Women’s basketball earns second straight win in dominant fashion

Junior guard Mikell Chinn looks for an open player during the Niagara defense in the MAC Center on Wednesday December 4, 2013. The Flashes won the game 69-46. Photo by Brian Smith.

Richie Mulhall

Junior forward Montia Johnson pushes for the basket against the Niagara defense in the MAC Center on Wednesday, December 4, 2013. The Flashes won the game 69-46. Photo by Brian Smith.

The Kent State women’s basketball team kicked off its December homestand Wednesday night and boosted its record to 3-5 after a commanding 69-46 win against Niagara (1-5) inside the M.A.C. Center.

This is the second straight win for the Flashes and the first time since January 2012 that the team has won back-to-back games. The Flashes have as many wins right now, only eight games into the season, as they did all of last year, a sign that things might finally be looking up.

Women’s basketball Coach Danielle O’Banion said the win was exciting for all the players, especially for some of the seniors who have not experienced a winning streak in quite some time.

“From a player’s standpoint, it’s hard to feel encouraged without a couple of wins stacking up,” O’Banion said. “It’s really exciting for our players to have gone out and earned a second win in a row.

“Any win for us is a good win, and now the trick is learning how to do that night in and night out.”

The Flashes stayed hot from their last win against Stephen F. Austin and stormed out of the gates Wednesday against the Purple Eagles. The beginning of the first 20-minute half saw a lot of good back-and-forth action, but then the Flashes went on a 28-4 run at the end of the first half.

“I think it was more of an adrenaline rush going on,” senior guard Amber Dunlap said. “Everything was going in our favor, and we just took advantage of it.”

Kent State outshot Niagara 45.9 percent to 28 percent and outscored Niagara 40-15 in the first half alone. O’Banion said the team’s aggressive start helped establish a nice lead the Flashes were able to maintain down the stretch.

“We had to learn a little bit about playing with a lead for the first time this year, and that was exciting,” O’Banion said.

Throughout the game, the Flashes outhustled the Purple Eagles in just about every facet of Wednesday night’s game.

Kent State owned the boards and racked up a total 46 rebounds, 16 of which were offensive rebounds. The Flashes also had 27 rebounds just in the first half.

“I don’t think you’ll find a coach that will be disappointed in outscoring and out-rebounding an opponent,” O’Banion said. “That’s something that should be a strength for us; it’s nice to see that actually materialize.”

The Flashes also did not give up many turnovers, something O’Banion stressed her team needed to work on for the remainder of the season.

Kent State only gave up 9 turnovers all night, four in the first half and five in the second.

“That’s a huge stat for us,” O’Banion said. “Twenty-two (turnovers) per game is far too many; it’s too many wasted possessions, and I thought that was a major difference in the game.”

Turnovers made all the difference in the world. Niagara played like the Kent State women’s team of a few weeks ago and gave up 17 turnovers. The Flashes were able to capitalize on that vital mistake, scoring 23 points off of the turnovers.

Senior guard Ashley Evans led the team in scoring with 15 points, shooting 6-14 from the field. Dunlap came in off the bench and put up 10 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound and a steal.

The Flashes demonstrated a strong interior presence in the game as well in the forms of juniors Montia Johnson and CiCi Shannon. Johnson recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Shannon led the team with a career-best 11 rebounds.

The Flashes will look to keep up their winning ways at home this Sunday as they get set to host Georgia State at noon in the M.A.C. Center.

“(The win) is a pretty big confidence booster going into our next game because this is probably the biggest win we’ve had, so we’re just excited to get back on the floor and do it again,” Evans said.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].