Flashes look to continue winning streak or go home in second round of tournament

Joe Murphy

Seven straight wins mean nothing if it’s followed by one loss in the Mid-American Conference tournament.

For the Flashes, it isn’t about extending the win streak to eight or nine straight games. It’s about getting to win No. 10 — and winning the tournament.

The first step toward a MAC championship comes at 5:30 tonight as No. 2 Kent State (19-8) battles No. 7 Ohio (13-15) at Gund Arena.

It was one year ago tomorrow the Flashes dropped a second-round matchup in the tournament. After eight straight wins to end the season, Kent State dropped a 64-58 decision to Marshall to end its season.

It’s been a little more than a week since the Flashes wrapped up the regular season in convincing fashion. Senior guard and first-team All-MAC selection Melissa DeGrate finished with a career-high 30 points, and the Flashes finished with a season-high 87 points.

But the seven wins have come in large part from the defensive end, as Kent State has put the clamps on opponents and held them to 42.2 points a game in the span. Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said his team is playing with confidence and is ready to get back to competition.

“I think we’re tired of practicing, quite honestly,” Lindsay said. “I think we’d rather play games than practice. But right now they have confidence in themselves in the way they defend and how hard they play. They have as much confidence as anybody else in this league in terms of their ability to win the tournament.”

The week off gave Tiffany Kelly a chance to heal her left ankle, which she injured in the regular season finale against Buffalo. Kelly is listed as day-to-day, which could give Kerrie James a return to the starting lineup.

If seven straight wins isn’t enough of a confidence boost for the Flashes, a 35-point win against Ohio the last time out can’t hurt either. The Flashes also have never lost to the Bobcats in postseason play, holding a 5-0 advantage.

While it may be hard to stay focused on the task at hand, Lindsay said tonight’s game will set the pace for the rest of the tournament.

“You have to look at the bigger picture,” he said. “You have to win three games in the tournament, not just one. You’ve gotta play well to do it. You’re not just going to show and play poorly in one game and play great in the next two. It’s just not going to happen. Your focus is on how well you’re playing, and the opponent is really secondary to that.”

In Ohio’s favor, it holds one win over the Flashes already this season. The Bobcats also are coming off their biggest win of the season, as they coasted to a 71-43 win in their first-round match against Central Michigan.

Contact women’s basketball reporter Joe Murphy at [email protected].