‘A big learning experience’

Thomas Gallick

Women’s basketball team looks toward MAC tournament after an up and down season

Women’s basketball coach Bob Lindsay is somewhat of a perfectionist; known for coaching only two losing seasons in 19 years at Kent State, disregarding excuses and even criticizing the play of his teams after wins.

This year the Kent State women’s basketball team went 8-20 in a season marred by injury, suspensions and individuals leaving the team; how the exacting coach sees the regular season may come as a surprise to many.

He said he thinks it was a success, considering all the turmoil the team went through.

“I think people on the outside would evaluate it (as) less successful than somebody on the inside,” Lindsay said. “My evaluation is, with the cards that we were dealt, where we started and where we finished, we are a better team now than where we started. From a learning experience (standpoint), I think it has been successful. From an improvement (standpoint), I think it has been successful, and I’ll just leave it at that.”

The last time the team finished with less than 10 wins was the 1989-1990 season, Lindsay’s first season as coach, when the Flashes finished 5-22.

Junior guard Asheley Harkins, one of two upperclassmen on the team, agreed with her coach’s opinion that the team progressed well this season.

“It’s definitely been a positive thing (this season),” Harkins said. “I think over the course of a year our freshmen grew, the people that transferred grew and even Rachel (Bennett) and I grew as players.”

Harkins said she gives a lot of credit to freshmen forwards Chenel Harris and Ellie Shields, as well as freshman guard Stephanie Gibson, for stepping up in a tough situation and performing well.

“They definitely exceeded our expectations because, in the beginning, we had a full team and they weren’t really expected to play as many minutes as they are playing (now),” Harkins said. “They stepped into their roles and definitely learned as they were going, so I think they went beyond their expectation levels.”

Gibson, the Flashes’ only point guard for the majority of the season, leads the team and Mid-American Conference in average playing time at 38 minutes per game. Gibson said even with the problems the team had, her first regular season with the Flashes would help her in the future.

“It was a big learning experience,” Gibson said. “I don’t regret it at all. Maybe we didn’t have a winning season, but I learned a lot.”

Gibson led the team in assists per game, while Harris and Shields finished third and fifth on the team in scoring average. Another newcomer that made and immediate impact for the Flashes was junior center Anna Kowalska, who led Kent State in points per game and finished third in the MAC by averaging 15.4 points.

Kowalska may have made an even bigger impact for the Flashes had she not suffered a stress fracture in her right foot mid-season. She missed six games during the year and has not scored over nine points since her return, while her career high is 31 points.

Lindsay said the Flashes have a chance to go on a run in the tournament if Kowalska improves and the team plays better offensively and defensively than they have in recent contests.

“If the stars are lined up and the wind is blowing in the right direction, and we make some shots and defend some people, we can win a game or two,” Lindsay said. “We’d have to play really well and probably better than we have been playing.”

Harkins said she thinks the team could definitely upset a few teams and have a shot at winning the tournament.

“We’re definitely eyeing the championship,” Harkins said. “I think a lot of teams are going to sleep on us and take us very lightly. I think we’re playing the best basketball we’ve played all year right now, and we’re going to try to carry that over to the tournament.”

Although they finished the year 5-11 in the MAC, the Flashes lost 8 conference games by less than ten points, and dropped two in overtime. Harkins said the Flashes realize they could have finished with a much better record if they would have closed out some of those tight games.

As the fifth seed coming out of the East, the Flashes will play their first round game of the MAC Tournament today at 2:30 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland against the West’s fourth-seed, the Huskies of Northern Illinois. Kent State lost to Northern Illinois in overtime in the teams’ only meeting of the season 84-73.

The Flashes look to avoid the fate of last year’s team, as the Huskies knocked Kent State out of the MAC Tournament in the in the first round in a 72-68 loss.

Although the postseason begins today, Lindsay said he has been thinking of the future of the team for a while.

“I think about it (next season) all of the time,” Lindsay said. “I think part of what we’re doing right now is pointed towards next year. I talk to the team a lot about making advances, making improvements and looking at the bigger picture rather than the smaller one.”

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].