Lurken leads Flashes to victory, Wagon Wheel sweep

Kent+State+junior+forward+Jordan+Korinek+attempts+a+layup+against+The+University+of+Akron+at+he+M.A.C.+Center+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+25%2C+2017.+Kent+State+won%2C+73-69.

Kent State junior forward Jordan Korinek attempts a layup against The University of Akron at he M.A.C. Center on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. Kent State won, 73-69.

Henry Palattella

With 2:16 left in the second quarter of Kent State’s Saturday matchup against The University of Akron, senior Larissa Lurken made a three-pointer.

That in itself is not out of the ordinary, as Lurken — Kent State’s leading scorer — came into the game with 59 made three-pointers on the season, the mark that is tops on the team.

But what made Lurken’s second quarter three-pointer different was that it not only extended the Flashes’ small lead over the Zips, but it came in front of the Akron bench, a team that the senior guard had not beaten before this year.

That fact was something that Lurken seemed to enjoy, and she remained stationary with her hand in air after the shot went in, seemingly reveling in the joyful madness that the shot had generated inside the confines of the M.A.C. Center.

In total, Lurken led all scorers with 28 points. Her contribution helped the Flashes (17-11, 11-5 Mid-American Conference) complete their season-sweep of the Zips with their 73-69 victory.

“It wasn’t a pretty win, that’s for sure,” Lurken said of Kent State’s victory. “But a win’s a win against a rival and it felt good. Got scary down the stretch, but our defense helped us.”

The Flashes struggled out of the gates against the Zips, as they were quickly down 13-4 with four minutes left in the first quarter and then found themselves down 23-17 at the end of that quarter, something that coach Todd Starkey attributed to the Flashes lack of attention on the defensive end.

“It wasn’t our best defensive effort,” Starkey said. “I thought we played better for pockets of time, but our sustained focus and intensity on the defensive end was lacking today.”

Lurken also stressed that the team’s first quarter defense wasn’t indicative of the defense they’ve played all year.

“First quarter we weren’t communicating,” Lurken said. “I don’t think we were ready. I think that’s happened to us the past couple games, we’ve kind of come out and felt our way through it … We can’t do that, especially against better teams.”

The Flashes were able to pull ahead in the second quarter, however, as they tied it up on a three from Lurken halfway through the second quarter. They then took the lead on a pair of free-throws from Chelsi Watson — a lead the team would hold for the rest of the game.

The Flashes picked up their defensive intensity in the third quarter, but Akron wouldn’t let the Flashes extend their lead to double digits, which led to Kent State holding a 53-44 lead going into the fourth period.

Kent State pushed its lead to 10 in the fourth quarter, but Akron responded, much in part to freshman guard Shaunay Edmonds, who scored 12 of her 26 points in the third quarter.

Edmonds got the Zips within striking distance late when she made an and-one lay-up with three minutes left that cut the Kent State lead to 62-59.

The Flashes responded on the very next possession, however, as Jordan Korinek made a three in the corner that extended the lead to six.

The Zips had the ball down three with 31 seconds left, but Megan Sefick airballed a three that would have tied it, a play that clinched the victory for the Flashes.

“I think we fell asleep at the wheel when we got that lead,” Starkey said in regards to the Flashes’ inability to put Akron away. “Rather than continue to play possession by possession basketball and stringing together three stops in a row, we kind of played back and forth.”

Lurken was the only Flash to reach double-figures in scoring;  Korinek, Naddiyah Cross and Alexa Golden all were tied for second with eight points each. Edmonds’ 26 points led Akron, while Hannah Plybon chipped in with 13 of her own.

The win puts the Flashes’ magic number at one, which means that a win over Miami on Wednesday would give them the MAC East, as well as a share of the fourth seed in the MAC.

The Flashes game against the RedHawks will be in Oxford, Ohio, this Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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