Kent State rides high-scoring first quarter, Korinek’s career high to win

Junior guard Alexa Golden drives through the Bowling Green defense during Kent State’s 81-57 victory Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. [FILE]

Ian Kreider

Kent State (11-11, 4-6 Mid-American Conference) played a physical game wire-to-wire and pushed ahead of Bowling Green (10-11, 2-8 MAC) early on.

The Flashes scored a season-high 29 first-quarter points, and they finished the quarter on an 18-2 run. The team limited Bowling Green to just 11 points on 4-for-11 from the field.

Kent State looked a bit different heading into the game, as coach Todd Starkey decided to change up his starting lineup coming off a 15-point road loss to Akron — the Zips’ first conference win. The updated lineup sported more youth than before. 

Freshman guard Erin Thames replaced senior Naddiyah Cross, freshman Monique Smith replaced Ali Poole and sophomore Megan Carter filled in for McKenna Stephens, a graduate student.

Poole and Stephens responded when they checked into the game. Poole finished with 14 points, while Stephens added nine. 

“We have been stagnant; we haven’t played well consistently so we decided to shake things up,” Starkey said. “We decided to put some starters on the bench and take the freshmen off the bench because we needed a spark.”

Kent State followed its first quarter play with a less-than-ideal second quarter that produced just 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting. However, the Flashes were able to maintain a similar defensive pressure which limited the Falcons to seven points on 3-for-13 shooting.

Kent State was also productive from the three-point line in the first half, shooting 5-for-10.

The Falcons were able to cut the Flashes lead to 51-34 through full-court pressure and making open shots. However, Kent State responded with a 9-2 run to end the quarter.

Senior forward Jordan Korinek carried the offensive load for much of the game. She had 19 points in the first half and stayed aggressive throughout the rest of the game, especially when her teammates struggled shooting. She finished with a career-high 36 points on 12-for-18 from the floor and 10-for-11 from the free-throw line.

“It was a physical game; she kept her composure throughout,” Starkey said of Korinek. “We ran some different actions to get her the ball in different spots. I was pleased with our ball movement (and) post-entry passes, and she did a great job of finishing.”

Kent State found its offensive rhythm early in the game. The team was able to find good shots early in the shot clock, which allowed them to dominate during different stretches throughout the game.

“We needed to find a way to get easier baskets on offense,” Starkey said. “So much of what we have been doing on offense has seemed like such a grind.”

The Flashes’ defense was key to their success as well.

They had 16 points off turnovers, and tough interior defense caused Bowling Green to settle for outside shots.

Kent State also shot 25 free throws; the team has won 11 of its last 15 games when they attempt at least 20 foul shots

Kent State returns to action at 2 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C. Center as the team hosts Northern Illinois (10-10, 2-7 MAC).

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