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Preview: Chippewas look to remain perfect in conference play against Kent State


Central Michigan coach Heather Oesterle coaches during a timeout against Bowling Green Feb. 15 at McGuirk Arena.

Thanks to clutch shooting and solid defense down the stretch, Central Michigan was able to avoid an upset against Bowling Green in its last time out. Junior forward Kyra Bussell scored 23 points to lead the squad, with three other players also scoring in double figures. 

CMU (19-4, 12-0) returns to action against Kent State for a Mid-American Conference matchup on Wednesday in McGuirk Arena. The Golden Flashes are led by Todd Starkey, who is in his fourth season as head coach. 

Offensively, Kent State (14-9, 7-5) is led by a quartet of guards that average more than 10 points per game. The tandem of Megan Carter, Asiah Dingle, Katie Shumate and Nila Blackford combines for 50 points per game. 

With such a deep backcourt, the Golden Flashes will give the Chippewas, who typically run with a four-guard lineup of their own, everything they can handle. 

"They do a good job of finding their shot and also creating for others," said freshman guard Molly Davis. "If we stop their dribble penetration, we can also stop that."

In addition to the four standout guards, Kent State also features 6-2 sophomore forward Lindsey Thall who averages double digits as well. Thall will likely matchup with Bussell, a matchup between two players with similar styles of play. Bussell has attempted 62 3-pointers and hit a career-high five in Saturday's win, while Thall has attempted 132 shots from beyond the arc. 

Despite their offensive success, both Thall and Bussell have below-average defensive ratings according to Synergy, a sports tech website that grades players based on points per possession. In the case of the two forwards, Bussell is slightly better, allowing .883 points per possession that end with the ball in her matchup's hands. Thall allows .91 points per possession. 

The Chippewas rank in the 97th percentile offensively, giving them an "excellent" rating, while Kent State ranks in the 71st. The Golden Flashes have eight players that rank higher than the 50th percentile in terms of points per possession, while the Chippewas have seven. Of all the players who rank highly, Central Michigan's Gabi Bird that ranks the highest. Her 1.039 points per possession ranks in the 97th percentile. 

Both teams bring efficient scoring offenses into the contest, led by solid guard play. As a team, the Golden Flashes average .821 points per possession while the Chippewas average .923. One statistic that plays well in favor of the Chippewas deals with the battle in transition.

Central Michigan averages .98 points per possession in transition while Kent State ranks significantly lower with .841. The Golden Flashes also struggle in transition defensively, allowing .953 points per possession. 

In terms of total scoring, the Chippewas are still at the top of the MAC with 78.2 points per game. Kent State ranks sixth with an average of 69.5 points per. Central Michigan ranks 10th in scoring defense with 71.9 points allowed, with the Golden Flashes ranking fourth with their 66.3 average. 

Wednesday's game between the Chippewas and Golden Flashes is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season.