Seven unlucky number with Kowalska out

Thomas Gallick

Short-handed women’s basketball falls to Central Michigan

The Kent State women’s basketball team lost 66-59 Saturday at University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich., but perhaps suffered a more important loss this weekend in junior center Anna Kowalska.

The team (5-13, 2-4 MAC) announced Kowalska, ranked second in the MAC in scoring with an average 17.8 points per game, would miss the game with a stress fracture in her right foot and be out indefinitely. Coach Bob Lindsay said he had no timetable for Kowalska’s return, but he thought she would likely return before the end of the season.

With seven players in uniform, six scholarship athletes and one walk-on, the Flashes hung with the Broncos throughout the game until Western Michigan simply wore them down. Western Michigan shot 43.5 percent from the floor and 17-of-19 from the foul line.

Lindsay said he thought the team could have played better but gave good effort overall.

“I think we tried to play as hard as we could,” Lindsay said. “We just made too many mistakes to win the game.”

Freshman forward Chenel Harris gave the team a boost with a team-leading and career-high 17 points. Harris also led the Flashes in rebounding with eight.

Harris said she is somewhat comfortable playing more minutes due to the team’s lack of depth, but still sees it as a challenge.

“As a freshman, (playing with seven teammates) is definitely a learning experience,” Harris said. “It forces you to play outside of your comfort zone, but I’m getting more comfortable with it.”

Freshman forward Ellie Shields also saw expanded playing time due to Kowalska’s injury, and responded by scoring in double figures with 14 points. Lindsay said he thought Harris and Shields both responded well in reaction to their increased roles on the team.

“I think they’re like any other young players,” Lindsay said. “They’re fighting with fatigue levels and consistency. I thought both went out and tried to give whatever they could.”

The Broncos substituted early and often, playing 12 in the first half, a strategy possibly aimed at Kent State’s short bench. Western Michigan also attacked the post-leading Shields to foul out late in the second half.

With Shields out, and no Kowalska to sub in for her, the Flashes never fought back into contention. Kowalska said she was disappointed at having to sit on the sidelines but approved of the way the team played without her.

“I think they were trying their best and working hard,” Kowalska said.

The Flashes lost sophomore guard Rachel Bennett early, too, when she committed two fouls early and sat for the rest of the half, recording no shots. Bennett came back strong in the second half, shooting 4-of-5.

With the win the Broncos move to 5-1 in the MAC and sit atop the MAC West. Kent State returns to action Wednesday night at the M.A.C. Center against Toledo.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].