Jones’ late burst carries Kent State women over UT

Lance Lysowski

With 1:13 left to play in last night’s women’s basketball game between Toledo and Kent State, Toledo sophomore guard Naama Shafir sank a 3-pointer that seemed to be the final blow to the Flashes’ hopes of winning.

Kent State junior forward Taisja Jones had other plans.

After Shafir gave the Rockets the 59-56 lead, Jones answered with two free throws and a steal that lead to a layup by the junior college transfer. Jones added an additional basket from the foul line, giving Kent State the 61-59 lead with 35 seconds to play.

The Rockets had a few chances to tie the game up, but Shafir’s shot of desperation with nine seconds to play rang off the rim as the Flashes went on to win, 62-59.

Jones said once the end of the game drew near, the team dug down and fought for the win together.

“I think we just had to stay focused and keep playing as a team,” said Jones, who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. “Our mentality changed once we saw it was close at the end. Everyone started playing hard, and no one wanted to let each other down.”

Because of untimely turnovers, the Flashes (14-7, 7-2 Mid-American Conference) trailed 35-25 at the half. Junior center Ellie Shields made back-to-back baskets to pull Kent State within five with 1:43 left in the first half, but Toledo guard Jessica Williams’ three-pointer led a 5-0 Toledo run to end the half.

Junior guard Jamilah Humes said the team lacked intensity throughout the game, but hard work down the stretch made the difference.

“In the second half, we just realized that we weren’t being as aggressive as we could be,” Humes said. “The first five minutes of the game I thought we were, and later on the first half we were really passive. In the second half we were crashing the boards, and we were just taking it to them and getting fouls.”

Humes scored 12 of her 17 points in the second half.

After the break, Kent State drew within three with 5:47 to play after a layup by Humes, but Toledo junior forward Melissa Goodall’s jumper gave the Rockets the 53-48 lead.

The Flashes shut down Toledo’s leading scorer, senior forward Tamika Mays, but Goodall’s 19 points led the Rockets’ attack.

The matchup against Mays was not the only one that favored the Flashes last night. Kent State outrebounded the Rockets 46-42 — a trend that has been common during the team’s five-game winning streak.

Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said the team has worked hard at winning the battle down low and will have to keep doing so to continue their success.

“We rebounded the ball pretty well over the course of the season, and in the conference I think that’s been one of our stronger points,” Lindsay said. “I think we need to continue to do that. There were times where we looked really rough offensively, and the most consistent part of the game for us has been our rebounding.

Humes added that the victory over Toledo (17-5, 7-2 MAC), the top team in the MAC West, is a critical win for the Flashes before entering a string of in-conference road games.

“We really need to win our home games, and defend our home court,” Humes said. “I thought this win was key to show who we really are.”

Kent State will travel to Eastern Michigan on Sunday to continue conference play at 2 p.m.

Contact sports reporter Lance Lysowski at [email protected].