Team shows progress, earns first win

Jeff Russ

Maybe a trip to Colorado is exactly what the Kent State women’s basketball team needed to get the season going.

The Flashes spilt a two-game tournament in the Rocky Mountain Invitational in Fort Collins, Colo., picking up its first victory of the season Saturday over Navy and developed a little more as a team.

“What’s important is we spent six days together getting to actually know each other,” coach Bob Lindsay said. “That’s a value to a team that doesn’t have a lot of experience and doesn’t really know each other yet.”

With a young team that only returned three players from last year’s team, the players think the last six days can go along way in building chemistry.

“We were with each other 24-7 these past six days,” junior forward Anna Kowalska said. “We all actually got to know one another staying in a motel together as opposed to spending all our time in the dorms at Kent.”

After losing the first four games of the season, Kowalska scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the 53-47 win over Navy. It was her third game in double figures and her second double-double as a member of the Flashes.

“We all felt really good about the win,” she said. “We wanted to win this one because we know we can win some games and that we are better than our record says.”

Besides gaining confidence from herself, Kowalska is gaining confidence in her teammates.

“It helps to have a really good post player like Anna,” junior Asheley Harkins said. “She catches my passes no matter how hard or off they might be. She’ll also grabs a lot of rebounds.”

After Kowalska’s strong performance, Lindsay said she is someone who could potentially emerge as a go-to player, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t see room for improvement.

“She’s been pretty consistent so far; she’s someone with a very good upside,” he said. “She’s somebody who is still learning to play her position against Creighton she got into foul trouble and was no factor.”

Lindsay thought his team played better in its 71-57 loss against Creighton Friday than in the win Saturday.

In the loss, Harkins scored a career-high 17 points and freshman forward Chenel Harris added 13. Although they lost by 14, the Flashes played the Bluejays, who are 5-1, close all game long, but a late 5-0 run finished the Flashes.

Saturday had the potential to be another heartbreaker for Kent State. Navy hit a late 3-pointer to cut the lead to six, but the Flashes’ defense wouldn’t allow the game to slip away and came up with big defensive stops late to preserve the first victory.

Having lost by 25 and 17 in two early season losses, Lindsay saw a lot of improvement in his team last week.

“We’re playing better defensively,” he said. “We are playing with more consistency, something we were struggling with, and we played better against the 3.”

But there also is room for improvement. Lindsay said the team is still struggling on the boards, especially offensive rebounds. He also wants to see the team be a lot more aggressive, grab more loose balls and play better on the perimeter.

But this team is young. And as a young team, Lindsay said those improvements will not come in leaps and bounds, but rather in inches forward as time goes on. It’s a long season, and Lindsay expects this team to better later than right now.

“It’s important as the season goes on to look at how we’ve improved,” he said. “What’s most important is how much we improve from the beginning of the season to the end.”

Game Notebook

-First Time Not a Charm

Friday’s game against Creighton and Saturday’s game against Navy were the first time the Flashes had played either one of those teams. Tuesday’s game against New Mexico State was the first against that school also. The Flashes faced four schools for the first time last season: Idaho State, Northern Arizona, Slippery Rock and St. Francis. They went 2-2 against the four last season. There are now 65 teams the Flashes have only played once.

-Top Five Anna

Anna Kowalska is currently third in the Mid-American Conference at 19 points per game and second with 12 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Stephanie Gibson is third in the MAC with 6.5 assists per game.

-1-4 starts

This is the fifth time coach Bob Lindsay has started 1-4. The previous three the Flashes bounced back to a winning record. The other was Lindsay’s first season with the Flashes, 1989-90.

-Losing streaks

The four-game losing streak was the first for the Flashes since the 2001-02 season.

-Chasing 350

The win Saturday gives coach Lindsay 345 for his career, the most all-time in the MAC. He is five away from becoming the 50th Division I coach with 350 wins.

-And In the MAC

Bowling Green, winners of the last four MAC Championships, are the only undefeated MAC school left. Every one has at least one win. The Flashes kick off MAC play January 9 at Ohio.

-Up Next

The Flashes return to Kent State Saturday at 2 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center to face Vermont. The Flashes are 1-2 all time against the Catamounts and lost last season 91-73 in Burlington, Vt.