Wagon Wheel Challenge adds importance to Kent State women’s basketball game

The Flashes fell to Buffalo 85-72 during the away game on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Photo by Alexa Strudler.

Matt Lofgren

From the moment you first put on the navy and gold colors of Kent State, something happens inside that makes us all cringe at the city just 15 miles down Interstate 76: Akron.

The rivalry dates back to back to 1946 when the two schools first met in football. Kent went on to win the first nine meetings. Today, the rivalry has evolved into 11 meetings in men and women’s sports. Each win in these sports adds a point to the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge. By the end of the sports season, the university that wins the most matches wins the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge.

“This is our Duke vs. North Carolina,” junior forward Diamon Beckford said. “It’s a big rivalry for us, and we’ve been preparing more than we’ve ever prepared before. We want to add a point for Kent State in the Wagon Wheel Challenge.”

Beckford, who is a junior college transfer, and six freshmen will get their first taste of how intense the Kent-Akron rivalry is on the court. Knowing how important the game is for the young Flashes’ psyche, Beckford says that this game isn’t just another game on the schedule.

“Playing your rival, you want to have bragging rights,” Beckford said. “At the end of the day, we want to say we beat Akron. Every game matters, but when you beat Akron, it matters a little more.”

Last season in two meetings, the Flashes swept the season series by a combined 20 points (72-55 on Jan. 19 2011 and 56-53 on March 3, 2011). Having lost most of the pieces of that team, this year’s squad will have to be ready for an intense battle with the 7-10 Zips who are also 1-2 in the Mid-American Conference.

The Zips will be without first-team All-MAC forward Rachel Tecca who is out for the season with a knee injury. The junior was averaging 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

The Flashes, on the other hand, are still looking for more consistent play from their limited veterans. Junior Trisha Krewson leads the team in points per game with 12.7 while Beckford has added in 8.1 points per game.

With an abundance of freshmen and still a couple of juniors struggling to make a big impact, the Flashes are in need of someone to step up while still improving as a team.

Kent State leads Akron in the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge 3.5-1.5 on the school year.

If the Kent State women’s basketball team splits its two games against Akron this season, both teams will receive a half point.

Flashes own the all-time series 46-6 including a stretch from 1989-08 that the Flashes went 33-1.

Head coach Bob Lindsay is 37-3 all-time against the Zips.

Only two players for the Flashes have played against the Zips (Juniors Tamzin Barroilhet and Leslie Schaefer).

The Flashes are 0-7 away from the M.A.C. Center this season.

“We’ve definitely improved our rebounding,” Beckford said. “The first half of the season, we had a hard time. Coach would call us the White Glove Team because we wouldn’t want to take contact and had a hard time boxing players out. The last couple of the games we’ve been outrebounding our opponents, which definitely has been to our benefit.”

In the team’s past two games, the Flashes have won in the rebounding column and kept the game close because of it. Where the biggest problem lies is turnovers. Wednesday night against Miami, the Flashes turned the ball over 22 times. The Redhawks found 20 of their 73 points from these turnovers.

The key to victory on the road will be a considerable cut-down in turnovers and improved defense if the Flashes want to add a big point to the season total in the Wagon Wheel Challenge.

“They’re a very athletic team that wants to get up and down the floor. We need to slow the game down a little bit and rebound,” Beckford said. “It’s important for us to pay attention to our scouting reports and know who their shooters are. We also need to limit our turnovers and do the little things.”

Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Akron’s Rhodes Arena.

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