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‘This group is a lot of fun’: Women’s basketball celebrates seniors

Debonaire Wright
Eléna Maier driving to the basket against Buffalo on Saturday.

Graduating players Katie Shumate, Mikala Morris and Abby Ogle helped lead the Flashes to a 67-59 win over Buffalo on Senior Day Saturday. 

The Flashes held the lead the entire game, with their biggest gap of 13 points coming in the fourth quarter.

“In spite of 19 turnovers and a little bit of sloppy play, I thought we did a really good job,” coach Todd Starkey said. “We never didn’t have the lead in the game, though we came out at the beginning of the game, and we established ourselves early. Our lapses in play were smaller and a little less significant than they’ve been in a couple of games in recent memory.”

During the current three-game winning streak, KSU has yet to trail in any portion of the game. 

Graduate student Mikala Morris felt the Flashes’ defensive skills were put on display against the Bulls, she said.

Senior Katie Shumate on Saturday afternoon. (Debonaire Wright)

“I think tonight was a great example of our defense,” she said. “Coach Starkey talks about it all the time in the locker room, how we need to be connected. And tonight, I thought, as a team, we were all really connected.”

Buffalo’s redshirt senior Chellia Watson, who is ranked fourth in the nation for points per game, was held to 16 points.

The Flashes outrebounded the Bulls 44-27, with Shumate tying a career-high of 13 rebounds and junior forward Bridget Dunn adding 12 more for a career-high.

Dunn earned her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Dunn hasn’t received the credit she deserves for her defense, Starkey said.

“I’m really proud of Bridget,” he said. “She’s our best defensive rebounder; she doesn’t get enough credit for her defense and her voice. 

“She was able to score on the interior today and from the three-point line. Now, teams have to think twice about how they guard her.”

The Flashes shot 13-of-32 from the field and 35% from the three-point line, while the Bulls shot 35% from the field and 3-for-12 from behind the arch. 

Celebrating the seniors

The game versus Buffalo was part of a double-header for Kent State basketball, with the men’s game against Central Michigan played following the women’s. Both teams’ seniors were honored for Senior Day.

Redshirt senior Katie Shumate left her mark on Kent State, graduating as the fifth all-time leading scorer (1,751) and third all-time leader in three-point shots (167) for the women’s basketball program.

Sophomore Dionna Gray shoots a jump shot with the shot clock counting down. (Debonaire Wright)

Shumate said she hopes the team’s standards continue to stay high after she leaves.

“I hope that they look back and see the way we play and want to stay to that standard of competitiveness and togetherness and have a good time together,” she said.

Shumate’s loyalty to Kent State has helped make her a unique player, Starkey said.

“She’s unique in that she’s a player that could have gone on the transfer portal more than one time,” he said. “She would have had opportunities. But she talked about loyalty in a generation and days when that is hard to find. And she has chosen to say ‘I’m going to double down on investing where I am, and I’m going to double down on being a good teammate. And I want to give everything I have to this last year with Kent State.’”

Graduate student Abby Ogle finished the game with four points and four rebounds. The guard will graduate with the highest steal percentage of all time in program history at 6.8. 

Ogle hopes to leave a lasting impact on the environment of the team, she said.

“I think the environment that we’ve created this year has just been so good,” she said. “And I hope they just keep that same energy each year as they keep going.”

Graduate student center Mikala Morris spent only one year at Kent State but got everything she expected from it, she said. Morris spent her first four years playing for Quinnipiac before transferring to Kent State for her final year.

“I came to campus, and I met the girls, and from that moment, I thought it was a great fit for me,” she said. “It’s given me so many opportunities to come in with a great team, great culture and given me an opportunity to play in front of my family and friends. It’s everything I would want in my last year here. So I’m very happy and grateful for my choice.”

The team has been one of Starkey’s favorite groups to coach, he said.

Mikala Morris shoots over the defense on March 2, 2024. (Debonaire Wright)

“Top to bottom, this group is a lot of fun,” he said. “They’re high character, and they genuinely care about each other. It’s a coachable group, and the seniors have been a big part of that.”

MAC Tournament

The Flashes’ win against Buffalo secured a top-three seed for the MAC tournament, which tips off March 13 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.

Leading up to the tournament, the Flashes will be taking on the top two teams in the conference with Ball State (25-4, 14-2 MAC) March 6 and Toledo (23-4, 15-1 MAC) March 9. 

Playing the conference-leading teams will help prepare the Flashes for the playoff season, Shumate said.

“It’s a perfect situation for us,” she said. “Win or lose, we’re going to be playing against the top teams in the MAC going into the MAC tournament. I don’t think there’s a better way to prepare us for that than competing with the best teams.” 

Kelsie Horner is assistant managing editor. Contact her at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Kelsie Horner, Assistant Managing Editor
Kelsie is a senior journalism major with a minor in communications. In her three semesters at KentWired, she has served as a Digital Tech, Digital Editor and Assistant Managing Editor.
Contact her at [email protected].

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