Women’s hoops takes final win

Matt Gottfried

In its final tune-up before the Mid-American Conference Tournament begins next week, the Kent State women’s basketball team seized a 15-0 run early in the first half to defeat Buffalo 73-59.

The win marks the second time this season the Flashes (19-8, 12-4 MAC) have defeated the Bulls (8-18, 3-12 MAC). In their first meeting, senior forward Lindsay Shearer scored 28 points and hauled in 15 rebounds for a 73-59 victory.

This time, she showed no let-up.

Shearer scored a game-high 24 points and raked in 13 boards despite being held to just four points in the first half. Her 20-plus point effort marked the 18th time this season she reached the feat. It also continued her streak of seven-straight 20-plus games.

“In the first half, our guards kept hitting shots from the outside, so Lindsay didn’t get a lot of touches,” said Lori Bodnar, Kent State associate coach. “In the second half though, we worked to get her the ball, and she had a lot more touches. You have to give credit to her; she finished a lot of those tough shots.”

Those 24 points moved her into sole possession of fourth place in Kent State history with 1,731 career points, surpassing former player Ann Forbes.

Shearer’s performance led the Flashes to their 17-straight win against the Bulls, who have yet to hand their conference rival a loss.

Junior guard La’kia Stewart also continued to make her case for the MAC’s Sixth Man of the Year award, as she scored nine points and hauled in nine rebounds off the bench to narrowly miss her sixth double-double of the season. Kent State also got help from the perimeter for the first time in a number of games, as freshman Rachel Bennett drained eight points and senior Malika Willoughby sunk nine. Willoughby also added six assists to her league-leading 140.

“In the first two or three minutes, we came out and hit three treys,” Bodnar said. “That drew out their defense and opened up the whole floor, which let La’kia and Malika get some nice looks.”

Shearer, who leads the MAC with 20.6 points per game, learned earlier in the day she has another average that has gained national attention. That average is 3.95 and has nothing to do with basketball.

It’s her grade point average.

Shearer was named the 2006 ESPN The Magazine Women’s Basketball (University Division) Academic All-American of the Year, becoming the first Kent State student to receive this honor.

With the regular season now coming to a close, Shearer said she hopes to continue through the MAC tournament and reach the NCAA Tournament.

That quest begins March 8 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, as the Flashes earned a first-round bye in the MAC tournament with a 63-48 win over Miami Saturday. Though Kent State’s opponent has not been determined, the path to the NCAA Tournament likely will have to pass through No. 1 seeds Bowling Green (24-2, 15-0 MAC) and Eastern Michigan (20-6, 14-1 MAC).

“The first thing we are going to do is try and get healthy,” Bodnar said. “With this team, you can’t take too much time off. You have to stay focused and be ready to play. Since we don’t know who we will play until Saturday, we’ll have to spend the next week preparing for three different teams.”

Contact women’s basketball reporter Matt Gottfried at [email protected].