A dominant start

Nick Walton

Women’s basketball starts its season off with 95-58 victory

Jamilah Humes goes up for a shot against Youngstown State Saturday at the MAC Center. Humes had a total of 13 points for the game, helping Kent State beat Youngstown State 95-58. Daniel Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

After a season where it had little depth, the Kent State women’s basketball team didn’t wait to show its newfound advantage.

The full bench was on display Saturday as the Flashes defeated Youngstown State 95-58 in the season opener. Ten players played more than 10 minutes in the game, and five players scored double-digit points.

Three minutes into the game, Kent State coach Bob Lindsay made his first substitutions of the season.

“The people that saw us play last year with six players knew what kind of problems we had every game with the rotation,” Lindsay said. “This year we got 12 (players), and there’s a significant difference with it.”

Despite being constantly double-teamed, senior center Anna Kowalska had a team-high 19 points, four rebounds and one block. A day after finding out she was starting, freshman guard Jena Stutzman scored 13 points, made five steals and played a team-high 34 minutes in her first collegiate start.

“I was very nervous to start out, but I feel really lucky to have such great teammates that made me feel comfortable,” Stutzman said. “Coach (Mike) Terry and (junior guard) Rachel (Bennett) said to just play my game and to not be so nervous, settle down, get in my groove, and I started to do that in the second half.”

Lindsay said he was confident in starting Stutzman because of her high school experience.

“Jena has won three championship games in the state of Ohio with her team, and I think she’s been tested before under pressure,” Lindsay said. “She’s been playing well in practice. She’s been shooting the ball exceptionally well, and I thought she deserved to start.”

The Flashes never trailed in the game and started to build a comfortable lead with a 10-1 run midway through the first half. After Youngstown State got within seven points with six minutes to go in the first half, Kent State pulled away with a 16-8 run to close out the half.

“It’s great to go into halftime with a big lead like we had and to come out and push even further,” Bennett said. “Having that lead makes us settle down those jitters we had for our first game.”

Bennett scored 18 points in 27 minutes.

Kent State put the game out of reach with a 21-1 run midway through the second half.

As impressive as the Flashes were offensively, shooting 54.7 percent from the field and hitting nine of 21 shots from behind the arc, the production came because of great defense. Kent State totaled 35 rebounds, 14 steals and turned Youngstown State’s 29 turnovers into 38 points.

“One thing (Lindsay) emphasized was that we need to score in transition,” sophomore guard Jamilah Humes said. “We realize that we have a lot of athletic players on our team, and we’re capable of running the floor. Any time we get a turnover or a made shot, we try to push the ball up the floor to get those transition points.”

In her first game since the 2006-2007 season, Humes had 13 points, four assists and two steals in 20 minutes off the bench.

“At halftime I had to tell (Bennett) it feels so good to be back on the court,” Humes said. “It makes everything I went through worth it just to be back on the court again.”

Lindsay said some of the lessons the team learned from last season’s 9-21 record were on display Saturday.

“We didn’t have anything to show for it in the win column, but we really improved, and I think you saw some of that today,” Lindsay said. “We’re certainly light-years away from the NCAA tournament, but you saw some of the improvement that we had through last season.”

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].

Game notes

Party like it’s 2004

The 95 points scored on Saturday were the most since a 99-64 victory over Ball State on Feb. 14, 2004. Last season, the Flashes’ high point total was 80 against Toledo.

Starting strong

The season-opening win over Youngstown State improved Kent State’s record to 10-10 in season openers under coach Bob Lindsay. This was the first season-opening win since 2005.

Breaking news

Sophomore center Ellie Shields left the game with 5:20 left in the second half with a bloody nose after taking a shot to the face. Lindsay speculated after the game that the injury could be a broken nose.

All-time record

In the first meeting since 2003, Kent State improved its all-time record against Youngstown State to 25-12.

Looking forward

Kent State travels to Dover, Del., to play Delaware State Wednesday night. This will be the first time the two teams meet.