Freshman’s 3-pointers lead way to blowout victory over Miami

Josh Johnston

Stutzman breaks out of her recent struggles by scoring 21 points

WATCH video from the game this weekend.

Sophomore forward Chenel Harris saw Jena Stutzman in the wing and made the pass. With no Miami defenders around for miles, the freshman calmly drilled a 3-point shot to put Kent State up 76-56.

Stutzman found herself in that situation a lot yesterday afternoon at the M.A.C. Center. The RedHawks failed to keep track of the 5-foot-8 guard while she hit 5-of-9 long shots in Kent State’s 79-62 win.

The victory gave the Flashes (17-7, 6-6 Mid-American Conference) sole possession of second place in the East division.

“Jena played well,” Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said. “She had a little stretch of time there, probably about three or four games, where she wasn’t shooting it very well. She got herself out of that and now her confidence level is back up.”

Stutzman tied her season high with 21 points and broke a 10-game scoring slump. She last hit double-digits Jan. 7 against Bowling Green. Since averaging more than 10 points a game in the nonconference season, Stutzman came into yesterday’s game averaging just five points a game.

“I haven’t been shooting the ball very well,” Stutzman said, “so I did a lot of extra shooting, hoping that I’d get my confidence up. My teammates hit me today for open shots and that really helped. It is a big confidence booster I would say.”

With sophomore guard Stephanie Gibson, the team’s usual starting point guard, hampered by the flu, Lindsay gave Stutzman the starting nod. Stutzman said the extra minutes didn’t make a difference in her scoring.

“I’m the kind of person where if I start it probably makes me more nervous than if I don’t start,” she said. “I just knew that I had to step up with Steph being sick. I needed to step up and fill her role and just try to play with confidence.”

The flu has slowed the Flashes in their last few games, Lindsay said. Sickness contributed to Miami’s near comeback in the first half after Kent State led by as much as 15 in the early going.

“We’ve been sick; we’ve been battling the flu,” Lindsay said. “We had some kids that are dehydrated and they had a tough time playing a lot of minutes. … It’s a little bit tough when the kids are sick like that.”

Halftime broke up the RedHawks’ 17-9 run which brought them within six points of the Flashes, 40-34. That would be the closest Miami would come.

After a 6-0 run by Kent State early in the second half, the RedHawks closed within nine points with 8:50 left.

But a wide-open 3-pointer by senior guard Asheley Harkins sparked an 11-point run to lock down the game. Finishing off her night, Stutzman picked off a pass by Miami guard Michelle Oswalt and drove home for the layup with 1:11 left.

“We won (yesterday) with offense and just enough defense to get us by,” Lindsay said. “We shot the ball really well, and I thought that was the difference in the game.”

Kent State next will travel to Athens on Wednesday to take on Ohio at 7 p.m.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].