Lurken, Starkey earn MAC postseason honors

Kent State senior forward Larissa Lurken brings the ball up court against Northern Illinois in the M.A.C. Center on Jan. 11, 2017. Lurken has been named MAC Player of the Year.

Henry Palattella

Coming into the season, senior guard Larissa Lurken was no stranger to Kent State. She spent the past three years of her life spending time there not only as a member of the women’s basketball team, but also as a nursing student.

Coming into the season, coach Todd Starkey was no stranger to winning. He amassed a record of 165-95 in ten years at Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University and 36-28 in two years as an assistant at The University of Indiana.

The two combined their collective knowledge this past season to help push the Kent State women’s basketball team to an overall record of 19-11; the team only managed to win six games the season prior. They received tangible evidence for their success Tuesday when they both earned top honors in the MAC for their position. Lurken was named MAC Player of the Year, while Starkey earned Coach of the Year honors.

Lurken came into the season having averaged 11.2 points per game in the first three years of her Kent State career, but that all changed for her this year. She’s averaging 23.6 points per game, which — if it stands — would be the highest season scoring average for any member of the Kent State women’s basketball team ever. That mark would be almost a full two points higher than Bonnie Beachy’s previous high of 21.5 that she set in the 1980-1981 season. Lurken also needs only 25 points to eclipse Beachy’s previous season-high scoring mark of 732 points.

Lurken leads the nation in free-throw attempts and makes, and her mark of 23.6 is good for third in the nation and has also broken numerous personal and school records this season. Lurken scored her 1,000-career point earlier in the year in the Gulf Coast Showcase, a tournament in which she scored 39 points in one game, which is a record for a Gulf Coast Showcase game.

The main catalyst for Lurken’s change has been the aforementioned hiring of Starkey, who established a completely different culture for the Flashes. Not only have the Flashes improved their overall win total by 13 games, but they also finished 13-5 in the Mid-American Conference, a record that was good enough for the three seed in the upcoming MAC tournament, a far cry from the 3-15 conference record they posted the year before. The Flashes also jumped 226 points in the Rating Percentage Index — the biggest jump in the country.

The Flashes’ season will continue this Wednesday when they take on no. 6 Toledo at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The game will be the final game of the night and is tentatively scheduled to start around 7 p.m. 

Henry Palattella is the sports editor, contact him at [email protected].