Women’s basketball takes on Buffalo tonight

Josh Johnston

With the second tournament bye still up for grabs in the Mid-American Conference East division, the Kent State women’s basketball team’s last two games are crucial.

The Flashes (17-9, 6-8 MAC) stand one game behind second-place Ohio coming into tonight’s game against Buffalo (6-21, 2-12 MAC) at the M.A.C. Center. Tipoff is at 7.

Here’s a breakdown of the game:

The Flashes (9-1 home)

Players to watch:

Sophomore forward Chenel Harris (9 points per game, 5 rebounds per game)

Harris must like seeing the Bulls. In three career games against them, she’s averaged more than 16 points a game. Harris is known to be a streaky scorer, and after she scored only 17 points over her last four games, expect her to explode soon.

Senior center Anna Kowalska (16.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg)

The 6-foot-4 center thrives at the M.A.C. Center. In 10 home games this season, she’s averaging 18.3 points a game. Kowalska broke the 20-point barrier three times in front of a home crowd and only failed once to break into double digits.

From the perimeter:

After shooting 50 percent (19-of-38) from outside in their previous two games, the Flashes missed all nine of their 3-point attempts against Bowling Green on Saturday. Despite the performance, Kent State is still second in the nation in 3-point percentage (40.3 percent).

The inside game:

Kowalska has controlled the frontcourt for the Flashes all season. With 16.7 points a game, she’s the highest-scoring center in the MAC. To back up Kowalska, guards Jamilah Humes and Rachel Bennett, as well as Harris, provide enough dribble penetration to keep opposing teams off Kent State’s 3-point shooting threats.

Last game:

On Saturday, the Flashes just missed upsetting No. 25 Bowling Green, losing 61-54. Kent State held a two-point lead with four minutes left but was outscored 12-4 in the final stretch.

The Bulls (1-10 road)

Players to watch:

Sophomore forward Kourtney Brown (16.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

In Buffalo’s last two games, Brown has been nearly unstoppable at the post, scoring 55 points and pulling down 30 rebounds combined. She’s led the Bulls’ late-season surge – an overtime loss to Bowling Green and a win over Akron.

Junior guard Rachelle Matthys (8 ppg, 38 percent 3-point shooting)

Although not a regular starter, Matthys sees nearly as much playing time as Buffalo’s starting guards. When the Bulls played Kent State earlier this season, she led all scorers with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

From the perimeter:

The Bulls don’t have much strength here, shooting only 30.1 percent from outside on the season. On defense, Buffalo has struggled just as much by allowing teams to shoot better than 37 percent against them.

The inside game:

The frontcourt seems to be the Bulls’ strong point. Led by Brown, Buffalo’s three forwards are the top scorers on the team. Combined, the trio averages 35 points and 18.9 rebounds a game. On defense, Brown and sophomore forward Jessica Fortman have totaled 73 blocks for the Bulls, who lead the MAC in stuffs.

Last game:

Buffalo won just its second conference game of the year Saturday by upsetting Akron 69-49. The Bulls led the Zips for most of the game and held a 23-point advantage with 1:17 left.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].