Kent State women’s basketball begins December home stand against Niagara


Junior Cici Shannon goes in for a lay up during the Flashes’ game against Duquesne University on Nov. 14, 2013. Kent State lost the game 94-63. Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

Richie Mulhall

The Kent State women’s basketball team (2-5) will return home to the M.A.C. Center Wednesday for the remainder of December and for first time since Nov. 14 to take on the Niagara Purple Eagles.

The Flashes will make their return after wrapping a long, five-game road trip Sunday. The team will enter Wednesday night’s matchup coming off a close but crucial 54-52 win against Stephen F. Austin State in the last game of the David Jones Memorial Classic.

Kent State Coach Danielle O’Banion said Sunday afternoon’s win against the Ladyjacks in Houston definitely boosted her team’s morale, especially because Stephen F. Austin defeated Arizona — a bigger Division I program — at Arizona earlier in the month of November.

“(Sunday’s game) gives us a good amount of confidence that we’re doing the right things and heading in the right direction,” O’Banion said. “We’re encouraged by that win, certainly not satisfied by it, but we’re excited to be at home and have our fan support to help us get better.”

After a tough road series that included four straight losses to Cincinnati, Arkansas State, Belmont and Houston, Sunday’s win was just what the doctor ordered as the Flashes begin their four-game December home stand.

O’Banion said her ladies hope to build off of that win as a young team with eight new faces on it. She said the fresh team is still in its transition period trying to figure things out and find chemistry on the court as the players dig deeper into their schedule.

“The month of November essentially was road games that we felt were valuable for us from a team-bonding standpoint as well as a basketball standpoint,” O’Banion said. “(The road series) was very beneficial, although it yielded just the one win this past weekend.”

In Sunday’s game, the Flashes’ solid performances at the free-throw line and under the hoop helped Kent State narrowly defeat Stephen F. Austin.

The ladies drilled 11 of 12 shots from the free-throw line and looked strong on the boards, managing to bring down a season-high 44 rebounds compared with the Ladyjacks’ 31. The team had a strong interior presence in the game as well, scoring 22 of their 54 total points in the paint.

O’Banion said she was happy the Flashes were able to limit the Ladyjacks to 52 points Sunday. She said one problem the team has faced into the season has been giving up too many points. In their first five games, the Flashes were allowing 70-plus points per game, a statistic difficult for any college basketball team to overcome.

“That’s very difficult to win, having to play five to eight women and expecting them to score 75 plus points of offense,” O’Banion said. “Our points-allowed stat is starting to come down and keeping the score in the 50s (against Houston and Stephen F. Austin), that’s a very positive trend for us.”

In addition to cutting the allowing points per game, O’Banion said the team is also scoring more points, too. On Sunday, freshman guard Larissa Lurken had led the way in scoring with 15 points and eight rebounds. Junior forward Montia Johnson racked up 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds en route to a double-double, and redshirt junior and 6-foot-4-inch center CiCi Johnson matched Johnson’s contribution with 12 points of her own.

“We’re starting to get three players consistently in in double-figure scoring, and that’s going to be very important,” O’Banion said. Not having a leading double-digit scorer was a challenge the team struggled with last season.

Despite Kent State’s recent success on the hardwood, the one glaring state that needs improvement along with the team’s points per game margin is the number of turnovers per game. On average, the Flashes give up 21.3 turnovers per game, whereas opponents only allow 17.9 turnovers per game.

“It is very difficult for us to be successful night in and night out giving away that many possessions, but when we look at our stats over the last four games compared to the first three games, that number is down, so that’s a positive trend that we’re decreasing our turnovers,” O’Banion said. “It definitely needs to be under 20 for us to continue to have success.”

Wednesday evening’s matchup is set to begin at 5 p.m.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].