Flashes can’t stop Woods in close road loss to Northern Illinois

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Kent State sophomore guard Ali Poole dribbles the ball past Youngstown State junior guard Nikki Arbanas Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. The Flashes beat the Penguins, 55-44. 

Cameron Hoover

Kent State had a chance to inbound the ball down a point with 4.3 seconds remaining Wednesday night against Northern Illinois.

After a timeout, sophomore guard Ali Poole looked for Megan Carter near the three-point line. Her bounce pass was cut off by the outstretched arm of the Huskies’ Mikayla Voigt, who was immediately fouled by Carter.

Off the ensuing inbounds pass, the Huskies knew who to look for: Courtney Woods, a junior guard and forward from Australia who had lit up the Flashes all night.  

Woods sunk one of the two free throws for her 39th point of the night, dealing the Flashes (8-6, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) the final blow, leading to Northern Illinois’ (9-4, 1-1 MAC) first conference win, 81-79.

“We made too many mistakes down the stretch,” said coach Todd Starkey. “We had the game won and gave it away. … We got outhustled down the stretch. I’m really disappointed in that. … You can’t win on the road in this conference without a sense of urgency on every play.”

The game was a classic example of a battle of strengths and weaknesses. Heading into Wednesday night’s contest, Northern Illinois was second in the MAC in scoring (81.7 points per game), three-point percentage (39 percent) and three-point field goals made (108).

The Huskies’ defense was another story; they had given up 75.3 points per game entering Wednesday, worst in the MAC by seven points. They also were second-to-last in opponents’ field goal percentage (41.2 percent).

On the flip side, Kent State led the conference in scoring defense, giving up just 61.3 points per game in 13 matchups prior to facing the Huskies. The Flashes were also second in rebounding margin (+6.2 rebounds per game).

Kent State’s offense had sputtered at times though; the Flashes’ 61.2 points per game were the worst in the MAC, and so were their 4.8 three-pointers made per game.

In the end, Northern Illinois’ offensive prowess and high-tempo attack drowned out Kent State’s intensity on defense. The Huskies scored 81 points, the highest total the Flashes allowed this season.

Northern Illinois has now scored at least 80 points in 11 of its 14 games this season, including five of the last six.

Woods’ 39 points set a career-high. She went 11-for-19 from the field, including 7-for-10 from three-point range and 10-for-12 from the free throw line.

Starkey wasn’t pleased with his team’s defensive performance on Woods.

“Obviously, Courtney Woods had a great shooting night; that’s no surprise,” Starkey said. “But we can’t give up 39 (points) to somebody. That’s ridiculous. We’ve got to be tougher than that.”

Kent State’s 79 points were the most the team has scored since a 82-74 win over Detroit Mercy on Nov. 30.

Kent State senior forward and leading scorer Jordan Korinek continued her impressive run of scoring with 27 points, four off her career-high set on Nov. 18 against Southeastern Louisiana. The performance marks the seventh time Korinek has scored more than 20 points in a game this season. She made all eight of her free throw attempts, bringing her percentage on the year to 79.8 percent.

Carter, a sophomore guard, scored 17 points off the bench in her second game of the season for the Flashes. Poole made four three-pointers on her way to scoring 14 points, while graduate student forward McKenna Stephens scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

Sophomore guard Myia Starks added 16 points and four steals for the Huskies, while senior forward Kelly Smith scored 11 points. Junior guard Voigt contributed with eight points and six assists.

The Flashes return to the court at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C. Center for their first home game in MAC play against Western Michigan (8-6, 1-1 MAC).

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]