Flashes open conference with 2-1 record over break

Matt Gottfried

While Kent State students and faculty spent the past few weeks relaxing and enjoying some much needed time away from campus, the women’s basketball team was hard at work in its quest for a conference title.

The Flashes, who entered the break with a 4-1 record, went 5-4 over the four-week span. Among those victories were two timely wins over conference foes Akron and Ohio, but not before dropping their first back-to-back losses of the season in their trips to Texas and Hawaii.

Against the Rainbow Wahine, the Flashes managed to hit just 6-of-17 from the free throw line following a 15-hour plane ride the previous day. The poor performance from the line resulted in a 61-55 loss and was followed by another disappointing 67-56 defeat two days later.

Yet despite the losses, players such as junior La’kia Stewart still enjoyed the warm Hawaiian climate.

“Hawaii was definitely my favorite part of break,” Stewart said. “We got to stay there the longest out of all the places we went to and go to see a lot of places we hadn’t been to before. We went out to the beach a couple times and went shopping, plus a few of us went to see Pearl Harbor. It was a lot of fun.”

In addition to Hawaii, the team also made stops at New York and Texas. While in New York, Kent State defeated St. Bonaventure behind senior forward Lindsay Shearer’s fourth straight 20-plus scoring attack. One week later, the Flashes were in Corpus Christi for the Flint Hills Resources Islanders Classic. After winning the opening contest against Alcorn State 82-59, Kent State fell to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 64-48 to end its tournament run.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the break for the Flashes came after the team’s return from Hawaii. With its first losing skid of the season in progress, Kent State traveled to Ohio looking to not only put an end to that streak, but also to open Mid-American Conference play on a winning note.

Despite turning the ball over 21 times in the first half, the Bobcats found themselves down only six at half-time behind a 6-of-8 shooting performance from 3-point range. However, freshman Rachel Bennett made sure that was as close as they would get through the remainder of the game. Bennett recorded a game high 23-points to guide the Flashes to an 83-73 win.

“I think with each game she’s been getting a lot of experience with all the minutes she’s been playing,” Stewart said. “I think she’s getting a feel for the college game and what it’s like to play in this conference.”

Kent State followed that win two days later with the 62-38 win over Akron – its 13th-straight victory over the Zips. The win improved their home record to a perfect 5-0, where they finished 10-1 last season.

“We were kind of disappointed with how we played in Hawaii,” junior Kerrie James said. “I think it was really important that we came out and started conference play strong.”

“It was real important for us that we opened with a win on the road,” Stewart added. “It was good to get that first win out of the way early in conference play.”

The 14-game home winning-streak came to a close this past Saturday though, when Kent State fell to Bowling Green 61-58. Though a valiant run late in the game tied the contest at 58-58 with 1:32 remaining, the Falcons pulled out the 61-58 win to remain undefeated in the conference at 3-0.

“I think one of the main things we took from that game was realizing we need to come out ready to play the full game,” James said. “We weren’t all there in the first half and started real slow. We just needed need a few more minutes.”

At the halfway point of the season, the Flashes record now stands at 9-5, 2-1 in the MAC. That record places them second to only the Falcons in the conference rankings, keeping them in position to obtain their goal of winning the MAC championship.

“I think we can play better than what we’ve done so far this season,” Stewart said. “Obviously our record could be better, but we know where we are at and what we’re capable of doing. We know what we have to do to win the conference and that’s what we have our minds set on right now.”

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