Women’s basketball to rival Eastern Michigan

Matt Lofgren

With five seniors in the team’s starting five, the Kent State women’s basketball team will look to give some younger players valuable playing time on the big stage at the Mid-American Conference Tournament against Eastern Michigan Wednesday.

Although most of the Flashes’ seniors have been to the tournament three times, the performance of the younger role players will be equally as important for the team’s success in the tournament.

“I feel that the seniors will come in having benefited from the experiences of being in the ‘Q’ and playing in this tournament,” coach Bob Lindsay said. “Every year is different, every team is different and experience only goes so far. That’s why you get your younger players in to give players a break and give them that experience for years to come.”

On a team with three important freshmen players, not only the coaches but also the players need to prepare the younger players for what to expect.

“Our team has played in a lot of big games this season. It’ll be a whole different atmosphere playing in Cleveland at the ‘Q’ with March Madness going on, so with the freshmen, we’ve already kind of prepared them,” senior guard Stephanie Gibson said. “But in the end, it doesn’t matter who our opponent is. Everyone needs to step up.”

Gibson will be making her fourth appearance in the tournament. Last season, the team made it to the semi-finals but fell just short of the championship with a 51-49 loss to Toledo. Her experiences help support the team as it looks to claim its first MAC Championship since the 2001-02 season.

Taisja Jones, the team’s leading scorer, has taken it upon herself to help the underclassmen as they approach postseason play.

“When they mess up, we don’t get as mad at them. (We) just help them out because obviously they’re already scared and now even more because the games are on television, and their friends and family are watching,” Jones said. “I think we do need to encourage them to go out there, play hard, and know their role and not try and do too much.”

The Flashes will be playing an Eastern Michigan team that handed the Flashes their only home loss of the season, a 75-66 loss back on Feb. 2.

The Flashes are 0-2 in televised games, but the MAC Tournament is partially decided by the confidence of each team: confidence not only in the starters, but in the bench players too.

“Since the underclassmen are basically giving someone a break, you need to go out there and rebound, not turn the ball over and if you’re open, shoot and score,” Jones said. “Just look for your offense, but don’t try and force anything.”

When it comes to stepping up, the team has come a long way. Starters, as well as bench players, are coming in and fighting for the open looks, which Gibson believes is a great thing for the tournament.

“Compared from the beginning of the season to now, we’re definitely now more of a ‘team’ — especially on offense,” Gibson said. “We look for that extra pass. Instead of a contested 3-point shot, we make the pass to the corner for a wide open shot.”

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].