Home opener: Flashes look for 7th win in row vs. EMU, which has its last 4

Dingle vs. Hiram

Point guard Asiah Dingle, who’s only 5-4, had eight rebounds against Ball State Saturday to go with three assists, two steals and seven points. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)

Eastern Michigan (6-6, 1-0 MAC) at Kent State (7-5, 0-1 MAC)

7 p.m. Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center. General admission tickets are a reduced price of $3. Students are free with Kent State ID.

What’s at stake

Kent State has a better overall record and higher RPI and was predicted to finish ahead of Eastern Michigan in preseason polls. It’s playing at home. It needs to win this game to stay competitive for a first-division finish in the MAC.

A win for Eastern Michigan would give the Eagles a big boost. They haven’t had a winning record in the MAC in five years.

It’s second Mid-American Conference game for both. Eastern won its first game at home against Bowling Green 78-61. Kent State lost 66-62 on the road to a good Ball State team.

Kent State has won six straight against Eastern since Todd Starkey became head coach.

Eastern has won four games in a row since before Christmas. But aside from Bowling Green (7-6), the teams had a combined record of 7-37. Eastern’s 17-point win over Bowling Green was its biggest margin of victory in the MAC since Fred Castro became coach four years ago.

What to watch

Flashes played some of its best defense of season at Ball State. But Flashes had only six assists and got only three points from its bench. They’ll need to do better in those categories.

Areanna Combs, a 5-10 transfer from Oklahoma State, has averaged 20.7 points a gamer Eastern Michigan  since she first played on Dec. 6. She had 32 against Bowling Green. In team statistics, Eastern is pretty much in the middle of the MAC in most things. The Eagles are the worst free-throw shooting team in the conference (56.9%).

Both teams use turnovers to feed their offense. Kent State is fourth in the league in turnover margin (plus 3.75). Eastern is fifth (plus-3.25). KSU has committing the fewest turnovers in the MAC. Eastern has forced the fourth most.

Team comparisons

  • RPI: Kent State 87 of 351 Division I teams. Eastern Michigan 200.
  • Power rankings: Kent State 154. Eastern 243.
  • Kent State home record: 2-1. Eastern Michigan road record: 2-4.
  • Scoring average: KSU sixth in MAC at 71.6. Eastern 10th at 66.3.
  • Defensive average: KSU eighth at 67.9. Eastern fourth at 64.9.
  • Field-goal percentage: KSU 39.5 (sixth on 3-pointers at 31.5%). Eastern 40.9 (eighth at 29.9).
  • Field-goal defense: KSU 10th at 43.3 (eight on 3s at 33.8%). Eastern fourth at 40.3 (last on 3s at 34.7).
  • Rebounding margin: KSU ninth at -0.9. Eastern fourth at +0.7.
  • Turnover margin: KSU fourth at +3.75. Easter fifth at +3.25. KSU eighth in steals at 7/58. Eastern fourth at 9.33.

Top players

Kent State

  • 6-2 freshman forward Nila Blackford (10th in MAC in scoring at 14.3, fourth in rebounding at 7.6).
  • 5-7 senior guard Megan Carter (20th in scoring at 12.5).
  • 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall (23rd in scoring at 12.2, fourth in 3-point percentage at 42.5, fourth in blocked shots at 1.3).
  • 5-11 freshman guard Katie Shumate (13th in rebounding at 6.4, third in blocks at 1.4).
  • 4-5 sophomore guard Asiah Dingle (seventh in assists at 3.9, 10th in steals at 2.0).

Eastern Michigan

  • 5-10 junior guard Areanna Combs (20.7 points per game in scoring. Would be third in MAC but has played only six games.)
  • 5-5 freshman guard Aaliyab Stanley (19th in scoring at 12.9).
  • 6-5 junior center Autumn Hudson (17th in rebounding at 5.8).
  • 5-5 sophomore guard Jenna Annecchiarico (eighth in assists at 3.8, 15th in steals at 1.8).

Following the game at home

Video stream on ESPN+ starts at game time at 7 p.m. Service costs $4.99 a month and includes about half of all MAC men’s and women’s games for all games. This link takes you to to the game, where you can sign up. David Wilson is the announcer.

Audio starts at about 6:45 p.m. on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio.

Live statistics will be on the Kent State website during the game.

Links

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

Preview from Eastern Michigan website, with links.

Detailed media game notes from Eastern Michigan.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

 

 

 

Statistical report card vs. Ball State: Assists, bench scoring cost Flashes

Women's logo

Here’s the KSU report card on key benchmarks for the first game of the conference season:

Ball State 66, Kent State 62

Score 70 points on offense: 62.  KSU’s lowest total of season against mid-major, though Ball State’s defense is among best in conference. MISSED.

Hold opponent under 70: 66. Defense was one of KSU’s best performances of the season, right on Ball State’s average. SUCCESS.

Make 40% of shots: 39.3%, about Kent’s average and 4 points better than Ball State’s defensive average. JUST MISSED.

Hold opponent under 40%: 38.3. Kent State’s second-best number of the season against a Division I team. MADE.

Outscore opponent by five on free throws: Ball State 12, Kent State 10. Six BSU foul shots came in last two minutes, when Flashes fouled to stop the clock. But KSU number is among its lowest of season. MISSED.

Outscore opponent by five off of turnovers: Kent State 9, Ball State 4. Hit it exactly, though both numbers are among lowest for a Kent game this season. Ball State had by far its most-turnover-free game of season. MADE

Have 14 assists: Flashes had six, a season low, on 24 baskets. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

Get 10 points from the bench: Kent State got only a 3-point basket from backup point guard Mariah Modkins. MISSED BADLY.

BOTTOM LINE: Flashes played pretty well against a good opponent on the road. But look at the last two bench marks. KSU needed just a couple more baskets. Low assists often mean the offense isn’t working well, and Flashes needed just a little more offense to win. Three points from the bench isn’t going to win championships.


GAME STORY: Ball State used 3-pointers, 4th-quarter scoring spurts to beat Flashes.


Kent State statistics

MAC women’s ‘golf’ standings

I’m stealing this from a regular on the Flash Fanatics bulletin board, who has done this for men’s basketball for several years. It’s simple and useful.

It gives a team one point for a road win and subtracts a point for a home loss. A home win gets zero. In a year when winning on the road looks critical in the MAC, it might be useful.

Central Michigan won 77-72 at Akron. Buffalo won 86-72 at Miami. Otherwise the home teams won.

  1. Central and Buffalo +1.

3-10. Ball State, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Ohio, Western Michigan. 0.

11. Akron and Miami. -1.

The official MAC standings

 

 

 

3-point shooting, 2 mini-runs in 4th quarter push Ball State past Flashes 66-62

Determined Nila

Freshman forward led all players with 23 points and nine rebounds. She leads the team in both categories this season.

It was the last seconds of the third quarter, and Megan Carter had just given Kent State a 43-41 lead with a nifty fake and 12-foot jump shot.

Twelve seconds later Ball State’s Jasmin Samz hit a long 3-point shot at the buzzer to give the Cardinals the lead going into the fourth.

Ball State went on to beat the Flashes 66-62 in Muncie in the opening game of the Mid-American Conference season. Neither team led by more than seven points throughout the game.

“It was a big momentum swing,” coach Todd Starkey said in his postgame interview with David Wilson on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. “A more mature team understands that as long as there’s time ticking off the clock, you’ve got to make sure you’re talking (on defense.)

“We had one person who didn’t talk on that possession, and that left one of their best shooters wide open.”

But Starkey said the game really wasn’t lost on that basket or some plays that didn’t go Kent’s way in the last minutes.

“We flat out beat ourselves,” he said. “This is a game we could have and should have won. We’re playing from behind all the way down the stretch. There were a couple of three-minute stretches where we just completely lost our minds.

“We’ve got to learn from that. If we do, I don’t think there is anybody in the league we can’t beat. If we don’t, I don’t think there’s anybody who can’t beat us.”

After KSU had taken a 48-46 lead on 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, Ball State outscored Kent 7-0 over the next 1:20. Three minutes later, the Flashes closed the score to 56-54, and BSU went on a 5-0 run over the next three minutes.

Ball State freshman Sydney Freeman — a 57% foul shooter going into the game — made six free throws in the last 40 seconds to seal the game.

The first half was as good a defensive performance as Kent State has shown all season. The Flashes held Ball State to 24 points and 30% shooting and led 26-24.

But in the second half, the Cardinals, just a 28.4% 3-point shooting team going into the game, made five of seven 3-point shots. Kent State made one of seven.

KSU freshman Nila Blackford had 23 points and nine rebounds and thoroughly outplayed Oshlynn Brown, Ball State’s preseason all-MAC forward. Blackford scored Kent State’s first six points of the second half and had a three-point play that give the Flashes the lead early in the third quarter. She scored seven points in the last 1:08 AS KSU tried to rally at the end.

Brown had five points and seven rebounds. She had averaged 12.4 and 9.8.

In the end, it was a hard-fought game between two teams that hope to contend in the MAC this season.

“This is the one we wanted,” Starkey said, “and we had a chance to steal it. This would’ve been a great way to get start conference play, but we couldn’t make enough place down the stretch to get the win.

“They’re a tough team. They’ve got good balance. They’re going to win a lot of games this year in the league,

“I think if we can get some things fixed, we’re going to win a lot.”

Kent State is 7-5 on the season. Ball State is 9-4 and already has won more games than it did all last season.

Box score

Notes

  • It was Kent State’s 13th straight loss at Ball State, dating back to 1997. In the same time period, the Flashes are 12-2 in Kent. The two teams meet again at the M.A.C. Center Jan. 29.
  • Carter had 13 points for Kent State, eight in the second half. Lindsey Thall had 10, all in the first half when she made two 3-point baskets in the first four minutes. Ball State adjusted its defense, and Thall was able to get off only one 3-pointer the rest of the game and none in the second half.
  • Ball State is one of the better rebounding teams in the MAC, and Kent State battled them to a virtual draw (39-38 BSU). 5-4 guard Asiah Dingle had eight, one off her career high. She also had three assists, a block and two steals to go with seven points.
  • The Flashes had nine turnovers, tying a season low. But Ball State had eight, lowest of the season for a Kent State opponent. The Cardinals had been committing the most turnovers in the conference. Kent State did outscore BSU off of those turnovers 9-4.
  • The Flashes had a season-low six assists on 24 baskets. Getting more assists had been a point of emphasis for Kent State going into the conference season.
  • KSU made 39.3% of its shots, about its season average and four points above Ball State’s league-leading defensive average. The Flashes were four of 14 from 3-point distance. Ball State’s shooting percentage was 38.3%, about three points below its average. But the Cardinals’ eight of 17 three-point shooting (47% and a season high by five points) was the difference in the game.

Kent State opens the home part of its MAC schedule at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Eastern Michigan in the M.A.C. Center. The Eagles beat Bowling Green 78-61 in Ypsilanti Saturday and are 6-6.

The view from Ball State

Coach Brady Sallee from video on Ball State website:

On freshman point guard Sydney Freeman, who led Ball State with 16 points and six assists: “It was a really good start for her against a couple of really good point guards with quickness. Every time they made a mistake on a ball screen, she made them pay. To have a freshman be that savvy is pretty special.”

On shutting down Kent State forward Lindsey Thall in the second half: “I might have mentioned her name 340,000 times at halftime. She’s a good player and deserves that much attention. The places she scored…we were supposed to be guarding her. We just had to get back to the plan.”

Other MAC scores

  • Central Michigan (8-4) 77, Akron (7-5) 72 at Akron.
  • Buffalo (10-2) 86, Miami (7-6) 72 at Miami.
  • Ohio (8-4) 87, Northern Illinois 67 (4-8) at Ohio.
  • Western Michigan (7-4) 84, Toledo (5-6) 72 at Western.

MAC standings

 

 

Flashes face tough MAC opener at Ball State, 8-4 and on 4-game winning streak

Smith vs. Hiram

Kent State’s Monique Smith has averaged almost 11 minutes of playing time over the last four games, totaling more than she played all last season. She’s been among the first post players off the bench and three times has equaled her career high of four points. Smith is a 5-11 junior from San Diego.


Six critical road games could determine Kent’s MAC season.

Six critical numbers for the Flashes to have conference success.


Kent State’s Mid-American Conference opener at Ball State Saturday is reminiscent of the Flashes’ first game of the season.

Kent faces a good team on the road in a game that will help set the tone for the season.

The Flashes managed to win that first game against Duquesne on a last-second shot by Megan Carter. The win looks better and better as the season goes on; Duquesne won 10 games in a row before losing to Oklahoma State this week and is 10-3.

Ball State may be an even tougher game. The Cardinals are 8-4 and have won four straight games, including a three-game sweep of the Lobo Christmas Classic at the University of New Mexico. Their RPI ranking is 94 of 351 teams, fourth best among MAC teams. Kent State is third with an RPI of 75 and a record of 7-4.

BSU is the surprise team of the MAC, having been picked fifth in the MAC West after a  8-23 record last season. It was the only losing season in coach Brady Sallee’s eight years in Muncie. He has taken the Cardinals to the WNIT six times.

Last year’s team had been hit by injuries and unanticipated graduate transfers of its two best players. This year’s team has its top three players back from last season, along with the return of 2018’s top freshman from an injury. The Cardinals have added a freshman to the starting lineup who scored 1,700 points in high school.

“We’re going to have play really good basketball to have a chance to beat Ball State over there,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said. “They have very good balance. They have a very good coach. It’s a tough place to play.”

Statistically Ball State is the best defensive team in the MAC. The Cardinals allow 61.1 points a game, lowest in the league. They lead the MAC in field goal defense at 35.4% and are third in 3-point defense at 28.4%. They’re third in the league in rebounding margin at plus-2.5.

Offensively Ball State averages 67.5 points a game, eighth in the league, and makes 41% of its shots, fourth in the conference. Its 34.1% three-point shooting is third in the MAC.

The Cardinals’ weakness is turnovers, where their minus-2.08 margin in next to last in the MAC. They’ve made more turnovers than any team in the league.

Kent State will try to exploit that. The Flashes’s are third in the MAC with a plus-4.18 margin and make the fewest turnovers per game in the league in non-conference play.

The Flashes’ defense ranks statistically toward the bottom of the conference, especially its 43.8% field goal defense (12th of 12 team). KSU’s offense ranks third in scoring.

Both teams have balanced scoring. All five Kent State starters average in double figures. So do three of Ball State’s starters, and two other player average more than 8.5 points a game.

Ball State’s top player is 6-1 junior forward Oshlynn Brown, a preseason all-MAC West selection who averages 12.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.

All of KSU’s loses have come to teams in the top 50 in the country in RPI — Michigan (48), Ohio State (19) and Purdue (14) of the Big Ten and Troy (40) of the Sun Belt Conference.

Starkey says Kent State’s record reflects its performance well.

“We’re probably right where we deserve to be,” Starkey said. “We won some buzzer beaters, but we gave one away against Troy.

“So now it’s an 18-game (conference) season, and everybody’s good. There isn’t a single easy out in the conference.”

A long time ago

The last time Kent State’s women won at Ball State was 1997.

  • Almost every current player on both teams hadn’t been born.
  • Todd Starkey hadn’t gotten his first coaching job yet.
  • Brady Sallee was a first-year assistant at Kent State under Bob Lindsay.

Since then, the Flashes have gone to Muncie 11 times and lost. They lost under five times under Lindsay, four times under coach Danny O’Banion and twice under Starkey. Last season the Flashes lost 48-44 in their worst offensive game of the season.

In Kent during that time period, KSU has won 12 of 14. The two teams will play at the M.A.C. Center on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

Links

Preview from Kent State website, including links to roster, statistics, links and more.

Detailed media game notes form Kent State.

Ball State website, including links.

MAC statistics.

MAC standings.

To follow the game

Tipoff is at 1 p.m. at Worthen Arena on the Ball State campus in Muncie, Indiana. It’s about a four-and-a-half hour drive. The address is 2000 W. University Ave., Muncie, if you’re using a GPS.

Video is streamed on ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. This link will connect you and tell you how to pay. More than half of KSU men’s and women’s basketball are on ESPN+, as are games from other MAC schools and other mid-major conferences. Some wrestling, gymnastic, baseball and softball events also are streamed.

Audio starts at about 12:45 on WHLO 640 and Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson is the announcer.

Live statistics during the game will be on the Ball State website.

Alexa Golden gots a promotion

Alexa Golden, who graduated last May after starting for the Flashes four years, has been named director of operations for the women’s team.

She had been a graduate assistant. She took over most the duties of her new job when former operations director Alison Seberger took an assistant job at North Alabama in fall.

Golden got the job officially in December. In her four years playing for the team, she got both a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a masters in sports and recreation management. She started another masters in fall, but said on the team’s trip that she’ll put that on hold as she gets used to her new job.

Golden is only player in Kent State women’s basketball history to have 500 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 steals and 100 three-point field goals. She made the MAC all-defensive team as a senior and was voted as Kent State’s most valuable player last season.

 

Can Flashes be road warriors? That will be critical to a winning MAC season

Blackford vs. Hiram

Freshman Nila Blackford leads the Flashes in scoring at 13.5 points a game. But at one time or another, Sophomores Asiah Dingle and Lindsey Thall and senior Megan Carter all have held the scoring lead. All average in double figures, as does freshman Katie Shumate. (Photo from team Twitter feed.)

Earlier this week we wrote what Kent State needed to do to have a successful MAC season. But how successful can they be?

Everything — for the Flashes and every other team in the league — depends on how well they play on the road.

Let’s look at the league as a whole. Here’s how I’d rank the teams right now, grouped as teams I see as fairly even):

1-2-3. Central Michigan (7-4, RPI 55), Buffalo (9-2, RPI 70), Ohio (7-4, RPI 123).

4-5. Ball State (8-4, RPI 88), Kent State (7-4, RPI 76).

6-7-8. Akron (8-4, RPI 135), Miami (7-5, RPI 133), Bowling Green 76-5, RPI 119).

9-10.  Western Michigan (7-4, RPI 176), Northern Illinois (4-7, RPI 165).

11-12. Eastern Michigan (5-6, RPI 199), Toledo (5-6, RPI 218).

RPI takes into account a team’s record and strength of schedule. Road wins are rewarded. Home losses hurt more.

I think that Akron, Bowling Green and Western Michigan may not be as good as the records say. Northern Illinois and Toledo may be better. But but that’s a discussion for another time.

Two things to notice: The MAC has no outstanding team so far. Last year, Central, Buffalo and Ohio all ranked in the top 35 in the RPI. Central and Buffalo made the NCAA tournament. Ohio was one of the best teams that didn’t.

But the MAC has no particularly weak team either. There are 351 Division I teams. The MAC’s lowest is Toledo at 218.

So we may see a lot of upsets this season, and upsets often come when a weaker team wins on its home court.

That’s why I say that road wins are the key to the season for KSU and all MAC teams.

GAMES THE FLASHES SHOULD WIN: Home games against Miami, Akron, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Toledo. (6 wins)

GAMES THE FLASHES SHOULD BE FAVORED: Ball State at home. Western Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois on the road. Say they win three of four. (3 more wins.)

That would be nine wins or a .500 season.

TOSS-UPS: Akron, Bowling Green, Miami on the road.

KSU AS UNDERDOG: Buffalo and Ohio at home. At Ball State.

HARD TO WIN: Central Michigan, Buffalo and Ohio on the road.

Win two of three of the toss-ups and one of the three “underdog games” and the Flashes are 12-6.

Win none of those, lose one more “favored” game and get upset at home, and it could be 7-9.

Win an extra “favored” game and knock off Buffalo or Ohio once, and we’re looking at 14-4 and a chance for the MAC title.

One last look at the key games: At Akron. At Bowling Green. At Northern Illinois. At Western. At Toledo. At Northern. At Ball State.

See the pattern?

In non-conference play, Kent State went 2-1 in true road games. The Flashes won by two points at Duquesne, a team similar in record and RPI to Ball State. They won in overtime at Youngstown State, a team similar to Akron and Miami.

At a neutral site, they lost in the last 20 seconds to to Troy, a team similar in record to Buffalo, Central and Ohio. (Other losses were to Ohio State at home, Purdue away and Michigan at a neutral site. No MAC team looks that good.)

7-9 to 12-6. Watch the road games, starting Saturday at Ball State.

Non-conference MAC standings

MAC RPI rankings

 

 

 

 

 

Six numbers that can make or break Kent State conference season

Huddle vs Hiram

Flashes in the huddle late in their 92-36 win over Hiram Monday. (WbbFlashes photo.)

Since the start of the blog, I’ve done a “Keys to the Season” and/or a “Keys to the Conference Season.”

I’m going to do it a little differently this season, instead listing some benchmark numbers I think the team has to meet in order to have a good MAC season. I define that as finishing in the top four and getting a bye to the quarterfinals of the league tournament in Cleveland.

70 points

The Flashes have scored 70 points in six of their seven non-conference wins. They haven’t scored 70 in any of their four losses. Last year’s team averaged just 65.5 points a game and won on defense; this year’s has to score.

The team struggled on defense early in the season but has allowed an average of 63.5 over the last four games. Two were against good teams (loss to Purdue 77-64 and loss to Troy 71-64. Two were to less-good teams (St. Bonaventure and Georgia Southern).

(I’m not counting statistics from KSU’s 92-36 win over Hiram in any of this. The Flashes won’t play a team anywhere near as weak as Division III Hiram in the MAC.)

So 70 in the benchmark: Score at least 70. Hold the opponent under 70.

40 percent shooting.

Here’s another number that can count both on offense and defense.

Kent State has made more than 40% of its shots in only three games — Duquesne, Fort Wayne and Robert Morris.

Seven opponents have shot better than 40%.

That’s not sustainable. The last four opponents — none of which were great shooting teams — have averaged almost exactly 40%. That’s encouraging. The average shooting percentage in the MAC last season and so far this year is about 40.

So once again the goal is to shoot at least 40% and hold opponents below that number.

+5 free throws

Kent State has made up for its below-average shooting at the foul line and with turnovers. 

The Flashes outscored opponents at the foul line by about six a game so far this season. It’s been a lot more than that — plus-13 — in the six games they’ve won. Over  coach Todd Starkey’s four seasons, the Flashes have been among the nation’s leaders in free throws attempted and made. It’s made a difference in many games.

+5 points off turnovers

It’s hard to believe I’m writing this. Throughout the five years before Starkey arrived and through his first two years, the Flashes were near the bottom of the MAC in turnover margin. Currently they’re second.

The number I’m using is points off turnovers, however. As Starkey has said consistently after games, turnovers don’t do much good unless they become points. 

Kent State has on average scored six more points off turnovers than its opponents. It even had an advantage against the three Big Ten teams it lost to. But a warning: Troy was the toughest mid-major the Flashes have played and the kind of team they will have to beat to compete in the MAC. The Flashes were even in turnovers through three quarters and minus-10 in the fourth quarter, and the game slipped away.

14 assists

“We’re a much better team when we share the ball,” Starkey said after the Hiram game, when the Flashes had 25 assists, their most in seven years.

But KSU hasn’t done that very well over the last two years. The Flashes were in the bottom 40 in the country in assists per game last season at 10.8 per game. This season isn’t a lot better at 11.2 (not counting the Hiram game).

14 was the Starkey mentioned after the Flashes beat Robert Morris 82-81. They had 18 assists in that game. But over the last three, they’ve averaged 10.7.

Fourteen is a pretty modest goal. It would have been sixth in the MAC last season.

10 points a game from the bench

Kent State’s most significant victories have been in one-possession games against Duquesne, Youngstown State and Robert Morris. Its closest loss came in the last 19 seconds when Troy outscored the Flashes 7-0 in the last 19 seconds.

In those four games, KSU got a total of 10 points from its reserves. It was 0 against Duquesne, two versus Robert Morris and Troy and five against YSU. (I’m counting Megan Carter as a starter in the opener. She wasn’t in the lineup because of an injury  but came in and played 35 minutes. She’s started every other game.)

Kent’s five starters all average in double figures. But no one else averages more than four points per game. Clare Kelly scored 20 points against Hiram; Hannah Young had 14. If they can score six or eight in most games, and reserve forwards Ali Poole, Sydney Brinlee and Monique Smith can add a couple of baskets, life will be a lot easier.

Keeping track

I’ll update how the team is doing on this numbers  throughout the conference season.

KSU non-conference statistics

MAC non-conference statistics

Flashes overwhelm Hiram 92-36 in 3rd-largest margin ever

Kelly vs. Hiram

Freshman Clare Kelly scored 20 points and had five rebounds against Hiram. She had 11 points in her previous nine games combined. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)

 

Kent State coach Todd Starkey has been wanting three more things from his team over the last month: points from his bench, more assists and better defense.

He got all three Monday as his team overpowered Division III Hiram 92-36 in KSU’s last non-conference game of the year.

The Flashes will open the Mid-American Conference season at Ball State Saturday with a 7-4 record, the same non-league record they had last season.

Against Hiram, Kent State:

  • Got 29 points from its bench, led by 14 points from sophomore guard Hannah Young. That’s three times its season average. The Flashes got 20 more points from freshman Clare Kelly, who usually comes off the bench. She started in place of Katie Shumate.
  • Had a season-high 25 assists, led by nine from backup point guard Mariah Modkins and eight from starting point Asiah Dingle. Both were career highs. The 25 assists were KSU’s most since 2012.
  • Held the Terriers to 26% shooting, lowest by any opponent this season. Hiram’s 36 points were the lowest against Kent this season.
  • Won by the third-biggest margin in school history.

Now this was Hiram, a team with a 3-9 record that, like all Division III schools, gives no athletic scholarships. The Terriers had no starter taller than 5-foot-9.

The individual story of the game was Kelly, whose 20 points were nine more than she had scored all season. The freshman from Olmsted Falls was one of the best 3-point shooters in the state in high school but hadn’t found the range in college. She had made just three of 18 before Monday.

Against Hiram she made five of eight from 3-point distance and 7 of 10 overall. She had five rebounds and a steal in a team-high 26 minutes.

“That’s no surprise to anybody on our team,” Starkey said. “We see her do that routinely in practice. So tonight everybody else got to see that.

“It was good to see her get in a rhythm and her teammates’ get excited about it. But I told her on the bench at the end of the game that I was more pleased with her defense and her rebounding.”

Kelly said it was nice to see the ball go in the basket.

“In past games, some of my shots haven’t been going in,” she said. “But I just have to know to trust my shot and trust my teammates for making great passes to me. They make the game of basketball fun. I’m sharing their energy when they make extra passes.”

The passes and assists were a key part of the game plan, Starkey said.

“The No. 1 thing that we wanted to accomplish was to get over 20 assists,” the coach said. “We really want to emphasize sharing the basketball. We’ve got good individual players who can create for themselves, but one thing we’ve got to do is a better job of creating for each other.”

Young’s 14 points and eight rebounds were both career highs for her. She also had a steal, an assist and blocked a shot. The key to scoring off the bench, she said, is the mantra KSU coaches preach:

“Know your role, stay in your role, star in your role,” Young said.

Box score

Notes

  • Five Flashes scored in double figures for the third time this session. Dingle had 17 points, five rebounds and two steals to go with her eight assists. She had only one turnovers. Nila Blackford joined Young with 14 points and Lindsey Thall had 12.
  • Speciality statistics, like the final score, were overwhelmingly in Kent’s favor:
    • Points off turnovers: KSU 27-2.
    • Points in the paint: KSU 52-12.
    • Second-chance points: KSU 31-2.
    • Fast-break points: KSU 32-10.
  • Shumate was the only KSU player not to get in the game. She had been leading the team in minutes played. “Coach’s decision,” Starkey said, not related to injury or illness. Shumate should be fine going forward, he said.
  • Every other person on the roster played at least eight minutes. Only Kelly and Dingle played more than 26.
  • Senior Ali Poole scored a season-high seven points and had a season-high seven rebounds. She has struggled with a knee injury suffered in August.

Video highlights

Flashes host Division III Hiram Monday in final non-conference game of season

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Former Kent State forward Jordan Korinek (back row, just left of mid-court line) stopped by practice Friday. Korinek, who graduated in 2018 as the fifth-leading scorer in KSU history, is playing professionally in Germany and played in Greece last season. (Photo from KSU Twitter feed.)

Kent State returns to action at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the M.A.C. Center against Hiram. For the Flashes, it’s:

  1. A tuneup before conference play starts at Ball State on Saturday. Hiram, a below-average Division III team, shouldn’t be able to mount much of a challenge to the Flashes, who are 6-4 against Division I opposition.
  2. Their first game in 10 days. They split two games at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic before Christmas, beating Georgia Southern 62-48 and losing to Troy 71-64.
  3. Their first game in Kent since Dec. 3, when they beat St. Bonaventure 81-58.

The Hiram game gives Kent State a chance to work off Christmas rust and, almost certainly, a chance to give everyone on the roster extended minutes. The Flashes played Division II Clarion at this time last season and beat it by 54 points, the third largest margin of victory in KSU history.

Hiram is 3-8 and was picked seventh in the nine-member North Coast Athletic Conference. Kent State has never played the Terriers in a regular-season game but beat them by 28 in an exhibition in 2015, coach Danny O’Banion’s last season.

Coach Todd Starkey has said it’s hard to find a Division I team to play at this time of season. Many have already started conference play; others don’t want to play a strong team right before the league season. Ball State, Miami and Bowling Green all play Division II schools Monday and Tuesday.

All five KSU starters average in double figures, led by senior Megan Carter’s 13.7 points a game. Freshman Nila Blackford averages 13.4, sophomore Lindsey Thall 12.4, sophomore Asiah Dingle 11.7 and freshman Katie Shumate 11.5. All but Shumate have led the team in scoring in at least one game; she has led KSU in rebounding twice.

Hiram’s top player is 5-2 guard Tashauna Wright, who averages 19.5 points a game.

To follow the game

The game starts at 5:30 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center. General admission tickets are $5.

Video is on ESPN3, which is free if you get it through your cable or satellite service or the ESPN app. David Wilson is the announcer.

Audio starts about 5:15 p.m. on Golden Flashes iHeart Radio. Dan Griffin is the announcer.

Live statistics are available on the KSU website.

 

 

 

2 turnovers in last 19 seconds mean 71-64 defeat for Flashes in Las Vegas

Crowd vs. Georgia (1).jpg

Arena at Thursday halftime warmup, when attendance was announced at 120. At the start of Friday game, I counted — literally counted — 49 people in the stands. (wbbFlashes photo.)

Twice this season Kent State has won games in the last minute. A third game went to overtime (KSU won).

But in Las Vegas Friday, the last-minute rally went the other way as Troy pulled out a victory over the Flashes 71-64.

Kent State had led for almost the entire game, but Troy used a pressure defense to rally in the fourth quarter.

With the score tied 64-64 and 19 seconds to play, Troy senior  forward Japonica James stepped between Kent players who weren’t more more three feet apart on an inbounds pass in front of the Kent bench. She tipped the ball, then grabbed it and drove the length of the court for a layup. She was fouled and made the free throw.

“She shot the gap,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said. “A really good player made a great play.”

“They just jumped it,” said senior Megan Carter, who was inbounding the ball.

On the next possession, the Flashes got the ball to forward Nila Blackford, who looked to have a clear path to the basket. But she traveled as she went up for a layup.

The loss at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic leaves the Flashes’ record at 6-4. 

Troy is 9-2. Its RPI, a ranking system based on record and schedule strength, is now 59th of 351 teams. That’s higher than any team in the MAC. The Troy radio announcer called the win the team’s biggest of the season.

Starkey was far more upbeat after the loss than he was about the team’s 62-48 win over 2-7 Georgia Southern on Thursday.

“I thought we played a really good basketball game,” the coach said. “I thought we showed incredible toughness against a really good Troy team.

“We kind of gave that game away. Their pressure was intense, so we obviously needed to take care of the ball the way we needed to.

“We learned that we need to execute down the stretch, show our composure a little bit — and understand that we’re a really good basketball team when we play with that kind of intensity.

The Flashes took an 8-5 lead six minutes into the game and led for the next 33 minutes.

But in the fourth quarter, Troy went to a full-court press, and the Flashes has seven turnovers in the last four minutes and got off just four shots. The Trojans ended the game on a 14-2 run.

“They amped up their defense, but I think we just got careless,” Carter said. ‘We weren’t managing our possessions well.”

Kent State, which hadn’t played in 11 days before the Las Vegas tournament, is now off another 10 for Christmas. The Flashes will play their last non-conference game against Hiram on Dec. 30 at the M.A.C. Center, then start MAC play the next week.

“We gotta keep our heads up,” she said. “It’s one loss. We  should have had this game, but you can’t dwell on the past. It’s learn from it and take that anger that we should have won and put it on the next opponent.”

Box score

Notes

  • Troy leads the country in offensive rebounding at 25 a game. It had 11, its lowest of the season, against Kent State. The Flashes had 12 offensive rebounds. “If we can play with that kind of intensity, we can rebound with anybody,” Starkey said. “If you can rebound with Troy, you can rebound with anybody.”
  • Total rebounding was 40-28 Troy.
  • Carter led Kent State with 24 points, her high for the season. She also had three assists against two turnovers and a steal. Carter ran the offense for most of the game, even when point guard Asiah Dingle was on the court. Dingle sat out 12 minutes with foul trouble.
  • Freshman Katie Shumate had her first double-double  with 18 points and 10 rebounds (‘phenomenal,” Starkey said). Blackford had 11 points and seven rebounds.
  • The Flashes took their most 3-point shots of the season — 33 — and made 10. Carter made four of 11, Shumate four of seven.
  • Troy scored 23 point off of 18 turnovers, KSU’s second highest total of the year The Flashes scored 13 points off of 19 turnovers. Going into the fourth quarter, points off turnovers were even at 11-11. 
  • Troy, which is fourth in Division I in foul shots made, outscored Kent State 20-10 from the free-throw line. The Flashes had averaged 20 points a game from foul shots in its six wins. 
  • Monique Smith, Clare Kelly, Sydney Brinlee and Ali Poole all played more than nine minutes. That’s about as much as Kent has used its bench this season. Poole, a starter last year who has been fighting a knee injury since summer, played 15 minutes, her most of the season. The reserves, however, scored only two points on a basket by Smith.
  • Kent’s shooting percentage was 34,4, about 5 points below its average. The Flashes shot only 23% in that disastrous fourth quarter. Troy’s shooting percentage was 39.7% and 50% in the fourth quarter.
  • KSU had 12 assists on 22 baskets. Dingle had four and Carter three.
  • The 71-64 score was exactly the same as Troy’s victory over Toledo on Thursday.

The view from Troy

Coach Chanda Coach Rigby quoted on Troy’s website

“We were down for the pretty much the whole game and every time we would score, they would score. Finally, we broke it down to two and one point deficits but couldn’t never get over that hump. Other than that, the first score of the game, James’ layup was the first lead we had.”

On the late game rally

“I can’t say enough about our senior leadership. Kayla’s been in these battles for four years and she’s hungry. She’s been coming off the bench for us and has been playing her role fantastic.

“I can’t say enough about Japonica either. She couldn’t get going the entire tournament. She couldn’t get anything except fouls called against her but she kept her spirit up and made the play of the game for us.”

 

 

Flashes have 14 steals in 62-48 win in Vegas, but Starkey isn’t happy

Dingle vs. Georgia (1)

Kent State’s Asiah Dingle (No. 3 in white) on defense vs. Georgia Southern. Dingle had six of Kent State’s 14 steals. It was a career high for the point guard. (WbbFlashes photo.)

Kent State had just beaten Georgia Southern 62-48, but coach Todd Starkey wasn’t pleased.

“I thought we played a very poor basketball game,” Starkey told announcer David Wilson on his postgame radio show. “When you play against a team who has only four assists and 25 turnovers, you better win by more than 14 and score more than 62 points.

“We had some good moments, but in order to be good in the MAC, you have to be a good team for four quarters. And we weren’t.”

It was Kent State’s first game in 11 days, so it might have been a case of needing to “shake the rust off,” Starkey said. After the Flashes lost to Purdue Dec. 11, the team took a week off for finals. This week has been travel and preparation for the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.

The win moves Kent State’s record to 6-3. Georgia Southern, a Sun Belt Conference team, is 2-7.

The Flashes played their best defense statistically this season. Georgia Southern’s 48 points were the lowest KSU has allowed  by 10 points. The Eagles shooting percentage of 35.8 was the first time Kent State had held a team below 40%.

Kent had 14 steals, and Georgia Southern’s 25 turnovers were the most against KSU this season. The Flashes outscored the Eagles 25-3 off of those turnovers. They had 12 turnovers themselves, Georgia Southern had been forcing almost 20 a game.

So why was Starkey so unhappy?

  • Georgia Southern is far from a good team. The Eagles’ RPI ranking was 291 of 351 teams. (Kent’s was 61.) Kent’s Friday opponent, Troy, has an RPI of 85 and record of a record of 8-2.
  • The Flashes missed nine of 18 layups, some of those coming after steals and turnovers.
  • KSU’s offense went stagnant several times. The team didn’t score at all for the last seven minutes of the second quarter, though it still held a 29-24 halftime team. The Flashes’ 62 points were the second lowest they had scored this season.

“We’re a much better basketball team when we get ball movement,” Starkey said in his postgame interview with wbbFlashes. “Especially in the second quarter, we were trying to make way too many individual plays instead of really executing our offense and sharing the ball.”

A minute into the third quarter, freshman guard Katie Shumate grabbed three straight offensive rebounds, then sank a 8-foot jump shot. They sparked a 9-2 run, with eight of those points coming on baskets by Shumate.

“I had been struggling a little bit,” said Shumate, who had made just 26% of her shots in the last four games after leading the team in shooting percentage earlier in the season. “So it was nice to see some fall.”

And the offensive rebounds?

“After someone on my team puts a shot up, I see an opportunity to get another possession.”

Freshman Clare Kelly gave Kent a lift late in the third quarter with a 3-point basket and a determined offensive rebound just before the buzzer. After grabbing the ball, she slipped it to Megan Carter for a layup to give KSU a 47-34 lead.

The Flashes extended the lead to as many as 18 in the fourth quarter. Georgia Southern never got within nine.

Box score

Tomorrow vs. Troy

One reason Starkey may have been unhappy was thinking about tomorrow’s opponent.

Troy is on the opposite end of the Sun Belt from Georgia Southern. The Trojans were picked second in the league; Georgia Southern was picked 11th.

Troy leads Division I in rebounding and offensive rebounding (25 per game). It is fourth in the country in free throws made.

The Trojans have had eight different players lead the team in scoring this season and average 82.8 points a game, 10th in the country. They also give up 69 points a game, 24th in the country. Don’t expect a low scoring game.

Troy does miss a lot of shots. Its season field-goal percentage is 34.5, lowest of any team Kent has played.

Troy beat Toledo, which has had a disappointing season so far, 71-64 on Thursday.

“This is a much bigger, more physical team,” Starkey said. “They’re very good in transition, and man, do they have athletes. They keep coming at you in waves. We’re going to have to play significantly better tomorrow in order to come away with a second win.”

They game starts at 3 p.m. Kent time (noon in Las Vegas). You can watch a live stream of the game on Vimeo or listen to it on Golden Flash IHeart Radio.

Notes

  • Asiah Dingle led Kent State with 16 points, five assists and career-high six steals. Asked about the defense, she smiled and answered, “I just like stealing the ball.” Shumate on the steals: “Well, we have Asiah.”
  • Carter had 11 points, including three 3-point baskets in four attempts. She had two steals.
  • Just Dingle and Carter scored in double figures, the fewest number for the team this season.
  • Nila Blackford had two steals and two blocked shots to go with six points and five rebounds.
  • Lindsey Thall blocked four shots and had seven points and a steal.
  • Georgia Southern outrebounded KSU 42-34, though rebounding was much closer until the fourth quarter. Shumate led KSU with six rebounds.
  • KSU got 12 points from its bench, the most this season. Junior forward Monique Smith had four points, equaling a career high for the third time this season. She also had two steals, and Starkey said her energy game the team a lift in the first half.
  • Sophomore Annie Pavlansky made her first basket of the season and the first 3-pointer of her career with 22 seconds to go.
  • Ali Poole, who has been hampered with knee problems, since a summer injuiry, made her first basket of the season and played six minutes.
  • All 14 KSU players got into the game. Georgia Southern played 13, sometimes substituting five at a time.
  • Attendance was listed at 120. Thirty or 40 looked to be Kent State fans.

The view from Georgia Southern

Coach Anita Howard, quote on the team website:

“I’m not happy at all, I’m not pleased with us coming out to Vegas and showing no fight. We weren’t competing. The turnovers was because we were too lackadaisical.”

On moving forward:

“Its’s nothing with the Xs and Os. It’s all about what pumps inside your chest, and that’s your heart. Hopefully we’ll get that message across and come out with a renewed sense of energy tomorrow.”

For statistics junkies

Jay Fiorello is the assistant athletic communications director for women’s basketball. As we waited to interview Starkey and players after the game, he told me that a lot of the numbers in the box score didn’t look right.

They weren’t. The postgame box had Lindsey Thall was zero blocks. The revised had her with four. Asiah Dingle’s steal total went from four to six, a career high. As a team, Kent State picked up seven more rebounds; Georgia Southern added five. Points off turnovers rose to 25 for the Flashes, which might make coach Starkey a little happier.

How could things get that messed up? The folks running the tournament aren’t basketball people. The arena is used far more for rodeos.

They did get the final score right. Earlier this season, the people at Youngstown State at first had Kent winning 61-53. But the Flashes scored 62 points.