Stephens’ second half sparks Flashes’ victory in home opener

Kent State senior guard Alexa Golden is fouled on a drive to the basket against Detroit Mercy Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. The Flashes won the game, 82-74. [FILE]

Scott Lendak

Senior forward Jordan Korinek — the Kent State women’s basketball team’s leading scorer of the year —  was held in check for much of the first half of their home opener matchup against Detroit Mercy. She was nursing a tight hamstring.

Without the normal production from Korinek, the Flashes needed a boost from someone else. Junior guard Alexa Golden and graduate student forward McKenna Stephens stepped up in a big way.

Golden highlighted the Flashes in the first half, while Stephens carried the offense in the second half. The Flashes won 82-74.

“We can’t expect Jordan to score 30 points every game,” Stephens said. “It’s not going to happen every time, so we just have to pick it up. We have to hit our shots and open it up inside for her.” 

A winless Detroit Mercy team jumped on the Flashes early. They started the game on a 10-2 run and expanded their lead to 17-8 in the first quarter.

The Titans dominated the first quarter until coach Todd Starkey used a timeout to calm the Flashes down.

The Flashes went on a 9-3 run to end the quarter and cut the Titan lead to just three entering the second.

Kent State took a one-point lead at halftime, but it was a little sloppier than their coach would’ve liked.  

 “Your first home game sometimes is just a different rhythm,” Starkey said. “Sometimes it’s just important to figure it out. We were just a little amped up at the beginning and excited to be back home. We were kind of sloppy at the beginning.” 

Golden picked up the offensive slack in the first half with 10 points. She finished with a career-high 18 points including a key three-pointer with about two minutes left in the game. 

The feeling in the building was that the Flashes’ talent would ultimately be too much for the Titans and they would cruise to a victory in the second half.

That wasn’t the case in the third quarter, however. The Titans continued to play hard and matched the Flashes’ intensity.

With about two minutes to go in the third, the Titans cut the deficit to one point and Starkey called an important timeout again.

After the timeout, Stephens started to be aggressive. She finished with a career-high 22 points after scoring on back-door cuts all night long.

“She’s a fifth-year senior, she should be able to make those reads,” Starkey said jokingly. “With them heavy helping on Jordan, McKenna made some great reads on slips to the basket.  Our guards did a good job of getting the ball there without turning it over.”

The talent and second half focus of the Kent State team eventually determined the outcome of the game. 

Korinek finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Ali Poole added 14 points. It was the first time this season that the Flashes had four different scorers in double-digits.

“It’s much better for us when we have that kind of balance,” Starkey said. “Certain players are going to have breakout games at times. Jordan responded with a much better second half and because of that everybody else played well at the same time.”

Next, the Flashes (5-3) will travel to Richmond to take on Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

Scott Lendak is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].