Depth, experience could lead to big things this season

Douglas Gulasy

What a difference a year makes.

Kent State women’s basketball coach Bob Lindsay must have been thrilled just 2:49 into his team’s game against Youngstown State on Saturday at the M.A.C. Center.

Sure, the Flashes were ahead 9-4 at the time. But what really gave Lindsay pleasure at that moment was the opportunity to bring in reserves for the first time this season.

You see, unlike last season, when the Flashes competed with just eight – and sometimes seven – players en route to finishing 9-21, Lindsay has a full bench at his disclosure this year.

“It’s nice when you can look down there and actually choose who’s going to go into the game instead of looking down there and seeing assistant coaches and trainers,” Lindsay said shortly after the Flashes rolled to a 95-58 victory.

Lindsay was so giddy about his ability to use reserves that he brought in four players that first time. He continued to substitute frequently through the game as Kent State used its fresh legs to overwhelm the Penguins.

That potential to bring in fresh players can only help the Flashes this season, just as the lack of depth hurt them last season. Lindsay pointed to numerous instances from last season when Kent State held a second half lead but could not finish simply because of a lack of energy.

“Anybody that saw us (last season) knew that we’d hit about the 10-minute mark of every game (where) we might have been ahead, and then we just lost our legs,” he said.

The Flashes kept their legs Saturday. With 10:21 remaining in the game, Kent State led Youngstown State 59-44. In the next five minutes, the Flashes went on a 21-1 run to go up 80-45 and end any suspicion of a Penguin comeback. A team can make that kind of run when its players aren’t exhausted.

Of course, there’s something to be said for what the players who return from last year’s team gained from their experience: experience itself.

Last season, five of the team’s seven major contributors were in their first full season playing Division I basketball. Three of those five players were freshmen, so they were in their first year of college basketball, period. Another player, current junior Rachel Bennett, had missed the previous season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.

This year’s team is a lot more experienced. While last season’s team had no seniors, this season’s has three. Two of the three sophomores who played last year as freshmen started Saturday. And redshirt sophomore Jamilah Humes, a starter in her freshman year who sat out last season because of suspension, returned to the lineup.

That experience was on display Saturday. Senior Anna Kowalska scored 19 points. Junior Rachel Bennett scored 18. Sophomore Chenel Harris and Humes each added 13. Sophomore Stephanie Gibson dished out 10 assists.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

The point is that this year’s team has a chance to put last season behind it and get Kent State women’s basketball back to its past success.

While the women’s team’s success isn’t as publicized as the men’s team’s is (did you realize our men’s basketball program has won at least 20 games for 10 straight seasons, and only six other teams across the country can say that?), the women’s basketball program has a tradition of winning, too. Before last season, the team’s previous losing season was in 1989-90.

This season, the Flashes have the potential to go back to their winning ways. With the team’s experience and its all-important depth, a Mid-American Conference title is not out of the question.

No, I’m not predicting a national championship. But I can tell you one thing about the Flashes’ finish this year:

It’ll be a heck of a lot better than 9-21.

Contact assistant sports editor Douglas Gulasy at [email protected].