FTs adding up to victories for women’s team

Josh Johnston

Flashes say foul shooting is one of their major priorities

Every player on the Kent State women’s basketball team usually goes through the same motions on the free-throw line.

Dribble, dribble, dribble. Pause. Shoot.


KENT STATE (16-6, 5-5 MAC)

at TOLEDO (13-10, 7-3 MAC).

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Savage Hall, Toledo

Radio: 640 WHLO-AM with Ty Linder

“Coach always told us to count one, two, three, four, five,” senior center Anna Kowalska said as she mimicked a foul shot. “I don’t think about anything else, just focusing on what he’s telling me and just making the shot.”

For the most part, Kent State coach Bob Lindsay’s rhythm has worked for the Flashes, who are shooting nearly 75 percent from the line.

Breaking down the game:

Matchup to watch: Kent State’s 3-point shooters vs. Toledo’s perimeter guards

The Flashes rank first in the MAC in 3-point shooting. The Rockets rank second in the MAC in 3-point defense. So what happens when unstoppable shooters meet an immovable defense?

Kent State player to watch: Sophomore guard Jamilah Humes (12.5 points per game, 2.6 steals per game)

Facing a tough perimeter defense by Toledo, the Flashes will need to rely on Humes’s inside drives to keep the defense honest.

Toledo player to watch: Sophomore guard Jessica Williams (9.8 ppg, 41.2 percent 3-point shooting)

Williams has shot 22-of-46 from outside the arc in nine conference games. Kent State’s perimeter defense will need to stop handing out open looks at the wings in order to stop her.

What happened last time: Kent State went wire-to-wire in a dominating 87-61 win over the Rockets in the M.A.C. Center. Sophomore center Ellie Shields, then a freshman, and senior guard Asheley Harkins, then a junior, combined for 52 points in the Flashes’ sixth win of the season.

The single-point shots have added up for Kent State (16-6, 5-5 Mid-American Conference) this season. The Flashes average more than 23 trips to the foul line a game. Considering Kent State is 9-1 when hitting 17 or more free throws a game, those trips to the line can make or break the team.

“It’s definitely a big strength, especially this year,” said sophomore guard Stephanie Gibson, who leads the team with 82 percent shooting from the line. “We’re in the gym everyday, and we have to shoot 200 free throws a week. Coach makes us.

We really concentrate on the foul shot. I mean, hey, it’s a free shot, and it’s another easy point so (we) might as well be good at them.”

While many players in the Flashes’ offense can shoot 3-pointers and only find themselves on the free-throw line a few times each game, foul shots are Kowalska’s chance for a 3-point play.

Kowalska, who scores almost exclusively from the post, averages more than six trips to the line a game. Her ability to convert free throws after a basket has complemented her 17.2 points per game this season.

“Coach always tells me to go to the basket, even in practice,” said Kowalska, who is 109-of-140 from the line this season. “He’s like: ‘And-ones, and-ones. I want and-ones from you all the time.’ I just think about (going) strong to the basket is how I’m going to get my free throws.”

Points from the line will be important for Kent State’s next game Sunday at Toledo. The Rockets’ defense has limited 17 of its 22 opponents to fewer than 70 points a game.

“We’ve made (foul shooting) more of a priority (this season),” Gibson said. “We’ve always thought foul shots are important, but I think we’ve made it one of our big goals and a priority this year to make them.”

Contact sports reporter

Josh Johnston at [email protected].