Women’s team still trying to find itself after season opener

Jeff Russ

Junior forward Anna Kowalska shoots over St. Bonaventure defenders in Sunday’s game at the M.A.C. Center. Caitlin Prarat | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Kent State women’s basketball team knows what it is. It knows what it has to work on, and what it wants to be after one game.

Game Notebook

-Scoring High

Junior forward Samantha Scull’s 12 point-game was her highest total since her first game with the Golden Flashes.

-Opener Loss

This was the first time, since 2001, the Flashes lost their home opener. They lost to Maine 78-53 in that game. It was also the first time St. Bonaventure ever won at the M.A.C. Center.

-Numbers Game

Freshman forward Ellie Shields is the first player to wear number 40 for the Golden Flashes since Amanda Wolke wore the number in the 1999-2000 season.

-Chasing 350

Coach Bob Lindsay remains at 344 career victories, the most in Mid-American Conference history. He is six away from becoming the 50th active NCAA Division I coach with 350 wins.

-Up Next

The Flashes travel to Robert Morris Thursday night at 7 p.m. The Flashes lost to Robert Morris 74-73 in its home opener last season. The Flashes are trying to avoid starting 0-2 for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

With the team’s 74-68 loss to St. Bonaventure Sunday at the M.A.C. Center in the team’s season opener, coach Bob Lindsay saw what this team has to work on. After the game, Lindsay addressed his team with some specifics.

“We are what we are,” he said. “We’re a team that doesn’t rebound the ball, we’re a team that doesn’t defend very well, and we’re a team that, at least today, that got outhustled in just about every loose ball there was. And we have no excuses, whether we have missing players, that type of performance on the boards is just inexcusable. The next time we come out here that will be different.”

The Golden Flashes played St. Bonaventure tough Sunday, but could not stop the Bonnies from behind the 3-point arc. The Flashes went on a 5-0 run midway through the second half, before St. Bonaventure dug in. The Bonnies answered, and its coach thought that was the turning point.

“At that point I thought here we go, but we settled in and I think we got five straight stops, hit a couple threes and now we’re leading by double figure,” St. Bonaventure coach Jim Crowley said. “To have that resiliency to be on the road and have that bad stretch and remain calm and handle what we need to, I thought that was a big key for us.”

The Bonnies went 8-16 behind the arc, 5-8 in the second half. Forward Erica Schiefen hit two 3-pointers in the second half for St. Bonaventure.

It seemed as if every time the Golden Flashes hit a shot in the second half to get the score close, the Bonnies would hit a big three or an offensive rebound that translated into second chance points, leading Kent State 15-2 in that category.

“It goes to hustle, it goes to a lot of things,” Lindsay said. “It goes to defensive conditioning, it goes to being able to defend dribble-penetration, it goes a lot more, in my mind, to mental toughness — the ability to, when you’re a little tired, to push yourself through. We don’t have that ability right now. We’re a very soft team. We had to have a starting point, and that is what this is for us.”

Many players who have never played a game for the Golden Flashes before Sunday including freshmen Stephanie Gibson, Chenel Harris and Nicole Pribich.

Gibson started the game for the Flashes at guard. She seemed comfortable on the floor, scoring seven points, 2-6 from the floor and 1-3 from 3-point range. Her speed helped with some big defensive plays and drives to the basket. She admitted to being nervous, but thought she played well.

“I thought I played all right,” she said. “I came from a program that relied on speed, and my teammates help me a lot and made me feel comfortable on the court today.”

Harris led the Flashes with 14 points, hitting two second half threes along with six shots from the floor. But no matter how many points each of the players scored, Lindsay is not going to look at from just that way.

“I look at it like: Did Chenel play hard today? Was she able to follow a game plan? Did she play defense?” he said. “The points are a whole separate issue. I don’t evaluate things on points. It was nice that she scored 14 points, but did she defend anybody? Did she rebound? Did Gibson defend anybody? Did she rebound? That’s the question you have to answer, points come and go. It’s the effort. I’m not going to comment on the effort level.”

Another player coming back to the Flashes is sophomore Rachel Bennett. Bennett missed all of last season with a torn ACL, which she fought back from and started for the Flashes Sunday. She scored seven points in the game while battling foul trouble most of the second half.

“I was real nervous, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “After a year off, I was trying to play as hard as I could. In foul trouble, I was trying to maintain my poise and not foul out.”

But after one game, Lindsay said he is looking for a leader in this young, inexperienced group.

“We’re suffering from a lack of leadership around here,” he said. “Until somebody steps up and provides that leadership, which means stepping up in games and provides a spark for us in practice, we will be victimized by this stuff more often than not.”

The Flashes play Thursday night on the road against Robert Morris, beginning a three-week stretch on the road.

Contact women’s basketball reporter Jeff Russ at [email protected].