Women vs. OSU will be featured game in November doubleheader at M.A.C.C

Ali in brace

Senior Ali Poole (right), who started 19 games last season, is still recovering from a knee injury suffered in practice this summer. Wearing a hefty knee brace, she participated in drills last week that required no significant movement or contact. Her status for the upcoming season is still unclear. (Details below.) Other player in photo is sophomore Lindsay Thall.

Perhaps for the first time, the Kent State women’s basketball team will play the marquee game in a doubleheader with the men.

When the women host Ohio State on Thursday, Nov. 21, they’ll play the 7:30 p.m. game — after the men play Division II Concord at 5 p.m.

In every other evening doubleheader I remember in 35 years of following KSU sports, the women always played first — before the crowds arrive.

But the Ohio State game is something special. The Buckeyes are the biggest name (men or women) to visit the M.A.C. Center this season and certainly one of the biggest schools ever. It’s also the first time the two teams have played since 1981.

When the game was announced earlier this summer, coach Todd Starkey said he dreamed of filling the 6,200-seat M.A.C.C.

The doubleheader is one more piece that might make that happen.

Biggest women’s crowd I can remember was about 4,500 in 2010, when the Flashes lost to Bowling Green in a “10 tickets for $10” promotion. I remember talking at that game to Judy Devine, KSU’s first women’s coach and later longtime top woman sports administrator for the university. She told me that there were crowds that large in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “A different era,” she said.

Other game times of note:

  • The Flashes opener at Duquesne on Tuesday, Nov. 5, will also be the second game of a doubleheader. The Duquesne men play Princeton at 6. The KSU game will start at about 8:30 or a half hour after the men end. It will be the first game Duquesne women have ever played at PPG Paints Arena, the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team.
  • The Flashes’ game vs. Michigan at the Akron Class will be at 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, an awkward time for fans.
  • Kent State will play St. Bonaventure at noon Tuesday, Dec. 3. It’s a “school day” game with students from local elementary and secondary schools invited. The men play at 7 that night against Detroit Mercy.
  • The Flashes have two other home doubleheaders:
    • 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, vs. Western Michigan. The men play Central Michigan at about 3:30 p.m.
    • About 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, vs. Toledo. The men’s game against Ohio starts at 1.
  • Kent State’s two games at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic start at 3 p.m. (noon Kent time). The Flashes play Georgia Southern on Thursday, Dec. 19, and Troy on Friday, Dec. 20.

Link to full KSU schedule.

Senior Ali Poole rehabbing an injured knee

Poole was injured in practice in August, shortly before the team’s exhibition game trip to Vancouver, Canada.

She has been in rehabilitation since. When I watched practice last week, she wore an impressively large knee brace. She did take part of a couple of non-contact drills, shot some free throws with the team and spent a lot of time shooting three-point shots with a team manager. (Her shooting looked pretty good.)

“We just continuing to see how she progresses,” Starkey said after practice. “She’s actually ahead of where I thought she’s be at this point. So I’m optimistic.

“We need her, We need her experience, and we need her leadership.”

Poole averaged 8.8 points a game last season, fourth best on the team. She started 19 of 33 games and averaged almost 28 minutes per game. Poole, Megan Carter and Sydney Brinlee are the seniors on the team.

It’s been a rough year for women in the Poole family. Her sister, Mikayla, plays basketball for Malone. Mikayla watched a couple of KSU games last season with a dislocated shoulder in a sling. The sisters’ mother, Jodie, watched her daughters play last season with her own foot in a cast after surgery. Jodie had been an assistant and junior varsity coach at Carrollton High School for many years.



‘Don’t squander it,’ Starkey tells his team as 2019-20 practice begins

Passing drill (2)

A first-day passing drill with coach Starkey and freshman guard Clare Kelly. Next to Starkey is sophomore point guard Asiah Dingle.

“Every season, every team writes its own story,” coach Todd Starkey told his 14 players as they stood in a loose circle at center court in the M.A.C. Center at 9:45 a.m. Thursday.

Starkey has used the phrase before, but it seemed very apt on Thursday, his team’s first official day of practice.

He nodded toward Alexa Golden, the four-year starter who has moved into a graduate assistant role with the team.

“Last year Lex and Merissa (Barber-Smith, last season’s other senior) stood where you are,” Starkey went on. “It happens fast. A blink and it will be gone.

“Don’t squander it.”

And with that started the 2019-20 women’s basketball season, one that brings much promise. The Flashes return four starters and 83.4 percent of their scoring from a 20-13 season. They have three promising freshmen, two of whom could well be in the starting lineup their first game at Duquesne Nov. 5.

The goal, said senior Megan Carter, the team’s leading scorer last year, is simple.

“A MAC title,” she said after practice.

It’s certainly within the realm of possibility. The Flashes were fifth in the Mid-American Conference last season. Of the four teams ahead of them, only Ohio (27-8 last season) has more firepower returning. Central Michigan and Buffalo, last season’s divisional champions, had major graduation losses. Miami has its two best players back but graduated three other starters and lost its coach to Marquette.

Other teams, especially Northern Illinois and Ball State, looked to be improved. But Kent State is as good a bet as any for the top four spots, which earn a bye at the MAC Tournament.

But, as Starkey reminded his team Thursday, that’s almost six months away.

“It’s three-and-a-half weeks until our first game,” he said. “It will happen quickly — and we’re not ready. We need the practice.”

So the Flashes set to work. In the two hours, the team:

  • Put up a lot of shots in fast-moving drills. Sometimes they’d hit five 3-point baskets in a row, then miss five 15 seconds later. But there is no doubt that this team has shooters, and they’ve been working on improving.
  • Worked for a long time on “back screen defense” — a way to stop opposing teams from freeing a shooter by running her by another player. (It’s basic basketball, but I still understood only about 30 percent of what Starkey was saying.)
  • Ran their half-court offense — not hugely different than what we saw last season — with a lot of different combinations of players.
  • Introduced the basic 1-3-1 defense with variations — for example,  a post in the center, or a point guard in the center.
  • Hit five of six free throws at the end of practice to avoid having to run sprints.

“We’re still very young,” Starkey said. (There are likely to be four sophomore and three freshmen among its top nine or 10 players.}

“So you saw a lot of teaching today,” he said. “There was a lot of talking and teaching and breaking down stuff. We’re going to need to be about that for the next two to three weeks.”

NCAA rules allowed the Flashes to practice four hours a week this summer — with more time before and during the team’s exhibition tour to Vancouver, Canada, in August. Starkey and his assistants emphasized individual work.

“Our assistant coaches did a phenomenal job of helping every player’s individual skill set,” he said. “But from a team defensive standpoint, we need time and reps.”

(For the record, the coach said almost exactly the same thing a year ago, and defense turned out to be the team’s strength.)

I’ve got a lot more from the practice, the Starkey interview and brief chats with four key players. I’ll be adding posts for the next few days.

But let’s give the last word on the first day to Starkey, who’s seen 21 seasons begin as a coach.

“It’s always new,” he said. “New practice gear, new shoes, and always a new level of excitement.”



A new place to practice

Practice facility

This is Kent State’s new practice facility for basketball and volleyball. Located in the M.A.C. Center Annex, it opened last week. The teams will use it when the university needs the M.A.C.C. for other things, such as graduation or concerts. It also will give the teams more flexibility in setting practice times. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)

Kent Stater sports writer Ian Kreider did a major piece on the facility when it was under construction.

Here’s a video the team posted on Twitter Monday.


More on the MAC: Ohio gets another good one; NIU gets a good one back

Carter vs Toledo (1)
Kent State guard Megan Carter in action at Toledo last season. Flashes beat the Rockets in Toledo. Toledo has lost only nine games at home in the last two season, three of them to Kent State. 
A Toledo fan with the handle “Dwight” posted a comment on the Flash Fanatics bulletin board that added some good information to my post on the MAC schedule earlier this week.
(I usually post a summary of the blog on the bulletin board with a link to here.)
Dwight obviously had read the full blog post, which had a lot more detail than I posted on the board. Here’s what he had to say (with some of my thoughts in italic:
Thanks for all of the great information on your blog. One small correction regarding your blog post. If memory serves, Central Michigan lost its first-round NCAA game in a nail-biter to Michigan State.

He’s right, of course. It was two years ago Central won two NCAA games and made it to the Sweet 16.

You mentioned that Ohio has its top four starters back. In addition, the Bobcats have the services of Caitlyn Kroll, who averaged 13.4 ppg and was voted newcomer of the year in the Northeast Conference in her freshman year at St. Francis (Pa.) before transferring to Ohio and sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.

As a Toledo fan, I hope you’re right about the Rockets being able to contend with the top teams in the conference. However, the Rockets lost three starters to graduation, including their best player. A repeat of last year’s six seed in the conference tournament should probably be considered a success. Toledo still has a good reputation from its success in Coach Cullop’s early years, but the last time the Rockets were better than 12-6 in the conference was 2012-13.
Toledo did graduate Kayla McIntyre, the 6-2 center who was second-team all-MAC, and guard Mikaela Boyd, who was honorable mention all-league. The Rockers do have back three players who started at least 11 games, including their second leading scorer. But Dwight obviously knows a lot more about Toledo than I do. It would be most unusual, though, if the Rockets didn’t have a solid team.

In addition to having four starters back, Northern Illinois will have Courtney Woods, who returns for a redshirt senior year after undergoing knee surgery early last season. Woods averaged 22 ppg and 8 rpg during her junior season.

I had forgotten Woods is back. She’s a very good player. Her return moves my opinion of NIU up a couple of notches.

I think Central Michigan will be only average this season. Last year the Chips rode the backs of two amazing players, both of whom are gone. I don’t see a lot of talent on that roster, although I have no idea what new players are coming in this year. 

No team can graduate all-MAC players like Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost and not suffer. Junior guard Michaela Kelly is back, and she impressed me a lot last year. The Chippewas’ freshman class looks good, and the program is always strong. They certainly won’t be a favorite, but I’ll be surprised if they’re not good.

My thoughts on the league outlook were almost throwaway comments on a post on Kent State’s schedule.  I’ve glanced at the league’s rosters but obviously don’t know them as well as Dwight from Toledo.
I’m sure we’ll talk a lot more about the MAC when we see the teams on the court.

MAC schedule has Kent playing Western foes Toledo and Ball State twice

The MAC released the women’s conference schedule today.

Kent State (11-7 in the MAC last season, 20-13 overall), have its top four scorers and 84% of their points back, along with three freshmen who were impressive in the team’s summer exhibition trip to British Columbia. 

Notes on the KSU league schedule (non-conference schedule was released weeks ago):

  • The Flashes open conference play at Ball State on Saturday, Jan. 4.
    • The good: It’s always good to play early conference games away, when students haven’t returned to campus. It’s also nice to take longer trips before the semester starts so students don’t miss class.
    • The bad: Kent State played its worst MAC game of the season at Ball State when it made just 24% of its shots and lost to the 11th-place Cardinals 48-44. A strange but awful statistic: KSU hasn’t won at Ball State since 1997. Because Ball State is in the MAC’s Western Division, the Flashes only play there every few years, but still…
    • The opponent: Ball State (3-15 in the MAC last season and 8-23 overall) ought to be substantially improved. The Cardinals have their top four scorers back, plus a star freshman who was injured early last season. They have been one of the MAC’s better teams over the last decade. Last year’s team struggled in large part because its best two returning players graduated early and transferred to other Division I schools.
  • The Flashes open at home the next Wednesday, Jan. 8, against Eastern Michigan
    • The good: Coach Todd Starkey has beaten EMU six straight times since he became head coach in 2016.
    • The bad: Eastern’s recruiting classes have been rated among the best in the MAC every year since Fred Castro became coach the same year as Starkey did. The Eagles have yet to have a winning season under Castro, but you fear that eventually they’ll put it together.
    • The opponent: Eastern finished ninth in the MAC last season at 6-12 and was 14-17 overall.
  • MAC teams play every school in their division twice. They play all teams in the other division but only two of them twice. Kent plays Ball State (see above) away and in Kent. The Flashes play Toledo home and away. KSU had beaten Toledo three straight times in Toledo, where the Rockets generally dominate. Toledo is always in the MAC first division and likely will be again.
  • Kent State plays its two single away games at Western Michigan and at Central Michigan. Both are about a four-and-a-half-hour bus rides. The Western game is the Saturday before classes start; the Flashes play Central on a February Wednesday. Central won the MAC last season but lost two all-conference players. WMU was 10th.
  • Western Division teams that KSU plays only in Kent are Northern Illinois (10-8 and 19-13 overall last season) and Eastern Michigan (see above).
  • The Flashes finish the season with five straight games against Eastern Division teams. Their last game is against Buffalo for the sixth season in a row, this year at Buffalo. The Bulls, second in the MAC last season, lost a lot to graduation but have a strong freshman class.

The MAC ranked eighth of 32 conferences last season. It will tough again. Central Michigan and Buffalo both made the NCAA tournament last season. On paper, no team except Ohio looks that good at this point.

Ohio, which went 27-5 last season (14-4 MAC) and just missed the NCAA tournament, has its best four starters back and figures to be the MAC favorite.

Both Buffalo (23-9, 12-6) and Central Michigan (25-4, 25-7) lost a lot to graduation, but I’m sure they’ll be good again. Both won their first game in the NCAA tournament last season.

Kent State (11-7, 20-13) and Toledo (11-7, 20-11) should be competitive with any of those schools.

Miami went 23-8 last season (13-5 MAC) and has its best two players (but no other starters) back and a new coach. Northern Illinois (10-8 MAC, 19-13) lost its top scorer but has its other starters back.

Ball State (3-15, 9-23) and Western Michigan (4-14, 10-20) get key players back from injury and could be substantially better.

Eastern Michigan (6-12, 14-17) still hasn’t proven it can win.

I’ll be surprised if Akron (7-11, 16-14) and Bowling Green (2-16, 9-21), both rebuilding with second-year coaches, make the top half of the league.

Full KSU non-conference and conference schedule

Last season’s final MAC standings




Class of 2023 scored 4,500 points in high school, 93 on KSU’s Canada trip


KSU’s class of 2023 (from left): Katie Shumate of Newark, Ohio, coach Todd Starkey: Nila Blackford of Louisville, Kentucky, and Clare Kelly of Olmsted Falls, Ohio. photo was taken at freshman rally at the M.A.C. Center last week. (From team Twitter feed.)

Kent State’s three freshmen  — 6-foot-2 forward Nila Blackford, 5-11 wing Katie Shumate and 5-8 guard Clare Kelly — scored almost a third of Kent State’s points on the team’s trip to British Columbia earlier this month.

That was taking up where they left off in high school, where the three scored a combined 4,500 points (exactly) and made a total of eight all-state teams.

On KSU’s trip to Vancouver, Blackford led the team in rebounding (7.7 per game); Shumate was second at 7.3.

Shumate was second in scoring to sophomore point guard Asiah Dingle at 12.3 points per game, second in steals and blocked shots and third in assists.

Kelly led the team in 3-point shooting, making 9 of 18 shots, and averaged 9.7 points a game. Blackford averaged 9.0 points.

“Our three freshmen can score at a much higher than the two seniors we lost to graduation,” coach Todd Starkey said in an interview before the trip.

None is likely immediately to be Kent State’s voice on defense, as was guard Alexa Golden, a member of the MAC all-defensive team who ranked among conference leaders in steals, rebounding, assists blocked shots and minutes played. But Golden, now a graduate assistant with the team, averaged 7.6 points per game.

None is likely to get 20 rebounds in a game, as did 6-4 Merissa Barber-Smith against Bowling Green in the MAC Tournament. Barber-Smith led KSU in rebounding with 7.6 per game in less than 18 minutes per game. But she averaged just three points a game.

Shumate and Blackford “could put up 12 and 12 (points and rebounds) in a game,” Starkey said.

Kelly made 37% of her 3-point shots in high school. That’s more than a percentage point higher than sophomore Lindsay Thall did her senior year, and Thall led the MAC in 3-point percentage last season.

All three have been impressive in conditioning and the weight room, too. Kelly set a team record by lifting 100 pounds 23 times. Shumate had the team’s best vertical leap at 10 feet 2 inches, with Blackford close behind. Katie won the team’s mile run, and Blackford the team’s three-quarter-court sprint.

Blackford in Vancouver (1)

Nila Blackford

6-2 forward from Dupont Manual High School in Louisville, Kentucky

HER STATS FROM THE VANCOUVER TRIP: 27 points, 23 rebounds, four steals, three blocked shots. Nine points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a block against Vancouver Island University.


“Nila has the ability to play multiple positions, mostly forward and wing. She’s probably our best offensive rebounder on the team already. She is developing consistency in her perimeter game, can drive and has a knack for scoring in transition and around the basket.”

HIGH SCHOOL: First-team all-Kentucky, one of 16 regional players of the year, which made her a finalist for Miss Basketball in Kentucky. Averaged 19.3 points and 10.9 rebounds and shot 48.5% from the field. Her team went 21-10 and lost in regional final. In four years, Blackford played in four regional finals and two state tournaments. In her high school career, she had 1,499 points and 939 rebounds.

Manual coach Jeff Sparks, quoted in the Louisville Courier-Journal: 

“A very talented and gifted athlete, one of the best I have had the pleasure to coach. She faced double and triple coverage in the majority of our games. I really saw her grow in her ability to score in different ways and play with a confidence that allowed her to not get rattled against the pressure she saw every night.”

Kelly in Vancouver (1)

Clare Kelly

5-8 guard from Olmsted Falls, a Cleveland suburb

STATS FROM VANCOUVER: 29 points, four assists, 9 of 18 three-point shots. Had 12 points, two assists and a steal against British Columbia.

Starkey on Kelly:

“Claire has a really high basketball IQ and understands the flow of the game. She sees the floor; she’s a great passer. She’s come in shooting the ball with a lot of confidence,”

HIGH SCHOOL: Second-team all-Ohio as a senior and sophomore, third team as junior. As a senior, averaged 18.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.8 steals on team that went 21-4. Made 48.2% of field goal and 37.2% of 3-point shots. Hit 8 of 11 three-point shots in district finals. In her career, made 204 3-pointers, a school record, and hit 37.7% of 3-point shots, also a record. Scored 1,636 points in high school, second in school history.

From Jordan Eaton, her high school coach:

“Clare Kelly has unlimited range from 3. There are plenty of player who love winning…Clare hates losing.”

Shumate in Vancouver

Katie Shumate

5-11 guard from Newark High School, 30 miles east of Columbus

STATS FROM VANCOUVER: 37 points, 22 rebounds, five steals, six assists, four blocks. Had 19 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, one steal against University of British Columbia.

Starkey on Shumate:

“Katie has the ability to play four positions. She’s got enough basketball IQ and ball handling ability to play the point. She’s athletic and long enough to defend fours (forwards) and play the four spot we need her to. She’s done a really good job of attacking the basket and scoring in transition and rebounding from the guard position.”

HIGH SCHOOL: Second-team all-Ohio as senior and junior, first team as sophomore. District player of the year as junior and senior. As a senior, averaged 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals aand shot 50% from the field on a team that went 24-4. Over four years, her high school teams went 96-15 and won four district and one regional titles. Scored 1,365 points in four years, fourth best in program history. Second in steals, fourth in assists, ninth in rebounding in school history.

From her father and high school coach, J.R. Shumate, as quoted in the Newark Advocate:

“With her stats, you’d think she was a post player. The thing that stands out in her career is versatility. She led us in eight different categories this year.”

From Kurt Snyder, sports editor of the Newark Advocate, her hometown paper:

“Has nice touch in the paint, at the line and from 3-point range. Uses her length and instincts to get a ton of steals and deflections. Is a good shot blocker and defensive rebounder for a guard.”

Earlier posts


What we learned from the trip (part 2): Shooting, rebound and assists

Image-1 (2)

Sophomore guard Hannah Young in action in British Columbia. She made all four of her 3-point shots in KSU’s final game. (Photo from team Twitter feed.)

In Part 1 of the post after the women’s games in Vancouver, we talked about the growth of point guard Asiah Dingle, the strong performance of KSU’s three freshmen and the implications of a team that scored 287 points in three games.

As with that post, we have to warn that big wins against less-good opposition makes any conclusions tentative at best. The teams the Flashes played seemed similar to Division II competition in the U.S. — substantially less that what they will face in the MAC.

Shoring up weaknesses

Kent State had a 20-13 season last year, but two big things jumped out in postseason analysis:

  • KSU was not a good shooting team — especially 2-point shooting, where they ranked 308th of 351 teams in Division I at at 39.5%. When Kent State lost, especially to teams below it in the standings, it was usually because it struggled to make baskets.
  • The Flashes weren’t very good at setting each other up to score. Kent ranked 311th in the country with 10.6 assists per game. KSU had assists on 48.6% of its baskets.

Coaches have been working to correct both.

“There are two ways you get better,” coach Todd Starkey said in an interview before the Vancouver trip. “You develop your current players, and we’ve addressed it in our daily workouts. Then you recruit better scorers.

“We have three players in our freshman class who can really score the basketball and finish plays. All three of them are effective 3-point shooters, but none of them are only 3-point shooters. Two can really finish around the basket — not from a traditional post player standard, but they can really finish.”

The evidence from the trip:

  • The three freshmen combined to make 45% of their shots from both 2- and 3-point range. Take out Nila Blackford’s 4-for-15 day against Vancouver Island, and they made 48% of their 2-point shots. Katie Shumate was 15 for 28 from 2-point range. Clare Kelly was 9 of 18 on 3-point shots.

Part of that could was likely the level of competition. But the freshmen’s shooting percentage was considerably higher than that of returning starters Megan Carter and Lindsay Thall. Neither had good trips, but Carter was third-team all-MAC last season and Thall made the all-freshman team and led the league in 3-point shootings.

Dingle, whose shooting percentage last year was 38, made 52% of her shots in Vancouver.

Dingle also led the way in a big improvement with assists. She average 6.7 a game, more than two-and-a-half times numbers last year. As a team, KSU averaged 16.3 assists though it had assists on only 43% of baskets.

Again, conclusions are very hard to draw. First problem is the competition. Second is the fact no Flash played more than 25 minutes in any game. So Kent State was using players and combinations we won’t see a lot in the regular season. And the team had only practiced four hours a week as a team through most of the summer and is in far from regular-season form.

But I’m encouraged.

Replacing what was lost

The Flashes lost only two players to graduate, but Alexa Golden and Merissa Barber-Smith were the teams best defensive players and best rebounders. ]

Golden was on the MAC’s all-defensive team last season and was the heart and voice of KSU’s defense as a four-year starter.

“Are we going to have somebody that’s ready right away to just step in and replace what she gave us?” Starkey asked. “No. But we have people who can play defense.”

Kent State gave up 58.7 points a game on the trip. Throw away the 25 points VK Select scored in a sloppy fourth quarter, and it’s probably closer to 55. KSU gave up 62 points a game last season. Scoring was likely higher on the trip because of international rules that included a 24-second shot clock instead of the 30 the NCAA uses.

Opponents made 36.6% of their shots, about 3 points better than last season.

The Flashes outwhelmed all three teams in rebounding, which isn’t unusual when a Division I team plays a lower division one. The closest margin was 54-44 against the University of British Columbia. It was 54-27 against Vancouver Island. The Flashes averaged 22.3 offensive rebounds.

Their best rebounders were freshmen — Blackford at 7.7 and Shumate at 7.3. Again, that was in less than 25 minutes a game. Shumate had 12 rebounds in one game, Blackford 10 in another. Blackford is 6-foot-2 and Shumate 5-11.

Barber-Smith, who was 6-4, led KSU in rebounding last season at 7.2 in about 17 minutes a game.

“Do we have anybody on the team that’s going to get 17 rebounds the way Merissa did?” Starkey said. “Probably not. But we do have some players who could get 12 and be able to score 12 points.”

Barber-Smith never scored 12 and scored more than five only six times.

The 6-4 center who won’t play

The Flashes do have a legitimate center on their roster. Linsey Marchese, a 6-4 junior transfer from Indiana, has to sit out this season because of NCAA rules. Marchese was the only player besides Dingle to score in double figures all three games, and she seemed to play closer to 15 minutes a game. She made 15 of her 20 shots.

The starters

Kent State used different starting lineups in all three games, and all 13 players on the roster started at least one game.

The University of British Columbia game had probably the closest thing to a true starting lineup the the Flashes as at this early point: Dingle, Carter and Shumate at guards and Thall and Blackford at forward. Senior Ali Poole could be in the mix at either guard or forward, too, but she was hurt and didn’t play on the trip.

The other combinations:

VK Select: Senior Sydney Brinlee at forward junior Monique Smith and junior Margaux Eibel, Dingle and Carter at guard.

Vancouver Island: Marchese at center, sophomore Annie Pavlansky at forward and Kelly with sophomores Mariah Modkins and Hannah Young at guard.

The outlook

I was optimistic about the team, and nothing from the Canada trip dispelled that. The team got extra practice, some game experience and a visit to a beautiful place. Dingle and the freshmen showed more than I had expected, and I knew they were good.

There’s a long time and a long way to go before practice starts in October and the team opens at Duquesne on Nov. 4. But this could be a very good team.

Let’s end with a quote from Dingle from the only game covered by a Vancouver newspaper:

“We’re trying, practicing hard, playing hard,” Dingle said. “We definitely are expecting to do some big things. We hopefully will.”


What we learned from Flashes’ three exhibition wins in Vancouver

Image-1Asiah Dingle in action against Vancouver Island University. Dingle averaged 16.7 points, 6.7 assists and 6.3 steals. (Photo from VIU Twitter feed.)

First, two big qualifiers:

  1. All this is second hand through quotes and statistics. Sadly, I wasn’t on the trip.
  2. The competition wasn’t nearly as tough as the Flashes will face in the MAC this season. (More on that at end of post.)

Dingle ups her game

Asiah Dingle was already one of the Flashes’ best players. The 5-foot-4 point guard from Massachusetts was on the MAC all-freshman team (likely runner-up for freshman of the year) and was KSU’s second leading scorer.  Her aggressive drives to the basketball and her leadership on the fast break were a key factor in Kent’s 20-13 season.

Dingle needed to work on assists, where she averaged 2.3 a game. That’s very low for a point guard. She was second on the team in turnovers and her assist/turnover ratio was 0.8, again very low for a point guard. (The MAC assist leader averaged 6.2 a game; the league’s best assist/turnovers ratio was 2.7).

On the trip, Dingle averaged 6.7 assists per game and had an assist/turnover ratio of 2.1.

“It’s something we’ve been focusing on,” coach Todd Starkey said. “We’re wanting her to really share the ball, making those players around her better.”

Dingle made 21 of 40 shots in the trip (52.5%) and 2 of 8 three-pointers (25%). Her numbers last season were 37% and 18%.

She averaged 6.3 steals a game on the trip. Part of that was the quality of the competition, but it’s still an impressive number. Last season Dingle averaged 2.0, which was eighth in the MAC.

All of my season statistics are conference games only. I’ve found it to be a better indication of ability at the end of the season.)

Three impact freshmen

This year’s freshman class may be just as good as last year’s, which was one of the best in school history. Freshman last season score 44 percent of KSU’s points, led by Dingle’s 13.1 and Lindsay Thall’s 10.7. Kent’s five freshmen averaged a total of 20 points a game. They scored 44% of the teams points — third highest in the country.

On the trip, KSU’s new freshmen averaged 31 points a game.

Katie Shumate, a 5-11 wing from Newark, averaged 12.3 points a game. Her 19 points against the University of British Columbia was the highest total on the trip. She also had 12 rebounds, the most in a game on the trip. She blocked four shots and had five steals. “She impressed me a lot,” senior Megan Carter said. “She has a high motor and just doesn’t stop.”

Nila Blackford, a 6-2 forward from Louisville, led KSU in rebounding with a 7.3 average and scored nine points a game. Half of her rebounds were offensive.

Clare Kelly, a 5-9 guard from Olmsted Falls, made nine of her 18 three-point shots. She scored 12 points against British Columbia, 11 against Vancouver Island University and six against VK Select, a club team.

None of them (or anyone on the roster) played more than 25 minutes a game.

Another way to look at is this: KSU has its top four scorers back from last season. Three of its top five scorers on the trip were incoming freshmen. A fourth was a transfer. Dingle was the fifth. (Senior Ali Poole, fourth on the team in scoring last season, didn’t play on the trip because of an injury suffered in practice in Kent.)

A lot of scoring, a lot of weapons

The Flashes averaged 95.7 points a game. Five players scored in double figures in every game.

Eight different players scored in double figures at least once. Eleven of the 13 players made at least one three pointer.

“It was nice to see multiple players making shots,” Starkey said after the Vancouver Island game. “The versatility of scoring we have is really going to help us.”

Carter said the multiple 3-point shooters allows her and Dingle to drive to the basket with more ease. “It definitely spaces the floor,” she said.

Scores were somewhat inflated by the use of the international 24-second clock (the NCAA’s shot clock is 30) and having just eight seconds (instead of 10) to get the ball over half court.

The 3-point international distance is about 16 inches farther than the NCAA women’s. KSU made 30.8 of its 3-pointers, down about 2 points from last season. But Lindsay Thall, who led the MAC in 3-point percentage last season and who has no problem shooting from any distance, made just 4 of 27. From watching her in practice last week, she should be fine this season.

About the competition

Both university teams the Flashes played had good records last year, but at least the University of British Columbia was missing some of its starters because school wasn’t in session.

I’d guess the competition was along the lines of Division II teams in the U.S. Kent State played two such teams last season and beat them 77-48 and 92-38 — similar margins to their wins in Vancouver.

Still, we can compare the Flashes’ scores to Alabama’s two games against the same competition the previous week. Alabama was 14-17 last season and 11th in the 14-team SEC. Its RPI was 159 of 351 schools. Kent State was 20-13 and fifth in the MAC with an RPI of 83.

Alabama beat VK Select 104-64. Kent State beat them 90-68, though the Flashes led by 38 — almost Alabama’s margin — going into the fourth quarter. KSU beat the University of British Columbia 94-54. Alabama beat them 104-74.

So things were pretty similar between the Flashes and a somewhat below average Power Five school.

Links to stories on the three games, including links to their box scores:

KSU 90, VK Select 69. Nine steals for Dingle. KSU took 38-point lead into fourth quarter.

KSU 94, University of British Columbia 54. All three freshmen scored in double figures, led by Katie Shumate’s 19.

KSU 103, Vancouver Island University 54. Flashes were 13 of 33 from 3-point distances, best of the trip.

I’ve got some other notes on the trip I’ll add tomorrow — things like how some veteran players did, how the team did on correcting last season’s weaknesses, the starting lineups. I’m trying not to have so many very long posts this year.

Flashes finish Vancouver trip with 3 wins, 287 points

Team in BC

The tea in British Columbia. (Photo from team Twitter feed.)

The KSU women put up their third overpowering victory on their trip to British Columbia Monday, trouncing Vancouver Island University 103-54.

The Flashes had won their first two games 90-68 over VK Select, a club team, and 94-54 over the University of British Columbia.

Sophomore point guard Asiah Dingle led KSU with 16 points, seven assists  and four steals. In the three games, she scored 50 points (16.7 per game), had 20 assists (6.7) and 19 (6.3) steals in less than 25 minutes a game. Last season she averaged 12.9 points, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals.

As a team last season, the Flashes scored 65.6 points game and gave up 62.5. On the trip, they averaged 95.7 and gave up 58.7.

The competition this season will be much tougher than the trip. But the statistics do show the Flashes have a lot of offensive firepower and almost certainly will score more. Dingle, whose freshman assist total was low for a point guard, seems to have stepped up her passing game. She was runner-up for MAC freshman of the year last season.

The Flashes had five players score in double figures for the third game in a row.

Transfer Linsey Marchese scored in double figures for the third game in a row with 14 points on six of seven shooting. Marchese, a 6-4 center who played two years at Indiana, won’t be eligible until the 2020-21 regular season because of NCAA transfer rules.

Senior guard Megan Carter, KSU’s leading scorer last season, had her best game of the trip with 14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and no turnovers. Sophomore guard Hannah Young scored 12 points on 4-for-4 three-point shooting.

The three Kent freshman continued to put up good numbers. Guard Clare Kelly had 11 points and made 3-of-5 three-pointers. Forward Nila Blackford shared the rebounding leadership with Carter at 10 and scored nine  points. Wing Katie Shumate, who averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in KSU’s first two games, took only five shots. She scored five points, had two rebounds, two steals, an assist and a block.

Sophomore wing Annie Pavlansky, playing on her birthday, had seven points, four rebounds and two assists. Sophomore guard Mariah Modkins had three steals and four assists.

All 13 players who got into the game scored. Senior Ali Poole was hurt in practice last week and didn’t play on the trip.

Jay Fiorello, the assistant sports communication director for women’s basketball, emailed after midnight (Kent time) that wifi was spotty on the ferry from Vancouver Island and quotes from coach Todd Starkey and others wouldn’t be coming until later. I’ll add them Tuesday.

The team will spend the rest of the week sightseeing and return to Kent Friday.

Box score







KSU’s 3 freshmen score 42 as Flashes win big again in Vancouver

Flashes Earn 90-68 Victory to Begin Canadian Tour

KSU’s Lindsay Thall goes to the basket in Saturday’s game. (Photo from KSU website.)

Five Kent State players — including all three freshmen — scored in double figures as the Flashes overpowered the University of British Columbia 94-54 Sunday.

It was the second straight win on the team’s exhibition tour of Vancouver. Saturday the Flashes beat VK Select, a club team, 90-68.

Freshman Katie Shumate led KSU with 19 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes. She made 9 of 18 shots, had seven offensive rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.

Sophomore Asiah Dingle scored 17 points for the second straight game and added six assists and six steals. Saturday she had nine steals and seven assists.

Freshman Clare Kelly had 12 points on 4-of-8 three-point shots, and freshman Nila Blackford scored 11 and had five rebounds. 6-foot-4 transfer Linsey Marchese, who isn’t eligible to play until the 2020-21 season, had 10 points and four rebounds in 13 minutes. She’s allowed to play on a summer exhibition tour.

All 13 Flashes played at least six minutes. Eleven scored. No one played more than 25 minutes; only three played more than 20.

“We did much better from start to finish,” coach Todd Starkey said in an interview relayed through assistant sports communication director Jay Fiorello “I was really pleased with our defensive focus. We had a lot fewer lapses and letdowns.

“Everybody’s kind of still trying to figure out what their role is and how to play with and off of each other. So it was nice to see some good offensive flow and better execution.”

On Shumate, a 5-11 guard from Newark, Starkey said:

“She’s just such a versatile player. She really can score on all three levels, and it’s also a nice to have a guard leading you in  rebounding as well. She did a really good job of just being active all over the court and just making plays, worrying less about making mistakes and just going out and trying to make something happen.”

Shumate, who scored 11 points with six rebounds Saturday, said she was especially happy with her offensive rebounding.

“I need to work on my decision-making after I crash and just keep trying to get extra possessions,” she said.

Shumate said a new rule this season that resets the shot clock to 20 seconds (instead of 30) after an offensive rebound changes strategy.

“I can’t pull it out,” she said. “There’s not enough time. So I have to look for a quick score after getting a rebound if I can or hit someone that’s wide open.”

Box score

Dingle the thief

Dingle’s nine steals Saturday would have tied for fourth place in school history had it happened in the regular season. The record is 10.

“I like disrupting the ball, making them speed up,” she said.
Dingle said she liked the 24-second clock of international rules. “I’m a fast bird,” she said.

Of her near triple-double Saturday: “I did OK. I definitely have to get better — getting into the floor a little earlier and do some more finishing (around the basket).”


  • Kent State beat its first two opponents by 22 and 40 points. Alabama played the same two teams last week and beat VK Select by by 40 and the University of British Columbia by 30. The Flashes led VK Select by 38 going into the fourth quarter.
  • KSU has outscored opponents 106-53 combined in the first halves in its two games. The Flashes have had 33 steals and forced 50 turnovers.
  •  Sophomore Lindsay Thall, who led the MAC in blocked shots last season, blocked four on Sunday. Her teammates blocked four more.
  • Kent State will play the final game of the trip at Vancouver Island University Monday.

Live action

The KSU Twitter feed had a lot of video from Sunday’s game. Here are some: