Women’s basketball hits road in search of first MAC win

Kevin Battaglia

Kent State coach Danielle O’Banion said her team is still trying to establish their identity, but is taking strides in the right direction.

After Wednesday night’s disappointing 69-54 home loss to Buffalo, O’Banion posted from her Twitter account:

“Better start to game, but didn’t control the paint and boards for 40 [minutes]. Will keep working, because we’re not too far off. #gettingcloser”

Kent State (2-14, 0-3 MAC) will try to earn their first MAC victory when they travel to play Ball State at noon Saturday.

This is the first time since the 1989-1990 season that the Flashes have started 0-3 in conference play, but O’Banion said the team does not feel any additional pressure.

“This is not any different than any other game in terms of the level we give our focus and attention to detail,” O’Banion said. “There’s a clearer understanding of what we’re capable of, it’s just a matter of doing those things on a consistent basis.”

Ball State (6-11, 2-1 MAC) is coming off a 73-42 loss Wednesday at Bowling Green, but the Cardinals enter the game winners of two of their last three.

Like Kent State, Ball State is an experienced team with a first-year head coach trying to establish an identity. O’Banion likes how the two teams are similar in appearance and believes this will be a competitive game for the Flashes.

“I like going to Muncie [Ind.] for us tomorrow and playing on Saturday because we look similar, and we’ve had similar experiences non-conference this season, so this will be a very competitive game for us,” O’Banion said.

The Cardinals are led by a number of players, but the Flashes will have to contain freshman guard Nathalie Fontaine if they want to earn their first MAC victory. The 6-foot-2 freshman averages 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and leads the Cardinals in both categories.

O’Banion said the Flashes will try to control only what they can at Ball State, which is being more consistent, establishing a presence on the boards by rebounding, getting points in the paint, causing fewer turnovers by protecting the basketball and getting to the free-throw line. The Flashes are currently third in the MAC this season in drawing fouls (309 attempts) and shooting 70 percent from the line.

Ball State is currently last in the MAC in rebounding, a category that Rachel Mendelsohn, freshman guard for Kent State, said the team will try to exploit.

“We need to reduce the turnovers, start getting defensive rebounds and get to the glass more,” Mendelsohn said. “If we start doing that consistently, we will be fine.”

Mendelsohn earned a position in the starting lineup, the first of her career against Buffalo, posting 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals to finish the game.

“Rachel did a very nice job,” O’Banion said. “She did what her team needed her to do for the most part. Last night, she set the tone for our defense at the start of the game.”

SportsTime Ohio will broadcast the game live from Muncie, Ind. O’Banion said this is an opportunity for fans of Kent State to watch the team play as well as provide television exposure for the university. However, she doesn’t believe this game holds any more importance than the others for the Flashes.

“Every game is a statement game and is the biggest game of the year because that is the only game that we have to play that day,” O’Banion said. “It’s an opportunity to share with folks what we’re intending to do here at Kent State.”

Kent State will next host Eastern Michigan 7 p.m. Thursday at the M.A.C. Center.

Contact Kevin Battaglia at [email protected].