Despite struggles, Kent State looks to kickstart playoff run against Toledo

Sophomore guard Megan Carter drives to the hoop against Akron at James A. Rhodes Arena Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. The Zips beat the Flashes, 75-60, for their first conference win of the season. [FILE]

Ian Kreider

Kent State (12-18, 5-13 Mid-American Conference) struggled mightily during the regular season, especially during conference play, but is entering the postseason hopeful it can make a run.

The Flashes have dropped eight of their last 10 games. During that span, they have lost five games by at least 13 points, including two losses to Buffalo by a combined 68 points.

In the most recent game against Miami (OH), Kent State scored only 35 points, which was the least amount of points scored by the Flashes in two years. The team shot just 14-for-51 in the wire-to-wire loss. They fell behind early while getting out-hustled, which led to a full team substitution early in the first quarter.

“We didn’t do either one today,” Kent State coach Todd Starkey said about his team’s effort and lack of focus after the loss to the Redhawks. “When you have the combination of when you don’t put in effort and basketball IQ together, then you’re going to get beat big. If you just play hard from start to finish, you give yourself a chance, but then if you play hard and you play smart, you’re going to be a pretty good basketball team.”

The Flashes will enter the MAC tournament as the No. 10 seed.

The team will need to refocus, as its next opponent is a first-round matchup at No. 7 seed Toledo (17-13, 8-10 MAC) at 7 p.m. Monday night at Savage Arena.

Earlier in the season, Kent State handed the Rockets their first conference loss at home in an exciting 62-55 game. Senior forward Jordan Korinek scored 30 points while draining 17 of her 18 attempts from the foul line.

Korinek currently sits at second in the MAC in scoring (20.3 ppg); however, her production has dipped at times. Over the last 10 games, Korinek has scored less than 20 points five times, including an eight-point performance against Miami (OH).

The entire team has been struggling to put the ball in the basket recently. The team has shot 35.7 percent over the last 10 games.

One of the other reasons for the Flashes’ offensive woes is the lack of free throws attempted per game. The Flashes pride themselves on foul shooting, but they have attempted 11 or fewer free throws in five of their last 10 games, including a season-low five attempts in Saturday’s loss in Oxford.

In the win against Toledo earlier in the season, the Flashes went 30-for-38 from the line. They also limited the Rockets to just 55 points on 19-for-60 shooting. The Rockets average 17.1 assists per game (third in the MAC). During their first meeting, the Kent State defense forced 16 turnovers, while limiting the Toledo offense to only 12 assists.

Despite the losing end to a tough regular season, Kent State looks to begin a deep playoff run at 7 p.m. Monday at Savage Arena when they take on Toledo.

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