Flashes’ road woes continue against Toledo

Josh Johnston

Team loses fourth straight away from the M.A.C. Center

The Kent State women’s basketball team didn’t have a problem winning on the road earlier this season. The Flashes walked into eight non-conference away games and came away with seven wins in the first half of the season.

Since Mid-American Conference play has started, however, Kent State has lost five of its six games away from the M.A.C. Center, including a 54-51 loss to Toledo yesterday at Savage Arena.

“I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus or what it is,” junior guard Rachel Bennett said, “but we don’t come out with the same intensity – like the idea that we have everything to lose, so we’re playing to win.”

The Flashes’ only conference road victory came against Buffalo a month ago. Since then, Kent State (16-7, 5-6 MAC) has dropped four straight decisions on the road. In that same span, Kent State is a perfect 4-0 at home.

Player of the game:

Toledo freshman guard Naama Shafir (13 points, 7 rebounds)

The freshman hit a running jumper with six seconds left to solidify Toledo’s lead over Kent State. The last of her four steals in the game sealed the win for the Rockets.

The game was over when …

Shafir hit her jumper with six seconds left.

Stat of the game:

31.7 percent – In a stronger defense effort by the Flashes, their offense faltered by shooting 31.7 percent from the field.

“We’ve had some games where we’ve had a lot more consistency than this,” Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said. “If you look at our losses in general, there’s six losses in the league and four of them are (by) seven (points) or under. … You could go back through every one of those and start with the defensive end first and then move to the offensive end.”

Yesterday at Toledo, the Flashes’ offense stalled, giving the Rockets (14-10, 8-3 MAC) opportunities to regain and extend leads. Kent State shot 19-of-60 from the field, including only 5-of-19 from the 3-point line.

Senior center Anna Kowalska led the team with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but after her, the scoring fell off. Sophomore guard Jamilah Humes and sophomore forward Chenel Harris, the Flashes’ second- and third-leading scorers this season, combined to score only eight points.

“All I’m going to say is I think there were some players that needed to make shots but didn’t make shots for us,” Lindsay said.

While Kent State’s offense struggled, its defense kept the game close by forcing 28 turnovers for Toledo. Bennett grabbed six of her team’s 16 steals. Lindsay gave credit to his team’s defensive effort for keeping the Flashes in the game.

“The 54 points (Toledo scored) allowed us an opportunity to win the game,” he said. “What we didn’t do on offense was the culprit today.”

After playing catch-up to the Rockets for the entire first half, Kent State scored five quick points off back-to-back steals by Bennett to tie the game 31-31 early in the second half. The Flashes and Toledo then traded leads throughout the half.

With 37 seconds left in the game, Harris sunk two free throws to bring Kent State within one at 52-51. Toledo freshman guard Naama Shafir retaliated with a jumper just as the shot clock expired to put the Rockets up by three.

Shafir came up big for Toledo one last time by picking off a pass by Bennett with one second remaining.

Kent State will take the week off before facing Miami at 2 p.m. next Sunday at the M.A.C. Center. Bennett said the team will try to regain some consistency.

“We’ve got to get in this next week and concentrate on defense and concentrate on finishing shots,” she said. “We also have to get into the gym on our own time and work on our game individually.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].