Stewart’s double-double guides Flashes to 68-55 conference win

Matt Gottfried

Junior forward La’kia Stewart goes up for the shot against Ball State guard Kelsey Corbin last night at the M.A.C. Center. The Flashes won 68-55. STEPHANIE J. SMITH | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Injuries and early foul trouble forced the Kent State women’s basketball team (14-7, 7-3 Mid-American Conference) to play without its top two scorers for much of last night’s 68-55 win over Ball State (13-8, 6-4 MAC).

Junior Sarah Burgess, who averages 10.2 points per game, reaggravated a back injury earlier this week and sat on the bench the entire game. The MAC’s leading scorer, Lindsay Shearer, took a seat beside Burgess five minutes into the game after getting into early foul trouble.

“Those are the kind of situations where you find out who the players are,” Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said. “When your go-to players go out, there are other players that have to step up and make plays.”

Junior forward La’kia Stewart proved she could make up for their absence.

Stewart finished one rebound shy of a double-double at halftime, heading into the half with 12 points and nine rebounds. Her effort provided the Flashes with all the support they would need as they went into halftime with a 27-24 lead.

“La’kia stepped up there and really made an impact for us,” Lindsay said. “She became the go-to player for us. When she is really active out there she can go get them.”

Coming into the second half, Shearer came back on the court and made an immediate impact. After playing just five minutes in the first half, Shearer scored eight straight points over a two minute period for a 40-33 lead at the 15:15 mark.

“She spent the whole first half just sitting on the bench watching,” Lindsay said. “She couldn’t play without fouling people, but came out of the half and drained a basket, plus one. That seemed to really get her going the rest of the game.”

Sitting on the bench isn’t something Shearer is accustomed to, but she made the most of the situation.

“It’s frustrating seeing the clock at 15-16 minutes and knowing you’re not going to play until the next half,” Shearer said. “It’s a chance to see what’s going on out on the floor, and I noticed some weakness by their post players. The second half we did a good job of attacking down in the key and that helped.”

The Flashes, who shot 25 percent through the first 10 minutes of the game, outscored Ball State 41-31 in the final half for the 68-55 victory.

Shearer finished the game with a game-high 20 points, shooting 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. She also hauled in five rebounds, while Stewart’s career-high 15 boards led the team.

“I was proud of La’kia,” Shearer said. “Any time she goes out there and plays hard she’s going to get easy buckets and boards. It seemed like any time we needed a big rebound or score she was there tonight.”

Julie DeMuth, Ball State sophomore guard, continued her dominance against Kent State on the boards, as she raked in a career-high 18 rebounds. That number, which matches last year’s total against the Flashes, adds up to 36 career rebounds against her conference rival in her first two seasons with the Cardinals.

“She had 10 defensive rebounds at the half,” Lindsay said. “I told the team in the locker room that a lot of those had to do with us not contesting the boards. We started to crash them a lot more the second half, and that allowed us to stay in the game.”

The Flashes next will be in action Saturday when they take on Northern Illinois (9-11, 5-4 MAC), a team that has won three of its last four.

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