Flashes prepare to measure up

Deanna Stevens

In Bowling Green’s first season in the Mid-American Conference East Division, the Kent State women’s basketball team has found themselves in a bird fight for the supremacy in the East. Other than Akron, Bowling Green has proven itself to be a fierce rival for Kent State.

Bowling Green leads the all-time series 34-27. Beginning with last season’s MAC Championship loss, the Flashes have fallen to the Falcons in the past three games. Before the three-game slide, the Flashes were the victors of the past 12 games since 1998.

Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said that Bowling Green’s ability to score from all five positions of the floor makes them a hard match-up for the Flashes.

The developing rivalry comes out of the respect the teams have for each other according to Bowling Green coach Curt Miller.

“I think both teams have a great deal of respect for each other and how hard they play,” Miller said.

But the Flashes are not the only MAC team unable to pull out a win against the Falcons this season. Bowling Green is 25-2 overall and 16-0 in the MAC.

Even though Kent State has yet to beat Bowling Green this season, junior guard La’kia Stewart said it has not added any additional pressure to the team.

“The pressure is on them,” Stewart said. “They’ve already beat us twice so they are expected to do it again. We are the underdogs. But we know we can beat them.”

The 16-game winning streak has given the Falcons national attention. Ranked No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, Bowling Green is the first MAC team to be ranked since Toledo in 1999.

While the Falcons are in the national spotlight, their national ranking brings notoriety to the mid-major conference. And according to Lindsay, the MAC needs all the attention it can get.

“I think the MAC has been starved for exposure,” Lindsay said. “We’ve been on TV – three times as a league.”

Miller says that attention to the conference as a whole is something he is very proud about since other deserving MAC teams have not been so lucky.

“There have been many great teams before us – especially under coach Lindsay – that haven’t gotten the national attention that they should,” Miller said.

The success of the Falcons is connected to the Flashes and their winning ways. Miller learned how to build a successful program like the Flashes’ as a volunteer coach for Lindsay in the early 1990s.

At 19-8, Kent State has just completed their 16th consecutive 16-plus win season under Lindsay, and that sustained success has not gone unnoticed around the conference.

“Kent State is the benchmark for the rest of us,” Miller said. He added that the Flashes’ program is a “measuring stick” for himself as well as other teams in the MAC.

While the Flashes-Falcons rivalry may not seem as intense as the one with the Zips, the bird battle began to heat up last season in the MAC Championship. Kent State lost to Bowling Green 81-75.

This season they will meet in the semi-finals on Friday if both teams win tonight. Kent State faces Ball Sate at 3 p.m. today, while Bowling Green take on Northern Illinois as 5:30 p.m.

Lindsay said that Bowling Green’s experience in the post season, as well as making it to the NCAA Tournament last season, makes them a strong team in this season’s tournament.

The games will be the first for both Kent State and Bowling Green this tournament because both teams earned a bye as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the MAC East.

Contact women’s basketball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected]