Women’s basketball undefeated 3-0

Josh Johnston

Defense allows season-high 82 points against

Freshman guard Jena Stutzman dribbles past a New Mexico State player in a match up last night. The Flashes’ hard work paid off, pulling out a win of 84-82. Rachel Kilroy | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

READ yesterday’s live blog about the game.

With the game on the line and only 39 seconds left on the clock, junior guard Rachel Bennett calmly sank two free throws to give the Kent State women’s basketball team an 83-82 lead over New Mexico State.

“Obviously I had it in the back of my mind that these two free throws were key and huge,” Bennett said, “but I don’t let it (affect me). I just get up there and do my routine and go into the shot.”

In a game where the Flashes held a 12-point lead, and the Aggies held a 9-point lead, free throw shooting made the difference for Kent State yesterday afternoon at the M.A.C. Center. The Flashes made 25 of 32 free throws to win 84-82 and move to a 3-0 start for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

New Mexico State still had a chance to win the game after Bennett missed her final free-throw attempt with eight seconds left. The Aggies’ most dangerous scorer, sophomore guard Madison Spence, couldn’t even get a shot off before the buzzer because of senior guard Asheley Harkins’ heavy pressure.

“We made plays to win the game at the end,” Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said. “They were predominantly on the defensive end. I was happy about that. We’ve won our last two games by making plays in the latter stages of the game to win the game, so that’s a good sign for our team.”

A 30-point game from Spence kept the Aggies in the game. New Mexico State coach Darin Spence said without her shooting, his team would have gotten “drilled.”

“I thought it was a great game,” he said. “Even from where I was standing, both teams found a way to make some plays and found a way to not make some plays. For our young, inexperienced team, we really grew up today. We found a way to get a lead, and then we found a way to give it up, and then we found a way to get back in it.”

For Kent State, four starters scored in double digits. Senior center Anna Kowalska recorded her second consecutive double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Bennett also made a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists. She also hit all four of her 3-point attempts.

Although the Flashes outshot New Mexico State with 45.5 percent from the field, the Aggies shot better early in the game. The Aggies began the game 3-of-5 on 3-pointers and led 32-23 with 6:48 left in the first half.

“Some of us went in there nervous because last year we did get beat (by New Mexico State) by like 17 (72-55),” Bennett said. “We calmed ourselves down, and we just played our game.”

Kent State didn’t lead until freshman guard Jena Stutzman hit a 3-pointer to cap off a 20-8 run at the end of the first half. The Flashes led 43-40 at halftime and 70-59 with 8:30 remaining before New Mexico State made its final run.

The Flashes survived the Aggies’ comeback attempt in the second half because of defense, Bennett said.

“Defense was key because they did not like pressure at all,” she said. “Coach Lindsay said nobody’s pressured them since their start, so they’re not going to like it. We got a lot of people frustrated.”

Coming up, Kent State will go on a six-game road trip. The Flashes will play Clemson at 3 p.m. Friday in Seattle in the first round of the Husky Classic.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].