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Women’s basketball suffers NCAA Tournament loss to Notre Dame

Brittany Lucia
Senior Katie Shumate shooting a free throw against the University of Notre Dame on March 23, 2024.

The Kent State women’s basketball team’s season ended after losing 81-67 to the University of Notre Dame in Saturday’s first round of the NCAA tournament.

Redshirt senior Katie Shumate made the most of her last game as a Golden Flash. She earned her eighth double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds. This marked Shumate’s 143rd game with KSU, tying the school record held by Hannah Young.

Despite only leading the game for 2:09 and seeing the Irish lead as many as 21 points, Shumate and her teammates played with determination until the end.

“We were playing for each other, and everyone knew that we didn’t want to go out by giving up,” she said. “We were going to continue to press forward and keep trying to make it a game and play hard.” 

Freshmen Janae Tyler stepped up for the Flashes, adding 18 points, with nine of them coming in the second quarter. Shumate said that Tyler was able to show what she was capable of this season.

Freshman Janae Taylor had an impressive game in her first NCAA Tournament game against University of Notre Dame on March 23, 2024. (Brittany Lucia)

“We’ve always believed in Janae, but the way that she’s been able to step up, especially in big moments it seems like Janae is always there, and she’s always fighting,” Shumate said. “She is just showing us what she’s capable of and staying under control. I think as a freshman that’s extremely hard to do, and we are just lucky to have her on our team.”

“The thing about Janae that’s unique is as a freshman, she’s got a lot of composure, but she’s one of the more coachable student-athletes I’ve ever had,” coach Todd Starkey said.

Also standing out for the Flashes was sophomore Dionna Gray, who added 12 points and five assists for the Flashes at crucial points in the game. Gray was the main defensive stop against the Irish’s freshman Hannah Hidalgo throughout the game.

“The grit, the toughness, the fight that she had, she wasn’t backing down from anybody today,” Starkey said. “That’s the Dionna Gray that we recruited to Kent State. She’s capable of that. I’m proud of her toughness. I’m proud of how her teammates continued to encourage her even though she had a couple of rough moments as she took over that starting role. They believed in her and kept encouraging her, and that set her up for the success she had done the stretch.”

Hidalgo, the fifth-ranked player in the nation, was held to just 14 points but still earned a double-double with 11 assists. Starkey said his defensive plan going into the game was to make Hidalgo’s shot selection as difficult as possible.

“If you give her space to operate, man, she’s just so explosive and so dangerous,” he said. “We knew that we didn’t have a chance in this game if she got 25, 30 points because what that means is then she’s able to get points and distribute. She affects the game in so many different ways.”

Stepping up in Hidalgo’s place was junior Sonia Citron. Citron had a season-high 29 points, shooting 13 for 20 from the field and three-for-seven behind the arc.

Dionna Gray on offense against the University of Notre Dame at the first round of March Madness on March 23, 2024. (Brittany Lucia)

“Defensively, I thought we did a really good job on Hannah Hidalgo,” Starkey said. “You have to take something away from a team as talented as them. We just didn’t expect Citron to have 29, a career high. She was just unconscious. Now, we helped her out. She had some open looks, but she hit some difficult shots as well and was what separated them early.”

The Fighting Irish quickly jumped on the game, going on an 18-point scoring run, holding KSU pointless for nearly seven minutes. The score was 22-10 Irish going into quarter two.

Shumate and Tyler combined for a total of 19 points in the second quarter, but the Flashes could not close the gap, and the half ended at 49-30 ND.

The Flashes defense came to life in the third quarter, though, holding Notre Dame scoreless for 3:30. Starkey knew they had to turn up the defense if they wanted to play their best basketball.

“I was more worried about the defensive side,” he said. “I knew shots were going to fall for us, but we had to get more rigid on the defensive end. We made a couple of slight adjustments, but other than that, we just got tougher and did a better job defensively.”

ND shot 52% from the field and 41% from the three-point line, advancing to the tournament’s second round against Ole Miss on Monday.

The Flashes shot 38% from the field and seven-for-22 from behind the arc. They added 37 rebounds and 13 assists. 

KSU’s road to the NCAA tournament taught the players capability and possibility, Starkey said. But most importantly, it’s taught sisterhood.

Kent State in a team huddle after a tough start to their game against the University of Notre Dame on March 23, 2024. (Brittany Lucia)

“They’ve had the best time this past week and a half just enjoying the tournament, fighting through that, winning a championship, confetti falling on their heads, and coming to Notre Dame and just all the hype around it,” he said. “They’ll look back and have a lot of incredible memories.”

Five of the eight women on the roster are set to return for the 2024-2025 season, as Shumate and seniors Abby Ogle and Bridget Dunn will be graduating.

“All three of them got to this situation where they are in different ways,” Starkey said. “Mikala Morris is a fifth-year transfer who just blended right in and made a huge impact on our program from the start. Abby Ogle, all the ups and downs that she’s gone through with injuries and that type of thing, but to keep fighting, and she made some big plays for us today. She gave us a great spark off the bench. Then, Katie, I could talk for hours about her. She’s just been a phenomenal student-athlete.” 

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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