Strong second half sends Flashes to semifinals

Lance Lysowski

Last season, the Kent State women’s basketball team lost its opening round game in the Mid-American Conference Tournament; falling to the lower-seeded Buffalo 66-54.

At halftime of yesterday’s quarterfinal matchup, the Flashes seemed to be heading toward the same fate. But junior guard Jamilah Humes’s 22 second half points led a Kent State rally, as the Flashes defeated Central Michigan 68-55 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

The junior sat all but five minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, but finished the game with 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists.


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Humes said sitting on the bench in the first half was tough, but the team rallied together to secure the win.

“I felt really bad because I wasn’t able to contribute anything to my team from being out within the first five minutes of the game, so I think we all knew that if we didn’t step our game up we were going home,” Humes said. “I think we just needed to light a fire under us to get us going because we weren’t.”

Playing without Humes in the first half, Kent State entered halftime trailing 28-21. After exchanging baskets with the Chippewas in the opening minutes, the Flashes began to narrow the deficit with senior forward Yoshica Spears’s 3-pointer with 17:22 left to play.

Humes and senior guard Rachel Bennett added baskets, but Central Michigan junior forward Kaihla Szunko kept the Flashes trailing 35-32.

Humes began her strong second half with a lay-in, and did not stop there. The Saginaw, Mich. native scored 13 of Kent State’s 15 points that followed. Her scoring output led a Flashes 11-3 run over three minutes of play that gave Kent State the 49-40 lead.

Although she was disappointed with the result of the first half, Humes said she used her time on the bench as motivation for the second half.

“During halftime my teammates were telling me, ‘keep your head up, we need you to come back in for the second half,’” Humes said. “They kept encouraging me so I would come back in there and contribute. I knew we needed some kind of intensity to start the second half. I knew that I had to do something to get my team going.”

Central Michigan came within six with 6:46 left to play, but Humes and Bennett led the Flashes on a 7-0 run, sending Kent State to the semifinals.

Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said the team’s play at both ends of the court improved drastically in the second half.

“I thought we played great defensively in the second half, I thought we went to the offensive boards with a lot of energy in the second half and that was the difference in the game.”

Although the Flashes shot 41 percent from the field on the game, the first half did not show it.

Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, turning the ball over a combined 27 times. The first stanza contained eight lead changes, but with 1:55 left, the Chippewas capitalized on Kent State’s defensive lapses.

Central Michigan scored six straight points to give them the seven-point advantage going into the half.

Lindsay attributed the team’s plus-17 rebound margin as the difference, but was disappointed with his team’s defense in the closing minutes of the first half.

“We basically fell asleep on defense, which is one of the reasons why we had the fire and brimstone in the locker room at half time,” Lindsay said. “If a team is better than you that’s one thing, but you aren’t going to lose a game doing that.”

Kent State will advance to the semifinal matchup where they will face Toledo tomorrow at noon.

Contact sports reporter Lance Lysowski at [email protected].