Another year, another Akron sweep

Thomas Gallick

Women continue winning streak over the Zips

Sophomore guard Rachel Bennett drives past an Akron defender in the Flashes 65-62 win over the rival Zips Saturday. Bennett finished with 11 points in the conference victory. Brian Marks | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

The Kent State women’s basketball team continued to dominate its rivalry with Akron, winning 65-62 Saturday at the M.A.C. Center to sweep the season series.

The game was no blowout, as Akron’s freshman guard Keyla Snowden missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left to tie the game. Snowden scored 19 of Akron’s points and hit five 3-pointers earlier in the game.

Coach Bob Lindsay said he thought his team (8-17, 5-8 Mid-American Conference) could have easily fallen to Akron for the first time since 1999.

“I thought we were fortunate to win today,” Lindsay said. “Generally I thought we were outplayed most of the game and we made a couple of plays at the end to kind of stay in it and win it. I thought Akron played harder than we did and we were outplayed.”

With the win, the Flashes extended their streak against the Zips to 18 consecutive games. The overall series, which started when the teams first met in 1976, now sits at 43-4 in favor of Kent State.

Sophomore guard Rachel Bennett said the team got some inspiration from playing the rival Zips, but probably not the same feeling the men’s team gets.

“I don’t know if the rivalry is as big in women’s basketball as it is in men’s (basketball), but yeah there’s still a rivalry in as close as we are,” Bennett said.

Akron coach Jodi Kest said she did not mention her team’s losing streak against Kent State in preparation for the game and wanted her young players to come out with a clean slate against the Flashes.

“We knew that we had two programs that have not had the season that we both expected, and today was going to be about execution and playing hard, not how many wins Kent State has had against Akron,” Kest said. “We didn’t even discuss that.”

The Flashes were led by freshman forward Ellie Shields, who scored 15 points and added 10 rebounds, both team highs. Sophomore guard Rachel Bennett and freshman guard Stephanie Gibson also posted double figures in scoring with 11 and 10 points.

In a surprising turn of events, the Flashes three-player-deep bench outscored Akron’s bench 14-5. Junior forward Alisa Brinkman had 12 of Kent State’s bench points and added seven rebounds in just 15 minutes of playing time.

“It (the play of Brinkman) was a boost,” Shields said. “I was proud of her. I think she played well and kind of picked up my slack when I was messing up. It really helped me to get back in my groove.”

Kent State’s leading scorer, junior center Anna Kowalska, scored 2 points and went 0-of-5 from the floor in her second game back from a stress fracture in her right foot. Lindsay said Kowalska is not close to returning to the form she was playing in prior to her injury, but will hopefully improve before the MAC tournament.

“Her confidence level isn’t very good, nor is her foot very good,” Lindsay said. “If we can get a little more time and get her a little bit better than where she is I think we have a chance (to upset teams in the MAC tournament).”

The last time the two teams met, Kowalska put on an offensive show shooting 11-of-16 from the field for a career-high 30 points. Saturday her only points came from two first-half free-throws.

The Flashes forced Akron to turn the ball over 25 times, but only produced 20 points off of those turnovers. Lindsay said 25 turnovers and 12 steals the team recorded look better than the Kent State actually played.

“I wasn’t happy with the way we defended,” Lindsay said. “The stats are deceptive. They really are. I mean they (Akron) got a lot of shots up that they just didn’t make.”

Lindsay also said the team reacted poorly to the physical play of Akron’s leading scorer, freshman guard Kara Murphy. She finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

The Flashes return to action 7 p.m. Wednesday night when they face off against Miami in Millet Hall.

Game notes

Akron’s block party

Akron out-blocked the Flashes 5-1, including three from sophomore center Riana Miller. The lone Flash to record a block was 5-foot 8-inch guard Asheley Harkins. The block was Harkins’ fifth of the season, second on the team behind junior center Anna Kowalska’s 26.

3-point problems

After hitting a season-high 10 team 3-pointers in last Wednesday’s game against Bowling Green, the Flashes went 4-of-14 from behind the arc Saturday. In contrast, freshman guard Keyla Snowden hit one more than the Flashes’ team total as Akron shot 9-of-20 from behind the 3-point line.

Not just petty theft

Harkins stole the ball from Akron six times, adding to her team lead in the category, which now sits at 57. Harkins is second in the Mid-American Conference in steals behind junior guard Tiera DeLaHoussaye of Western Michigan, who has 92.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].