Robert Morris beats Kent State in OT thriller

Senior forward McKenna Stephens of the Kent State women’s basketball team shoots the ball during a game against Robert Morris University game at the M.A.C. Center on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.

Henry Palattella

After Kent State women’s basketball team’s (2-1) season-opening win against Bradley University, Kent State senior guard Larissa Lurken mentioned how the team in past seasons, has made a habit of digging themselves into early game holes they never are able to crawl out of.

That was the case Saturday, as the Flashes dug themselves into a 15-point first half deficit they never truly came back from in their 68-65 overtime loss to Robert Morris University (3-1).

“Really proud of our fight and the way that we continued to come back,” Kent State head coach Todd Starkey said after the game. “I thought we faced some pretty sizable adversity, especially early on. That’s a really good Robert Morris team with a lot of veterans.”

The Flashes loss wasn’t for lack of effort, though, especially by Lurken, as the senior scored 18 of her 32 points in the second half to go along with all five of the Flashes points in overtime.

Kent State was able to force overtime when junior point guard Naddiyah Cross knocked down two free throws with 16 seconds left to tie the score. Cross — who had 13 points and four assists on the night — got the ball by stealing the Colonials’ inbounds pass after Lurken had made two free throws of her own.

Robert Morris had a balanced offensive attack, as four Colonials finished in double-figures, with Megan Smith leading the way with 17 points. Smith could have had an even bigger day, but she fouled out with 7:27 left in the fourth quarter.

Senior guard Anna Niki Stamolamprou finished with 12 points which moved her into fifth place on Robert Morris’ all-time scoring list. Stamolamprou had a chance to knock down a buzzer-beater at the end of regulation, but her contested jumper clanged off the side of the rim, which forced overtime.

Part of the reason that Kent State was able to hang in the game late was because they eliminated the three-pointer for Robert Morris.

The Colonials came into the game shooting 40 percent from three, and that trend continued at the start of Saturday’s game, as they made six of eight attempts from three in the first quarter. The Flashes tightened up their perimeter defense the rest of the game, while Robert Morris could only muster one made three-pointer the rest of the way.

“We didn’t listen to the scouting report at the beginning of the game,” Starkey said in regards to Colonials’ early three-point barrage. “We talked about them having five really good shooters that are quick-trigger kids, and we gave them open looks.”

The Flashes will travel to Detroit, Michigan Monday to take on the University of Detroit Mercy (1-2), before heading to Florida over the weekend to play in the Gulf Coast showcase. They then return home Wednesday, Nov. 30, to take on Fort Wayne (1-3).

Henry Palattella is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].