Women clinch bye with win over Akron

Josh Johnston

The Kent State women’s basketball team clinched a Mid-American Conference Tournament bye Saturday with a 59-55 win over Akron at the M.A.C. Center.

To offset their worst shooting game of the season (29.9 percent), the Flashes (19-9, 8-8 MAC) used a full-court press to force 28 Akron turnovers.

“I thought we won this one with defense,” Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said. “Obviously we didn’t have a great offensive game. We won it with defense, and I was really proud of my players.”

Akron took a 44-34 lead with 18:24 left in the game behind three straight field goals.

Senior center Anna Kowalska and sophomore guard Jamilah Humes retaliated with a 10-0 run for Kent State to tie the game.

Sophomore guard Stephanie Gibson then made two huge 3-point plays to keep the Flashes tied with Akron. First, Gibson found the back door of the lane open for a layup and then hit the free throw after drawing a foul. Later, with 5:14 left in the game, she drained an open 3-pointer to even the score at 50.

Gibson came up big minutes later for Kent State with another inside play. Humes caught her running down key with a pass that Gibson converted into a layup to put the Flashes ahead 57-55.

“I got the rub off the screen and (Humes) saw me early,” Gibson said. “We just got the two easy layups.

“It was a crucial time of the game. The score was up and down, up and down – very close.”

Junior guard Rachel Bennett picked off Akron freshman guard Natasha Williams’ pass at halfcourt with 15 seconds left to close the door on the Zips.

Kowalska led Kent State in scoring with 19 points. She also pulled down nine rebounds to lead the team.

With a first-round bye in the tournament, Kent State will begin postseason play at around 11 a.m. Friday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The Flashes will play the winner of Wednesday’s Northern Illinois-Buffalo game.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at[email protected].

LIVE BLOG: Kent State women vs. Akron