Flashes rebound from first conference loss with overtime thriller

Matt Gottfried

Senior point guard Malika Willoughby goes up for a shot against Bowling Green’s #20 Kate Achter during last Saturday’s game. The Flashes defeated Miami in an overtime thriller 83-78 last night.

Credit: Ben Breier

For a moment it looked as if the Kent State women’s basketball team hadn’t learned its lesson.

After coming out flat in its first Mid-American Conference loss of the season to Bowling Green Saturday night, Kent State found itself in a 15-point deficit at half-time en route to a 61-58 defeat.

Last night the Flashes again started slow, falling victim to senior guard Cindi Merrill and her RedHawks’ hot three-point shooting in the opening half for a 16-point deficit heading into half-time. Miami drained seven of its 11 attempts from long range in the opening half and added 11 more points from the free throw for a 39-23 advantage.

But then something happened at half-time.

With a new source of energy under their feet, the Flashes stormed out of the locker room with a vengeance to reel off a 17-3 run to cut their deficit to 42-40. A Lindsay Shearer jumper a few minutes later then brought the game to a 44-44 tie at the 13 minute and 18 second mark, before abruptly being followed by back-to-back treys from the Kent State forward to hand the Flashes their first lead of the game at 50-46 just moments later.

The two conference rivals proceeded to trade baskets back and forth through the duration of the next few minutes before the RedHawks found themselves on top again at 59-56 after another Merrill trey. But then Shearer drained her sixth-straight point for the Flashes at the 5:49 mark for a 60-59, sealing what seemed to be the final blow to the RedHawks.

Miami, however, refused to reward Kent State with a conference win in light of its amazing comeback. The RedHawks hung with the Flashes point-for-point up until the final seconds of regulation, sending the game into overtime tied at 70-70.

Once in overtime, Kent State controlled the tempo throughout the entire frame to finish with the 83-78 victory.

With the win, the Flashes, now 10-5, remain in contention for the MAC title run with their 3-1 conference record. But their quest for a ring nearly took a big hit due in large part to their second consecutive slow start.

Merrill played a large role in Miami’s quick burst, as she struck early and often from long-range. In fact, by the time the Flashes recovered from Merrill’s offensive barrage, they were already down 13-4.

The senior started the RedHawk offense with an open lay-up, then responded with back-to-back treys to go ahead 8-2. Merrill then added two more of her 29 points of the night from the free-throw line, and before the Flashes knew it, they had dug themselves in yet another early hole that it seemed as if they would be unable to climb out of.

But behind clutch shooting from Shearer and a strong performance from junior forward La’kia Stewart off the bench, Kent State managed to erase its early woes for at least one more game. Shearer finished with 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the floor, including hitting all three attempts from long range. Stewart added 17 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double, while junior post Mallorie Griffith and freshman Rachel Bennett also reached double figures with 15 and 13 points, respectively.

The Flashes will continue MAC play Saturday when they host Buffalo at 2 p.m.

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