Kowalska looking to regain scoring touch in MAC play

Josh Johnston

Anna Kowalska is annoyed. The 6-foot-4 center missed two shot attempts in a row during practice and lost the rebound. As she ran back to midcourt, she shook her head in disgust.

“It is frustrating,” Kowalska said. “The problem is I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Kowalska entered Mid-American Conference play two weeks ago averaging 18.4 points a game on 57.6 percent shooting.

In four MAC games so far, her scoring numbers are significantly lower. The senior has made only 35 percent of her shots and is averaging a little better than 13 points a game.

Her numbers could be worse too, if not for a 16-point first-half performance against Bowling Green on Jan. 7. The Falcons limited her to four points in the second half, and Kowalska has averaged 11 points in the three games since.

Last Saturday against Ohio, Kowalska recorded her worst shooting game of the season, going only 1-of-10 from the field.

“Usually when somebody has a 1-for-10 game in the field, they can look at their shot selection as being the majority of the problem,” Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said. “With (Kowalska), her shot selection has been the issue. She’s taking a lot of contested shots away from the basket and not going toward the basket. That’s been a major problem for her.”

MAC teams have also guarded Kowalska more carefully, double- and triple-teaming her in the paint. Kowalska said she was expecting that.

“Of course (MAC defenders) are going to be harder on me,” she said. “They’re scouting every single person on our team and they’re probably going to double-team, but I was prepared for that. I was prepared for the worst.”

Kent State makes sure to punish MAC teams that choose to double up on Kowalska. Behind a core of lethal shooters led by freshman guard Jena Stutzman, the Flashes have hit a conference-best 46.3 percent from outside the perimeter.

“(Our) 3-point shooting has been pretty consistent all the way through the season,” Lindsay said. “We’ve been making the shots, and then that really helped us win on Saturday (against Ohio). Out of the 16 games we’ve played, we’ve probably shot it pretty well in 11 or 12 of them.”

The last few games haven’t been all bad for Kowalska, however. Since MAC play started, the center has been controlling the boards, averaging 11 rebounds per a game.

Lindsay said he isn’t too worried about Kowalska. All she needs to do is drive harder to the basket, he said.

“She’s gonna be OK,” Lindsay said. “She’ll have a couple of games like this, and that’s going to be about it.

“You’ve got to remember the teams in this league aren’t coming in here letting her get the ball wherever they want. I mean, she’s getting double-teamed and knocked around and everything else. Her biggest challenge is to respond to that positively and not let it affect her, which is what she’s working on.”

The Flashes’ next game at Akron might be a good time for Kowalska to break the slump. Last year, Kowalska scored 30 points – her career best – in Kent State’s 71-62 win over the Zips.

“I know I will be back,” Kowalska said. “I don’t worry about it.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].