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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2

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Jenna Batsch’s career-high 25 points leads women’s basketball past visiting Western Michigan

The+womens+basketball+team+huddles+during+the+game+Wednesday+night+against+the+Western+Michigan+Broncos+on+Feb.+7%2C+2024.
Abigail Kress
The women’s basketball team huddles during the game Wednesday night against the Western Michigan Broncos on Feb. 7, 2024.

On Jan. 31, junior forward Jenna Batsch scored her second-fewest points of the season when the Kent State women’s basketball team lost to conference-leading Ball State 57-46.

Wednesday, at the M.A.C. Center, Batsch scored a career-high 25 points, helping the Flashes (14-6, 9-2 MAC) to a 70-57 Mid-American Conference win over Western Michigan (9-11, 8-2 MAC). 

“I was really frustrated with myself after our last game against Ball State,” she said. “That was a really hard game for me, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t turn into multiple games and continue piling on and turn into any sort of slump.”

For coach Todd Starkey, he is proud of the confidence Batsch has played with.

Kent State forward Jenna Batsch heads towards the basket in the game against Western Michigan Broncos on Feb. 7, 2024. (Abigail Kress)

“I’m not surprised, and I think everybody on the team knew she had a 25-point game in her,” Starkey said. “So it was really nice to see her take advantage of that opportunity.

“Her talent has been on showcase this year, and what she’s capable of doing. So it’s good to see her confidence just continue to grow.”

Sophomore forward Tatiana Thomas and her teammates have the utmost confidence when the ball is in Batsch’s hands.

“It’s outstanding,” she said. “She’s the best, and I’m glad she’s on my team and I don’t have to play against her.”

After taking an unplanned week off due to Saturday’s game against Central Michigan being canceled, Starkey had a flashback to the 2020 season.

“We felt a little bit sluggish and rusty after getting into a rhythm in conference play, then, all of a sudden, and you don’t play for a week,” he said. “I kind of had a little flashback to the COVID years, and this was an unplanned game that we missed and unforeseen circumstances, so it kind of throws you out of rhythm a little bit.”

Kent State started the game shooting 3-of-11 from the field over the opening five minutes. 

The Flashes found their footing, connecting on five shots and outscoring the Broncos 11-5, building an 18-13 lead after the first quarter.

The Flashes outrebounded the Broncos 15-5

In the second quarter, Kent State’s defense thrived and did not allow a shot inside the three-point line.

Coming into the second half, KSU limited Kaitlyn Zarycki, the MAC’s second-leading scorer, to two points on 1-of-3 shooting.

Freshman Janae Tyler goes to make a shot during the game against Western Michigan University on Feb. 7, 2024. (Abigail Kress)

“I thought, as a team, we covered her pretty well,” Batsch said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense, but I also think tonight everybody was in positions to make plays.

“Everybody was in their gaps, and I think most of our defensive issues came away from her, which is good.”

Zarycki had eight points to end the game on 3-of-12 shooting and committed eight turnovers. During the game’s final four minutes, sophomore guard Corynne Hauser suffered a knee injury and had to leave the game.

Starkey encouraged the team to focus on the remainder of the game despite losing a key player. 

“Corynne is a great teammate and a great friend, and you’d hate to see something like that happen, but it does take the wind out of a team’s sails in the moment,” he said. “I thought our team did a pretty good job of handling that in the moment.”

Over the game’s final four minutes, Kent State went 3-of-3 from the field and 5-of-8 from the free-throw line to close the game on a 12-9 scoring run. 

“It’s really hard to see your starting point guard go down. I think it is in the back of all of our heads in the moment,” Batsch said. “You have to be able to put that aside and focus on the game and worry about that after the game.”

Sophomore Corynne Hauser makes her way down the court against the Western Michigan Broncos on Feb. 7, 2024. (Abigail Kress)

Kent guard Katie Shumate shot 2-of-7 for eight points and led the team with eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. 

“If she was more selfish, she could have averaged 15 or 20 in any given season here, but this is the type of game she has when they’re taking things away,” Starkey said. “So that’s just a sign of maturity, and we have a lot of a lot of trust in her to be able to figure out those ways to win.”

Batsch (25), Hauser (13) and freshman forward Janae Tyler (10) led the way for the Flashes. 

As a team, Kent State shot 49% from the field and grabbed 40 rebounds. The Broncos shot 35% and totaled 26 rebounds. The Flashes outscored WMU 40-18 inside the paint.

Next up, the Flashes will host Old Dominion Saturday at 1 p.m.

“This team has won a national championship before,” Starkey said. “So I think it’s great for our program to host a team like that. We got to play a lot better than we did tonight in order to beat them for sure”. 

Having a non-conference game in the middle of the conference season is something Starkey has not encountered in his coaching career.

Golden Flash Janae Tyler stands ground against Western Michigan defender De’Ahna Richardson in their matchup on Feb. 7, 2024. (Abigail Kress)

“There’s an advantage to it,” he said. “You’re getting a quality opponent to help towards your net or your postseason stuff, but it is a challenge. And so we’ll kind of see what it is, but this is a really good Old Dominion team that’s coming in here”. 

Emily Lowen is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

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