Dominant defense helps lead women’s basketball to home-opener victory

Golden Flashes Women’s Basketball play Saint Frances on Nov. 14, 2021. Junior Katie Shumate (14) gets open for Junior Nila Blackford (4).

Jimmy Oswald Sports Editor

After last week’s win over Northern Kentucky, Kent State women’s basketball coach Todd Starkey was happy with the victory, but said he didn’t like giving up 73 points. 

On Sunday, the Flashes held Saint Francis of Pennsylvania to 45 points, and not one of its shooters scored more than seven points in KSU’s 71-45 home-opening win. 

“A great defensive effort from start to finish,” Starkey said. “We did a really good job defending their shooters. We limited them to only eight three-point attempts. Much better defensively than against Northern Kentucky. We really listened to the scouting report and executed a defensive game plan very well.” 

Kent State’s defense limited the Red Flashes to a 38.8 field goal percentage, including a 3-of-11 second quarter. 

The Flashes only allowed six offensive rebounds. 

Junior guard Katie Shumate had a team-high 21 points including a dominant 19-point first half. 

Shumate scored nine straight points in the second quarter to help build Kent State’s lead from 23-17 to 32-18. 

SFU would never come close to the lead again. 

Starkey said that Shumate had a “phenomenal first half.” 

“When she plays that aggressive, she’s really difficult to contain,” Starkey said. “She was picking her spots. She knocked down a couple of threes, and that affects a defense, they end up getting on you a little bit. She drove the ball well and was our best finisher. I really liked her intensity and focus from the start.”

Shumate went 3-for-4 in three-point attempts, leading the team with a .750 percentage. She also had four rebounds, one block and one steal. 

KSU followed a 34-point performance from the bench last week with a 26-point one today, including 14 in the fourth quarter. 

Starkey said that the team can “play in a lot of different ways.”

“It’s nice to have size off the bench that has the ability to do some things,” he said. “Our guard depth is good, and different kind of guard depth, not just the same type of player. It’s nice to have that ability to go to different types of players and different types of lineups. It’s a nice luxury to have.”

Sophomore guard Casey Santoro played 21 minutes off the bench and scored seven points, had a team-high five assists and went 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. 

Against Northern Kentucky last week, Santoro had a career-high 19 points off the bench and went 8-of-11 on free throws.

Freshman Bridget Dunn scored the most points off the bench, eight, in her first home game as a Flash. She had four rebounds and a block.

Senior Abby Ogle, who transferred from West Virginia, had four points and two steals in her first game at the M.A.C Center. 

Kent State had eight players on the court for 16+ minutes. No player played for more than 26. 

The Flashes shot a 36.9 field goal percentage in the first half, but improved it to 55.5 percent in the second. 

“We were so hyper focused on the defensive side of the ball,” Starkey said. “We were calling too many isolation and quick-hit type of plays instead of just letting the offense flow a little bit. Overall, a lot of the shots we got were really good attempts, but they just weren’t going in.” 

KSU struggled to sink three pointers early on, going 2-of-9 in the first and second quarter and 1-of-4 in the third.

Starkey said that most of those attempts were not necessarily bad ones.

“I can’t remember more than three or four that were ill-advised shots,” he said. “Most of them were in rhythm, off of what we’re looking for. Sometimes that’s the way it is.” 

Kent State went 3-of-3 in three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“We had good shots then too”, Starkey said. “And those just went in. I don’t think there’s any magic to that, and it wasn’t necessarily a shot selection. They just were going down.”

Senior Lindsey Thall led the team with seven rebounds. She scored eight points and had three assists.

Junior Nila Blackford was the only other Flash besides Shumate to score in the double-digits, she had 12 points and four rebounds. 

KSU is 2-0 to start the season. Saint Francis falls to 0-2. 

Starkey said that the wins come against “two quality opponents.” 

“Saint Francis is picked to finish third in their league (the Northeast conference),” he said. “They are traditionally a very strong program. It’s a really nice confidence boost for us to play defensively like we did against them. And on the flip side, the way we played offensively against Northern Kentucky was good. So two good performances, different types of wins. It tells us, early on, that we have the ability to win in different ways. I like the versatility of our team early.”

Kent State next plays John Carroll at the M.A.C Center on Thursday at 11 a.m. for the school day game.

Jimmy Oswald is a sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].