Can’t shoot, can’t win

Sophomore guard Krista White struggles to pass around the heavy defense of Youngstown State during Kent States 68-49 loss in the M.A.C. Center on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.

Sophomore guard Krista White struggles to pass around the heavy defense of Youngstown State during Kent State’s 68-49 loss in the M.A.C. Center on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.

Richie Mulhall

Box Score

In basketball, you can run tricky offensive plays, perform fluid backdoor passes and execute impenetrable defense, but if you can’t shoot the ball, you can’t win the game.

The difference between winning and losing a basketball game can come down to the key most fundamental element in the sport: shooting the basketball, something the Kent State women’s basketball team failed to do Tuesday night in the team’s home opener against Youngstown State.

The Flashes shot 32.8 percent from the field compared to Youngstown State’s 50 percent as Kent State fell to the Penguins, 68-49. History proves you just can’t win games like that.

“Youngstown State did a nice job, particularly in the second half, from the three-point line,” Kent State coach Danielle O’Banion. “I thought their defensive game plan was sound. They crowded our big kids, basically neutralizing our size advantage. At the end of the day, they were a better basketball team.”

The undersized, three-point gunslinging Penguins not only shot well from three-point range, connecting on 10 of 26 attempts, but they also beat Kent State at its own game, crashing the boards and outscoring the Flashes in the paint, 26-25. Senior center Cici Shannon and freshman forward Jordan Korinek had a number of good looks inside but couldn’t capitalize and finish strong at the rim.

O’Banion said Youngstown State’s game plan was sound, and now that the word is out that Kent State is a post-playing team, scouting opponents will look to exploit the Flashes’ inside presence, a feat the Penguins successfully accomplished.

“I thought Youngstown State did a good job crowding (Shannon) in the second half, and they played a little bit more zone defense,” she said. “They switched it up a little bit, that made us a little uncomfortable, but Cici always had company. And in that situation, without a true double-team, it requires a little post scorer to keep it simple, and we got a little bit too complicated ourselves in the lower block, particularly in the second half.”

The Penguins’ winning strategy began by shutting down Kent State’s top scorers.

Shannon, who had an explosive first game of the season last Saturday with 17 points, was virtually nonexistent offensively Tuesday night. Youngstown State held the 6-foot-4 redshirt senior to just three points and two rebounds.

Sophomore Larissa Lurken, who registered 14 points Saturday, drained a few 3-pointers, but they weren’t nearly enough to swing momentum in Kent State’s favor.

Lurken shot just 4 for 10 from the field and 3 for 6 from beyond the arc.

There were times Tuesday night when Lurken looked either really comfortable or really uncomfortable shooting the basketball.

“Larissa is still a shooter that’s maturing in terms of being someone that’s a marked person on another team’s scouting report,” O’Banion said. “No one is really giving her a chance to catch it in rhythm and shoot it, so for her, she questions herself if she doesn’t make the first one or two shots.”

Senior forward Montia Johnson was the only Flash to give the Penguins a difficult time in the first half, shooting a spotless 5 of 5 from the field and racking up 10 of the Flashes’ 27 first-half points.

A tale of two halves

The second-half stats of Tuesday night’s night don’t lie, and they tell the tale of an entire half the Flashes would like to forget.

In the first half the Flashes kept the game within striking distance, only trailing by four points, but they let the game slip through their fingers in the second half as the Penguins embarked on a 19-5 run that began in the first half and persisted through the second half.

The team that shot 40 percent from the field in the first half shot 25 percent in the next half and could only manage 22 points in 20 minutes of regulation.

“We talked at halftime about trying to cut down on our mental errors, we had quite a few glaring mental errors in the first half, and we pride ourselves on being mentally tough and not making those errors, so I felt like we shored that up in the second half,” Youngstown State coach John Barnes said.

Shannon, Kent State’s biggest offensive threat in the paint, remained quiet, missing the mark on the only three shots she attempted in the half. Three-point shooter Lurken only scored two more baskets to cap her uneventful night. Even Johnson, who kept the Flashes in the game with 10 first-half points, contributed next to nothing besides a few extra rebounds and two missed shot attempts.

The team as a whole also struggled at the rim, missing a number of freebie layups right under the hoop.

As missed layup after missed layup continued to haunt the Flashes, Youngstown State pounced on Kent State’s shooting woes and blew open the game with a 37-point second half and 58.3 percent (14-24) shooting performance.

The Flashes attempted to battle back in the final, dwindling minutes, but once the Penguins established a firm grip on a double-digit lead, the deficit proved too much for Kent State to overcome as Youngstown State ran away with the game, the win confidently in hand.

Next up for the Flashes

Kent State will head to Northwestern on Friday night for a 7:30 p.m. matchup.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].