Women’s basketball bench players determine season’s end

Freshman guard Itziar Llobet looks to pass against the Miami Redhawks on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The Flashes lost in overtime, 69-65. File photo by Jenna Watson.

Freshman guard Itziar Llobet looks to pass against the Miami Redhawks on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The Flashes lost in overtime, 69-65. File photo by Jenna Watson.

Matt Lofgren

It’s simple: win or go home.

In just one game on the road at Ohio, the Kent State women’s basketball team can put behind it a season filled with doubt and uncertainty.

But before the team can even think about getting a game on the big stage at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, the Flashes will have to go through Mid-American Conference rival Ohio. Splitting the season series with the Bobcats with a home win and a road loss, the team had a very winnable matchup in their last meeting in Athens, Ohio.

Coach Bob Lindsay said he believes the problem lies in the team’s defense and ball control.

“There are two things that win road games for you: quality of your defense and you taking care of the ball,” Lindsay said. “We potentially play against two teams that we beat during the regular season, and if we play well enough, we have a chance to go to Cleveland maybe win a game there.”

But before Cleveland can even come into the picture, the Flashes need get a win at Ohio. Junior guard Tamzin Barroilhet, who averages just under 35 minutes per game, said that the bench needs to play a bigger role in the offense in order to give the starters “a few minutes here-and-there” to rest.

“At the end of the game, it does make a lot of a difference, especially on the legs and for mental strength knowing that you’ve got some gas,” Barroilhet said. “Mel (Stubbs) and Dena (Droste) have been coming off the bench and getting us some rebounds and playing hard defense [and] scoring. We need that because I think it’s a threat to other teams if they know that people coming off our bench are going to hurt them too.”

One of those crucial bench players is freshman Melanee Stubbs. Averaging 12.3 minutes per game, Stubbs is a young player who knows that she has to “do the best you can” with the minutes she earns.

“Well that’s just basically the point: to come in and do the best you can do no matter how much time it is,” Stubbs said. “You just have to come in and give good minutes no matter if it’s a long period of time or a short period of time and whether you’re coming in or out, you just have to produce.”

In the last meeting at Ohio, junior guards Trisha Krewson and Barroilhet both played 40 minutes in a losing effort.

• The Flashes own the all-time series 48-20.

• In the last meeting against Ohio, the Bobcats topped Kent 51-45.

• With a win at Ohio, the team would book a ticket to the Q for a meeting against Central Michigan or Ball State.

• Junior forward Diamon Beckford is available for the Flashes after getting 16 minutes against Bowling Green.

“I don’t remember specifically what happened in there,” Lindsay said. “We were without Diamon (Beckford), but played a couple of the kids here and there. The bench minutes weren’t necessarily a factor in the game. It was a slow paced game. We were having problems with turnovers and I didn’t think the turnover problem was necessarily resolved by the people coming in off the bench.”

In the game, Ohio shot just 24.1 percent from the floor and the team committed 32 costly turnovers. The Flashes also struggled with defense and sent the Bobcats to the line 25 times to sink 20 of them.

With Saturday’s game potentially being the team’s last of the season, Lindsay has come to the assessment that all of his freshmen have shown a “marked improvement.”

“I think if you [look] at the numbers of all of the kids we have on our team from start to finish, just about every one of them has shown a marked improvement,” Lindsay said. “All of these kids have significantly improved in terms of the quality of play from day one to now.”

One of the biggest pluses for the Flashes of late has been the coming-out party of freshman guard Dena Droste. In the last two games, Droste has played 21.5 minutes and added 16 points.

“I think the job of any reserve player is to be able to come in off the bench and give your team a lift,” Lindsay said. “For the most part, Dena has done that for us. Because she struggled so much with injuries earlier in the season, she’s going to have problems that other freshmen do in terms of inconsistency. Since she has kind of gotten by the knee injury situation, she’s had way more positives than negatives.”

Tipoff against Ohio is set for 12 p.m. Saturday.

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected] and @MLofgrenDKS.