffalo in three years.

The game of the season.

The NCAA Tournament was in sight. The Flashes were the highest remaining seed in the tournament. They would have played Eastern Michigan in the semifinals and Toledo or Ohio in the finals. All were beatable teams.

And then the season was over, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

A sad end to a great end-of-season run, especially for Kent State seniors

Selfie celebration Dermer

Selfie celebration: Mariah Modkins captures the moment for her team after Kent State’s 72-66 win over Buffalo in Wednesday’s quarterfinals, a game that turned out to be the last of the Flashes’ season. That’s Asiah Dingle behind Modkins and Megan Carter in the lower right corner. (Photo by David Dermer for Kent State sports.)

I’ve been thinking for two days about what to say about the end of the basketball season.

I guess it just boils down to this: I’m really sad.

I agree with the cancellations. As many coaches have written, some things are more important than sports.

But I think about senior Megan Carter, who played her heart out through knee surgery, shoulder surgery, illness and academic struggles for five years at Kent State. I know how excited and determined she was about the MAC Tournament when I interviewed her last week.

I think about senior Sydney Brinlee, who didn’t get a chance to play in the last two games because she was sick.

I think about senior Ali Poole, who lost the start of her senior year to a knee injury in practice last summer, then lost the rest of it when she tore her ACL diving for a loose ball in January. She was on the bench every game after her surgery and got to help cut down the net when the Flashes clinched a tie for the MAC East championship.

Flashes’ tournament win avenges multiple losses to Buffalo.

Shumate, Blackford make all-freshman team, Thall earns all-defensive honors.

Photos, video and words from the team

From a purely basketball standpoint, I’m sad I didn’t see the Flashes make a run for the tournament trophy.

Everything was in place. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds had lost. The No. 3 Flashes had just won their biggest game of the season and were playing the best basketball of their season, winning five out of their last six.

Of course, we’ll never know what might have been.

Everybody but Carter and Brinlee will be back next year. The team has some really good new players coming in. But Central Michigan and Buffalo and Ohio and Ball State have a lot back, too.

In any event, I’ll be happy to see the Flashes in the fall.

— Carl Schierhorn

At season’s end, pictures, videos and words from the Flashes on Twitter




Video highlights from Wednesday’s quarterfinals

If you haven’t seen them, here are nice video highlights from the Buffalo quarterfinal game.


Twitter messages from the team







MAC cancels all sports for rest of school year; all NCAA championship, including basketball tournaments, are off amid coronavirus outbreak

All sports are done for the year for Mid-American Conference schools.

It probably will be true for the rest of the country by tomorrow.

The Big Ten canceled all sports at mid-afternoon. The MAC announcement came at about 6 p.m.

The NCAA announced it was canceling all championships for the winter and spring, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments due to start next week.

All of the cancellations are designed to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, its official name.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement.

Developing ESPN story.

A really good analysis of the situation by ESPN.

The MAC statement canceling all competition said the decision was made by Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher in consultation with the MAC Council of Presidents and Council of Directors of Athletics.

Key points of the statement:

  • Cancellation of  regular season and championship contention for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.
  • Suspension of formal and organized practices until further notice.
  • Suspension of off-campus recruiting and official and unofficial recruiting visits. Recruiting can only be done by letters, emails, text messages and phone calls, following NCAA regulations.

Kent State Athletic Director Joel Nielsen issued a statement agreeing with the MAC’s decision.

“We will continue to provide all necessary resources for our student athletes, coaches and staff during this difficult time,” the statement said. “This includes academic support to our student athletes as the campus transitions to remote instruction.

“Our main priority is the health, well-being and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff as we continue to monitor the coronavirus.”

The MAC basketball tournaments were canceled at noon, even as Ohio and Toledo men’s teams were warming up for a 1 p.m. quarterfinal game.

“It is incredibly disappointing in terms of the kids having a chance to compete further because I know this is a pinnacle event,” MAC commission John Steinbrecher said at a press conference canceling the tournament. “But simply from a public health standpoint, this seems the appropriate course of action.”

Transcript of MAC commissioner’s press conference on tournaments.

Developments cascaded through afternoon, with announcements from the NCAA, the MAC and other conferences.

The women’s quarterfinals Wednesday were played in a nearly empty Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. The MAC had been among the first league to bar most tournament spectators to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus

But Wednesday events, especially the NBA’s postponement of its season, changed things. Power Five Conferences had canceled their tournaments by this morning.

The NCAA Tournament makes more than a billion dollars a year (yes, $1 billion) from television rights. Much of that is shared with individual schools.

The WNIT and NIT, the major tournaments for teams that don’t make the NCAA, were canceled. The MAC always placed multiple teams in them. Both Kent State teams would have been candidates this season if they didn’t win the MAC Tournament.

Steinbrecher, the MAC commission, said one of the factor’s in the league decision was that two Utah Jazz players, recently diagnosed with COVID-19, had played in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse last week. He and Len Komoroski, the chief executive of the Cleveland Cavaliers, said they thought there was little chance MAC players could have caught the virus because the Utah game was more than a week ago. The arena has been repeatedly sanitized since then.

The Kent State women’s story

Flashes’ tournament win avenges multiple losses to Buffalo.

Shumate, Blackford make all-freshman team, Thall earns all-defensive honors.

The tournament cancellation is very sad for the Kent State women.

The Flashes just won their first quarterfinal game in 10 years, a 72-66 win over Buffalo Wednesday night.

They were the No. 3 seed in the tournament and could have been considered the favorite to win the championship. No. 1 seed Central Michigan and No. 2 seed Ball State both were upset in Wednesday’s play.

KSU senior Megan Carter, who scored 12 points in what may have been her last game Wednesday, tweeted today:

And minutes later came another Carter tweet:

Junior forward Monique Smith tweeted:

I plan another post on Wednesday’s game and the season later today or tomorrow.

On to the semifinals! Flashes finally beat Buffalo and advance in MAC Tournament

Modkins celebrate

Kent State’s Mariah Modkins (5) and Asiah Dingle celebrate after the Flashes’ big win over Buffalo. (Photo by David Dermer from team Twitter feed.)

The Kent State women’s basketball team beat its biggest nemesis — the University of Buffalo — on Wednesday and advanced to the its first Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals in 10 years.

The Flashes won 72-66 and will play No. 7 Eastern Michigan at about 1:30 p.m. Friday in a mostly empty Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Fans except for players’ families are banned from the arena to try to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

No. 3 seed Kent State is the highest surviving seed. Top-seeded Central Michigan fell to ninth-seed Toledo 78-71 and No. 2 Ball State lost to Eastern 64-63. In the fourth semifinal, No. 4 Ohio beat No. 5 Western Michigan 84-75.

Buffalo had beaten Kent State twice in the regular season, once by 13 points, once by 14. The Bulls had knocked KSU out of the tournament in the quarterfinals the last two years. Since 2012, Buffalo is 17-4 against the Flashes.

But Wednesday belonged to Kent State. The team did things that it failed to do in the regular-season losses to the Bulls. Key numbers for Kent State:

  • 26-11 in points off turnovers. Buffalo had a combined advantage of 35-26 in first two games.
  • 32-32 in points in the paint. In the teams’ first game, it was Buffalo 28-12. In the second, it was Buffalo 38-14.
  • 34 rebounds to Buffalo’s 38, and the teams were 8-8 on second-chance points. On Saturday, Buffalo outrebounded KSU 47-34 and had a 23-15 edge on follow-up points.

“Buffalo has been our Achilles heel,” coach Todd Starkey said in an interview with ESPN after the game. “It’s a tough matchup for us. They’re a really aggressive team and can really rebound it.

“I thought we showed great composure when they made that run (11-0 in the fourth quarter). We found a way to get the stop at the right time, to rebound at the right time, and to score at the right time. Then we made free throws down the stretch.”

Freshman Nila Blackford put it simply in her postgame radio interview with announcer David Wilson:

“We really just wanted to beat Buffalo. We knew that we were the better team.”

KSU’s big 3rd quarter, Buffalo’s counter rally

Buffalo led 28-27 at halftime, but the Flashes dominated the second half of the third quarter and the first half of the fourth.

It started with aggressive plays that drew Buffalo fouls.

After just three-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, Buffalo had committed five team fouls. That put Kent State in the two-shot bonus. It was KSU players who took the strategy to the coaches.

As the team came to the bench after a timeout, “I wasn’t really as focused on (the fouls) as I was on our game plan,” Starkey said.

Then the team talked to him and each other. Here’s how Starkey related it:

“Hey, they’re in the bonus,” team members said. “Let’s continue to stay aggressive and get to the line.

Kent State made nine-of-10 free throws in the third quarter and nine of 11 in the fourth. 

A 3-point shot by Katie Shumate at the buzzer of the third period gave KSU a 55-47 lead into the last period.

The Flashes pushed the lead to 15 points — 68-53 — with 3:36 to go in the game.

“We were just being really aggressive and moving the ball,” senior Megan Carter said. “It had them a little frazzled. They are so aggressive on defense, and they were just running around. I think our ball movement got to them.”

Then Buffalo came back.

Dyaisha Fair, the newly named MAC freshman of the year, had two steals, two baskets and two free throws. Kent State missed two shots and committed two fouls, and suddenly the score was 68-64 with 1:36 to play.

But then Fair missed a layup, then missed two 3-pointers while Carter, Shumate and Asiah Dingle made four free throws, and the Flashes had the win.

“We’ve talked all season that good teams make runs, and you’ve got to answer them,” Starkey said. “We didn’t answer that 11-0 run as quickly as I would have liked. It made it a little more nerve-racking down the stretch than we wanted, but I thought we did a good job of digging in.

“They made some really good plays and came right at us. This time of year, good players make good plays, great players make great plays. We had some great players make great plays to answer what they did.”

Blackford’s back

Blackford had struggled, especially in scoring, since she returned to the lineup  two weeks ago after a concussion. But Wednesday she looked like the woman who was Kent’s leading scorer and rebounder for most of the season. Blackford had 14 points on five-of-10 shooting and a game-high 13 rebounds. It was her fourth double-double of the season.

“They have really big, strong and athletic players,” Blackford said.athletic girls. So it was always tough, but I just tried to stay composed, calm down and go up strong.”

Dingle’s spark

As she’s done in almost every game since she began to come off the bench in February, Dingle made a big difference. She came into the game after about five minutes. Kent State trailed 9-7. On the next possession, she stole the ball and fed Lindsey Thall for a 3-point basket, then led an 9-2 run with two assists and two baskets. She finished the quarter with eight points.

“I felt we played very aggressive,” Dingle said. “When we didn’t, we were like, ‘Come on, we have to bring it to them like they’re bringing it to us.'”

Dingle led Kent State with 18 points, seven assists and four steals.

Starkey and the technical

After referees failed to call a foul on a Buffalo player in the second quarter, Starkey stormed down the sideline, his face red. Assistant coaches tried to hold him back.

“It’s my first technical of the year,” he said when a reporter brought it up. “I just want to point that out.

“I just saw a play where I felt like one of our players got pushed in the back, and it was getting physical. I just wanted to make sure I drew attention to the physical play.

I’m a passionate coach. I’m not going to apologize for that. I want to make sure our players know I have their back.

“So I lost it for a second there. I deserved to get a technical. But the rest of the game I felt like I coached with a lot of composure. Megan came over to me and said, ‘Coach, we need you.’ I appreciate that.”

The score was 31-24 after Buffalo made one of the technical foul shots and a 3-point basket on the next play.

Then Kent State outscored the Bulls 7-2 for the rest of the quarter.

The few and the loud

Kent State had about 100 fans in the 19,000-seat fieldhouse. 

“They were phenomenal,” Starkey said. “They made this place feel like it was a lot more full than it was. They participated in this win.”

Here’s what atmosphere was like in the near-empty fieldhouse.

The freshman of the year shows why

Buffalo’s Fair had 36 points, her season high and tied for the most points a player has scored against Kent State this season. She was fourth in the country in scoring going into the day at 21.5 points per game. Wednesday she took 31 shots, made 13, was eight-for-eight in foul shooting, had 11 rebounds and four steals.

“Our philosophy really wasn’t how we can limit Fair,” Starkey said. “It’s to make her shots tough, and then make sure we limit everybody else.

“And she hit some really tough shots, but she’s a special scorer.

No other Buffalo player scored more than six points.

Megan Carter’s first win in Cleveland

Carter has played in the quarterfinals since her redshirt sophomore year. Her teams had lost to Toledo and to Buffalo twice.

Starkey looked at her during the postgame press conference and asked, “It’s nice getting your first win in Cleveland, isn’t it, Megan?”

Real nice,” she answered.

It also was Starkey’s first win in Cleveland.

Carter had 12 points and made eight-of-nine free throws.

Box score


  • Ohio and Toledo will play at 11 a.m. Friday. The Kent State-Eastern Michigan game will start a half hour after the first game ends, probably about 1:30.
  • The win broke Buffalo’s six-game winning streak. It was the fifth win in six games for the Flashes. KSU’s record is 19-11. Buffalo’s is 19-12. The Bulls (and the Flashes, if they don’t win the MAC Tournament) have a good chance for a WNIT bid. That’s assuming the tournament doesn’t get canceled because of the coronavirus.
  • The Flashes made 24 of 27 free throws. That’s 89% and their second-best performance of the season. They made 30 of 31 against St. Bonaventure. After a mid-season slump in drawing fouls (and, at times, making foul shots), the Flashes have made an average of 21 over their last six games.
  • Two Buffalo players fouled out. Two more had four fouls. Dingle and Thall had four for the Flashes.
  • Kent State made 40% of its shots, Buffalo 36.4%. Neither team was effective from 3-point distance; KSU was four of 17, Buffalo three of 16.
  • Thall had eight points, three assists and three rebounds.
  • The Flashes had just seven turnovers through three quarters but finished with 15. Buffalo had six steals in the last quarter.

The view from Buffalo

Coach Felisha Legette-Jack:

“What a season we had. My goodness, we’ve come a long way. We’ve done so much with the third youngest team in the country. They just bought in and believed in this crazy old lady. We just went in and we just fought and we just believed and we just kept firing away.”

“We went to a little slump, lost five or six games in a row, but we didn’t lose those games. We may have lost three or four of them, but we were really, really good through two losses.”

On Dyaisha Fair:

“I try to share with the world that she’s special. She’s a substance kid, and the reason why she said ‘yes’ to us is because she believed that we had substance. We were going to grow her to this woman that I know she’s on her way to become. I am as in awe of this young lady as you are.”

Dyaisha Fair on her role on the team:

“We don’t have a go-to player on this team. We are a go-to team. I just do what I have to do as my role. I just take whatever my coach tells me to do, and I do it,  along with my upperclassmen.”

Transcript of the postgame KSU press conference.

Transcript of the Buffalo press conference.

Report from an almost empty arena

I asked KentWired reporter Kathryn Rajnicek to describe what it’s like in Cleveland, where the women’s Mid-American Conference Tournament is being played in an almost empty area. Here’s her report.

It’s much too quiet at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. 

No bands playing school fight songs. No cheerleaders pumping up the crowd.

About all you hear is the PA announcing the scoring and the music pulsing from the speakers of the main scoreboard through timeouts and between quarters.

The only fans in attendance are family members of players. They take up two small sections, but the rest of the 19,000 seats are vacant. The rows and rows of empty chairs make the fieldhouse look bigger than it is. 

Fans create so much of the atmosphere of college sports. Without them, March loses much of its madness.


March mess: Cornavirus forces KSU to play Buffalo in near-empty arena in MAC quarterfinals

Team at The Rock (1)

The Flashes after practice at Rocket Mortgage Arena Tuesday. (Photo from team Twitter feed.)

There may be almost no one in the stands watching Wednesday, but the Kent State women’s basketball team has a big challenge in its MAC Tournament quarterfinal game with Buffalo.

The MAC announced late Tuesday afternoon that, as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had asked earlier in the day, attendance would be restricted to media, players’ families and school and tournament officials to help contain the coronavirus outbreak. Details on the MAC statement.

Kent State and other MAC teams are already in Cleveland and practiced Tuesday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (formerly Quicken Loans Arena), the 19,000-seat home of the Cleveland Cavaliers and site of the tournament.

All tournament games will be broadcast or streamed on ESPN+, the CBS Sports Channel (men’s semifinals and women’s finals) and ESPN2 (men’s finals). Details on how to get ESPN+ are below.

KSU’s Katie Shumate and Nila Blackford made all freshman team, Lindsey Thall made all-defensive team, and Shumate and Megan Carter were honorable mention all-MAC.

KSU-Buffalo: Chapter 3

The Flashes finished two spots ahead of Buffalo in the regular season but lost twice to the Bulls, once by 13 points, once by 14. Buffalo knocked Kent State out of the tournament in the quarterfinals last year and the year before. Buffalo’s teams then were the best in school history. Both won at least one game in the NCAA tournament. The 2017-18 team reached the Sweet 16.

This year’s games were not quite as bad as the scores. The Flashes led the game in Kent by four points going into the fourth quarter. But they were plagued by turnovers and hot Buffalo shooting in the fourth in a 57-44 loss. Kent State lost to the Bulls Saturday 72-58 in Buffalo in a game that meant nothing to the Flashes’ tournament seeding. The Bulls could have had as low as a ninth seed if they had lost, so their incentive was strong.

The individual matchups are tough ones for the Flashes. The Bulls’ trademark is hard defense and rebounding, where they lead the conference in rebounding margin (+4.4 per game), offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds. They outrebounded Kent State 47-34 Saturday, though KSU outrebounded them 41-40 in February. Kent’s average rebounding margin is -1.8.

The Bulls also have guard Dyaisha Fair, the newly named MAC freshman of the year. She averages 21.5 points a game, fourth in the country. She scored 25 against KSU Saturday and 17 in February.

“Buffalo is just super aggressive — relentless,” said KSU senior Megan Carter, who will be playing the Bulls for the 10th time in her career. “They just crash the board. And Dyaisha Fair. She’s like a walking bucket.”

All of these interviews were conducted Monday before the MAC announced fans wouldn’t be in attendance.

Kent State is 2-7 in the games against Buffalo Carter has played and Todd Starkey has coached. Both wins were in Kent, one in their MAC East championship year in 2017 and last season, when they upset Buffalo 62-53 in the last game of the regular season.

“Buffalo is going to try to not let you run what you want to all offensively  and defensively,” Starkey said. “A lot of their offense is based on being aggressive to the basket and on offensive rebounds.”

The KSU players want very badly to beat Buffalo.

“We want a win,” said sophomore Lindsey Thall, who had 28 points against the Bulls Saturday. “Last game we didn’t match their intensity. But if we do, we’ll be fine.”

For Carter at this point in the season, every game could be the last of her career.

“I try not to think about it,” she said. “I want a championship and then go to the tournament. So I at least want four more games. I just use the opportunity in front of me and take it day by day.”

(Carter likely has at least two more games. The Flashes have a good case to make the WNIT if they lose in the MAC Tournament.)

What’s she telling KSU’s three freshman about their first experience in the tournament?

“Just enjoy every moment and the opportunity. And have fun.”

Thall’s advice to the freshmen:

“Just keep their poise. A lot of things can change during a game because it’s a really loud atmosphere. So just keep their cool.”

Carter on what it is like playing in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse?

“That’s a professional arena. It’s big. It’s like rows and rows and rows. And the depth perception changes.”

Does she like playing there?

“Yeah. It’s pretty cool. Pretty cool.”

It will be a strange arena when they play to empty seats.

Starkey said he thought his team was ready.

“We had a great final three weeks of the season, playing some of our best basketball,” he said. “The Buffalo game was tough to prepare for in that weren’t really going to enhance our playoff position in any way. And Buffalo is always a tough place to play.

“But we’ve put that behind us, and I think everybody is excited about getting up to Cleveland.”

The coach said the team is as healthy as could be expected.

We’re banged up, but everybody probably could give you a list of issues they’re dealing with at this time of year,” he said. “If you’re not banged up a little bit, you’re probably not playing very hard.”

Starkey said that he doesn’t agree with the argument that freshmen — Kent State starts two and a third plays significant minutes — don’t play like freshmen at the end of the season.

“We don’t have experience with what the MAC Tournament looks like and what it’s like playing up there,” he said. “Most of our players have either played one game or no games there. You can’t train experience. But it’s our job to prepare them for that environment.”

Does playing Buffalo for the second time in five days make any difference? Starkey said it helped Kent to have had the first-round bye and the extra rest. “We earned it,” he said.

With a team like Buffalo that they’ve played twice, “You try and make some quick tweaks here and there, but teams aren’t going to morph into something they’re at this time of year.”

All about the game

It should start between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The first of the four quarterfinal games starts at noon. Each of the next starts a half hour after the previous game ends. So times are inexact.

Winner will play the winner of the Ball State-Eastern Michigan game at about 1:30 p.m. Friday.

MAC Women’s Tournament Central, including brackets, statistics and more.

The teams

All statistics are for regular-seasons conference games only, which are more current and reflect similar competition.

  • Record: Kent State 18-11 overall and 11-7 in regular-season MAC play. Buffalo is 19-11, 9-9 in MAC. Buffalo has won six games in a row. Kent State has won four of its last five, with the only loss coming to Buffalo.
  • RPI: Kent State 97 of 351 Division I teams. Buffalo 113. (RPI is based on a team’s record and schedule strength.)
  • Power rankings: Kent State 103. Buffalo 104. (Adds factors like margin of victory, record in recent games, injuries.)
  • Scoring average: KSU fifth in MAC at 69.0 points per game. Buffalo seventh at 68.1.
  • Defensive average: KSU fourth at 67.1. Buffalo sixth at 67.5.
  • Field-goal percentage: KSU 10th at 40.0% (seventh on 3-pointers at 31.2%). Buffalo 11th at 39.7% (last on 3s at 25.3%).
  • Field-goal defense: KSU fourth at 39.1% (11th on 3s at 35.9%). Buffalo fifth at 39.4 (10th on 3s at 34.3%).
  • Free-throw shooting: Kent State seventh at 68.9%. Buffalo fourth at 70.5%.
  • Rebounding margin: KSU seventh at -1.1. Buffalo first at +4.4.
  • Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +1.5. Buffalo sixth at +0.5. KSU sixth in steals at 6.9, Buffalo fourth at 8.1.
  • Assists: Kent State 10th at 10.8. Buffalo 11th at 10.9.
  • Blocked shots: Kent State first at 4.5. Buffalo sixth at 2.4.

Top players

Kent State starters

  • 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (12.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, sixth in MAC in 3-point percentage at 39.0, eighth in field-goal percentage at 44.3, 12th in free-throw percentage at 75.9).
  • 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (11.5 points, sixth in rebounding at 8.1).
  • 5-7 senior guard Megan Carter (11.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals).
  • 5-1 freshman guard Mariah Modkins (3.8 points, 37.1 3-point shooting, 1.4 assists).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (11.4 points, 1.9 three-point baskets a game, first in MAC in blocked shots at 2.7).

Key KSU reserves

  • 5-4 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (14.3 points, third in MAC in field-goal percentage at 52.3, fourth in steals at 2.2, 2.7 assists).
  • 5-10 sophomore guard Hannah Young (5.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 35.7 three-point percentage).
  • 5-10 freshman guard Clare Kelly (2.2 points, 1.5 rebounds).
  • 5-11 junior forward Monique Smith (1.0 points, 2.2 rebounds).

Buffalo starters

  • 5-5 freshman guard Dyaisha Fair (fourth in MAC at 19.8 points per game, fourth in Division I in all games at 21.5 points, seventh at 3.5 assists, second in steals at 2.4. Named MAC freshman of the year Tuesday.)
  • 5-10 senior guard Therese Onwuka (13.2 points, 10th in rebounding at 7.6, third in steals at 2.2).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Adebola Adeyeye (8.2 points, fourth in rebounding at 8.6).
  • 5-3 senior guard Hanna Hall (8.1 points, 2.9 assists).
  • 6-foot junior forward Marissa Hamilton (4.7 points, 4.0 rebounds).

Top Buffalo reserves

  • 6-3 freshman center Elea Gaba (5.3 points, 2.4 rebounds).
  • 6-3 sophomore forward Keowa Walters (5.2 points, 4.1 rebounds).
  • 6-3 freshman forward Loren Christie (2.6 points, 2.9 rebounds).
  • 5-9 freshman guard Jessika Schiffer (2.7 points, 1.1 rebounds)

Following the game from home

Video stream on ESPN+ starts at game time at about 8 p.m. All four MAC quarterfinals, starting with Central Michigan-Toledo game at noon, are on ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. Men’s quarterfinals are on the network on Thursday, along with women’s semifinals on Friday.

ESPN+ also will stream a number of KSU spring events, especially baseball and softball. It also will stream the MAC gymnastics championship and most spring championships.  ESPN+ includes all other MAC schools, many other mid-major conferences and some original programming.

Audio will start at about 7:45 p.m. on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.

Live statistics for all tournament games will be on the MAC Tournament website during the games.


Kent State website, with links to roster, statistics, schedule and more.

Buffalo website, with links.

Scores (including games in progress).

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.







(Almost) no fans will be able to attend MAC Tournament because of coronavirus fears

The Mid-American Conference Tournament will be played in a mostly empty Rocket Mortgage Arena Fieldhouse.

The MAC announced late Tuesday afternoon that only player family members, media and school officials will be allowed in the fieldhouse for the tournament, which starts Wednesday.

The move, the conference said, came after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine asked that attendance be limited at all athletic centers in order to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Here’s the MAC statement:

MAC cancel

All games will be broadcast or streamed on ESPN+, the CBS Sports Channel (men’s semifinals and women’s finals) and ESPN2 (men’s finals).

Kent State games will be broadcast on WHLO and Golden Flashes iHeart Radio.

The Kent State women’s team is scheduled to play Buffalo at about 8 p.m. Wednesday. It’s the last of four quarterfinal games that day.

The KSU men play Ball State at about 8 Thursday, again the last of four games. Semifinals are Friday for men and women. Finals are Saturday.