Flashes handle OU in MAC opener

Joseph Gartrell

The Kent State women’s basketball team started Mid-American Conference play with a convincing 76-63 victory over Ohio University at the M.A.C. Center on Wednesday night.

But, for the first five-plus minutes of the game, a convincing victory certainly didn’t appear in the makings.

The Flashes made only one of their first 12 shots from the floor and were trailing 9-2 with 14:25 to go in the half when sophomore guard Asheley Harkins converted a three-point play after getting fouled on a jump shot.

That marked the beginning of an 11-2 run by the Flashes. They took the lead, 13-11, on a Harkins’ layup with 11:33 remaining in the half and didn’t trail again.

“She gave us a spark in the first half,” coach Bob Lindsay said. “It kind of kept us going where other people were missing some easy shots.”

Despite poor first-half shooting from the rest of the team, the Flashes took a 37-31 lead into the half because of their intense defensive pressure. They forced the Bobcats to turn the ball over 25 times in the game, 17 of those came on steals.

“You win games on the defensive end of the court with your effort level,” Lindsay said. “And I thought we were a little better defensively tonight than we had been in some of the previous games.”

In the second half, the Flashes’ continued to play aggressive defense, and they also began shooting well. They hit five of nine field goals to start the second half and extended their lead to 10 with just over 17 minutes remaining.

The Bobcats whittled the lead to three, 50-47 after a pair of 3-pointers by junior forward Lauren Kohn and a jumper by sophomore forward Chandra Myers.

But over the next three minutes, the Flashes forced four steals – two by senior guard Kerrie James and two by senior guard Sarah Burgess – during a 9-2 run that put the game out of reach for good.

“I thought that was probably the difference in the game,” Lindsay said.

Burgess missed the last three games and stayed behind in Kent to rehab a knee injury while the team traveled to Texas for a tournament last weekend, but she didn’t look tentative.

“If you come out and aren’t going full speed how you normally play, you’re just going to injure yourself again,” Burgess said. “You can’t hold anything back.”

Along with two big steals, Burgess scored 10 on the night.

“It took me a little while. I started trying to create some of my own things and saw that wasn’t working,” Burgess said. “Finally, I got into the flow of the game, and it just came back for me.”

La’kia Stewart’s 14 points led the way for the Flashes; the senior forward was 6-6 from the line. Poor free-throw shooting has been an issue this season for the Flashes, but on Wednesday night, they made 17-22 free-throw attempts.

“We’ve shot free throws pretty well the last two or three games,” Lindsay said. “I think we’re coming out of that funk.”

The Flashes (4-7) hope their win against the Bobcats is a sign that they’re emerging from a season-long funk.

“We’re starting a brand new season,” Burgess said. “We’re 1-0.”

Contact sports editor Joseph Gartrell at [email protected].