Flashes bow out of MAC tournament after 26 turnovers

Kent State senior forward Jordan Korinek and coach Todd Starkey share an embrace after being subbed out of the Flashes’ 72-50 loss against Buffalo in the MAC Tournament March 7, 2018.

Ian Kreider

Turnovers have been an issue all season for the Kent State women’s basketball team, never more apparent than in its season-ending 72-50 loss to Buffalo on Wednesday.

Buffalo (26-4, 17-2 Mid-American Conference) has proven it knows how to expose that weakness with a keen ability to cause giveaways (11.8 steals per game). The Bulls had 14 steals in their two previous meetings with Kent State (13-19, 5-14 MAC).

Wednesday, the Bulls forced 26 Flashes turnovers and stole the ball 20 times, which led to 41 points. The Flashes were unable to respond in the second half.

A major contributing factor to the poor second-half play for Kent State was an apparent head injury suffered by sophomore guard Megan Carter with 4:42 left in the third quarter. She was taken off the floor in a stretcher.

“It looks like she’s going to be OK,” Kent State coach Todd Starkey said after the game. “It looks more concussion-like than anything.”

The injury stopped play for five minutes as fans and players all watched as Carter was evaluated by the medical staff. After the injury, Kent State turned the ball over six straight times, which resulted in a 11-0 run by Buffalo.

“It’s hard to be focused on the game plan, as well as you have to against a phenomenal Buffalo team, and do that with tears in your eyes,” Starkey said. “Right then, Buffalo ran away with it.”

Kent State was not the same team after the injury, scoring just 17 points over a 15-minute span. The Flashes were unable to slow the game down like they did for much of the first half.

“We came down and had a couple turnovers there and missed a shot,” Starkey said. “Defensively, they’re like sharks on blood. They kind of sense that they have you, and then they just swarm you.”

The Bulls came into Wednesday’s game second or better in three defensive categories in the MAC. The Flashes played a similar game against Buffalo two weeks prior. They came out in the first half and played well. Despite having several turnovers, they were only down, 36-28. The Bulls came out of halftime on a mission, though, and pushed the lead to 26 by the end of the third quarter.

Wednesday’s game marks the end of four careers: forward Jordan Korinek, forward McKenna Stephens, guard Naddiyah Cross and forward Zenobia Bess. Three of the four started, and each shared an emotional hug with their coach as they were subbed out in the final minutes.

After today’s game, there will be a major shift in Kent State women’s basketball. The team will be one of the youngest teams in the MAC next season, and it will not have players who had to suffer through 11 combined wins in their first two seasons.

“Couldn’t be more proud of these two that are sitting with me, the other two seniors,” Starkey said. “Phenomenal careers. When I got here a couple years ago, I just asked them to trust me. We would try to get things turned around. We would develop an expectation of winning here, and 32 wins later, we were able to do that.”

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].