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Fourth-quarter onslaught guides women’s basketball past Central Michigan

Debonaire Wright
Sophomore guard Dionna Gray fights for a basket during the game against ODU on Feb. 10, 2024.

The Kent State women’s basketball team had an off week after losing to Old Dominion 82-76 on Feb. 10. Many players have been out with injuries, and the Flashes have had different starting lineups and have not played a game with a full roster in three weeks. 

Saturday, the Flashes (14-7, 9-2) defeated Central Michigan (5-16, 3-8)  77-54 in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. 

Kent State has won the last three matchups against Central Michigan. 

“I’m really pleased with after the bye week coming out and having that kind of defensive effort,” coach Todd Starkey said. 

The team scored a season-high 46 points in the paint and had four players score in double digits. 

KSU started slow offensively in the first quarter, opening the game with seven consecutive misses. 

“I thought we did a really good job of pushing the pace and transition to wear them down,” Starkey said. “I thought we got some easy baskets of transition, which has been a focus for us.”

After falling behind 9-1, sophomore guard Dionna Gray scored the Flashes’ first field goal, resulting in a 16-2 scoring run to lead 17-13 in the second quarter.  

KSU’s defense limited the Chippewas to only two made field goals over six minutes and would go into halftime leading 35-25.

CMU opened the second half with six consecutive; however, the Flashes responded with a 10-0 scoring run to regain a double-digit lead. 

Going into the fourth quarter, Kent State held a 55-47 lead and used an 18-2 scoring run at the start of the quarter to finish off CMU.

KSU’s outscored the Chippewas 22-7 in the final quarter, as CMU was held scoreless for over five minutes during the quarter.

“Our defensive effort in the second half, after the first three or four minutes, was phenomenal,” Starkey said. “I thought we were really connected. I thought we played through the right people. I thought our connectedness was great.” 

Kent State had four players score in double-figures: junior forward Jenna Batsch (17), graduate student center Mikala Morris (16), redshirt senior guard Katie Shumatee (12) and freshman forward Janae Tyler (12).

“I felt good. So, I was doing what was working for me. Honestly, I just wanted to come out with a win,” Morris said. “Also, it’s my dad’s birthday, and he drove five hours to come see me today. So, I wanted to perform very well for today.”

This was Morris’s most points since her 18-point performance against Missouri on Nov. 25.

“She’s still coming back from the injury, but it was really nice to see her back in her truest form,” Starkey said. “If we can get that type of productivity and efficiency out of her hands today, I think that’s gonna really be big for us moving forward.”

Tyler’s 12 points led all bench players.

“She’s had a really nice progression throughout her freshman year,” Starkey said. “There’s always going to be some ups and downs, but she’s done a really nice job of playing through that and just continuing to progress and get better. So, I’m really proud of her for being as productive as she is.” 

KSU had four players grab six or more rebounds. 

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve really been a good rebounding team overall,” Starkey said. “We haven’t necessarily had the top rebounders in the league, but as a team, I think we do the job with all five. And that was certainly the case today.”

Coming into the contest, Central Michigan was the top-ranked rebounding team in the Mid-American Conference.

KSU outrebounded CMU 42-37.

As a team, Kent State shot 42% from the field and 3-of-19 from behind the arc. CMU shot 37% from the field and 11% from three-point range. 

The Flashes forced 19 turnovers, resulting in 23 points. 

“Our scoring efficiency in the post was really good,” Starkey said. “We only had seven turnovers in the whole game, so really good ball control there.”

In their last game against Old Dominion, the Flashes committed 18 turnovers.

Graduate student guard Abby Ogle played her most minutes (23) since returning from injury and, on the season, she has four rebounds and had two points. 

“She really hasn’t played a lot because she’s battled injuries,” Starkey said. “Her energy that she provides on the bench and then when she comes into court has been really good. She’s really kind of turned into one of our best leaders and players. She just plays with that type of focus and determination.”

Up next, the Flashes will stay on the road, taking on Ohio Wednesday at 7 p.m.

On Jan. 6, KSU defeated the Bobcats (7-16, 4-8) 92-63, the second-largest margin of victory in conference play.

OU is last in the MAC in scoring defense (72.4) – Kent State is second (61.2).

“We’ll get back home and get some rest,” Starkey said. “Then focus on Ohio, which is a dangerous team, as they always are. Coach Bolton is a heck of a coach.”

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

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