Kent State falls to Robert Morris, beats Southern

Tyler McIntosh

Kent State’s women’s basketball team opened its season with mixed results at the Fifth Third Classic this weekend at Marshall.

The Flashes got off to a shaky start when they lost Friday to Robert Morris, but came back with a convincing 85-51 win over Southern in the consolation game on Saturday.

Nineteen points by senior guard Sarah Burgess and a 20-6 second-half run were not enough for Kent State as it lost to Robert Morris 74-73 in the opening round on Friday.

The Flashes came out of the locker room and quickly gained a 10-4 lead before the game was four minutes old.

However, fouls, turnovers and the Colonials’ Natasha Summerville kept the game from getting out of hand.

Kent State (1-1) had four players with two fouls apiece in the first half, but Robert Morris (1-1) was only able to hit 9-of-17 first-half foul shots. The Flashes turned the ball over 23 times on Friday.

Summerville scored 17 of her game-high 26 points in the opening half. Robert Morris ended the half on a 26-17 spurt and took a 40-38 lead into intermission.

Senior guard Kristen Peoples’ debut for Kent State went as good as anyone could have expected. Peoples had 14 points, hit two 3-pointers and took two charges from Robert Morris forward Chinata Nesbit. Peoples also dished out a team-high four assists.

Robert Morris extended its lead to nine early in the second half, which prompted Kent State coach Bob Lindsay to call a timeout with 15 minutes and 36 seconds to play. After the timeout, Kent State would

erase the deficit.

For the next 6 minutes and 51 seconds, the Flashes outscored the Colonials 20-6 to give the Flashes a 61-54 lead. Peoples and Burgess shared the scoring load with two unlikely sources of offense.

Senior Center Tiffany LaFleur, who averaged just three points per game last season, scored six of her 11 points in the second half. LaFleur also collected 11 rebounds and three blocks to get her first double-double of her career.

Meanwhile, sophomore forward Samantha Scull came off the bench to score 13 points to go along with seven rebounds.

It looked as if Kent State’s balanced scoring was going to be enough to win its fourth straight season opener, but Robert Morris had other plans as they rallied to take a 74-73 lead with 1:42 remaining.

The Flashes had one last chance. Coming out of a timeout, Kent State got the ball to senior guard La’kia Stewart who was unable to convert in the paint. Stewart’s shot missed and was rebounded by Burgess. Robert Morris’ place in the finals was sealed when Burgess’s 3-point shot at the buzzer harmlessly hit off the rim. Kent State failed to score for the final 4 minutes of the game.

However, Kent State salvaged its weekend by beating Southern 85-51 in Saturday’s consolation game. Peoples led Kent State with 16 points and eight assists in her performance.

Southern (0-2) quickly found itself down 6-0. Kent State would not relinquish its lead for the rest of the game.

In part of an 11-0 run to end the first half, freshman guard Jamilah Humes hit two 3-pointers to give Kent State a 40-25 lead at the end of the first half. Humes finished the game with 11 points.

Twelve points is as close as Southern would get in the second half. After that, Kent State’s defense continued its dominance and put Southern away for good 85-51.

The Flashes totaled 16 steals, four blocks and held Southern to just 27.7 percent from the field.

Stewart and LaFleur did the grunt work for Kent State on Saturday. Stewart totaled 11 points and 13 rebounds. The 13 rebounds broke the previous Fifth Third Classic record.

LaFleur contributed six points, eight rebounds and two blocks. For the tournament, LaFleur collected 19 rebounds and five blocks.

Burgess added 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. Burgess received all-tournament honors after posting 34 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in two games.

The Flashes shot 47.5 percent from the field and out rebounded the Jaguars 49 to 39.

Kent State will play Northern Arizona (1-2) in the first round of the La Quinta Inn & Suites Thanksgiving Tournament 7 p.m. Friday.

Contact sports reporter Tyler McIntosh at [email protected].