Flashes turn on second-half heat

Joshua Hudson

Melissa DeGrate shoots a layup on her way to a career-high 32-point game in last night’s 93-74 win against Ohio. The women’s team plays tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. at Gund Arena in Cleveland.

Credit: Andrew popik

CLEVELAND — The Mid-American Conference’s best defensive team allowed 50 points in the first half.

Good thing there was a second half.

Kent State turned up the defensive pressure and defeated Ohio, 93-74, last night in the MAC tournament quarterfinals at Gund Arena.

A year ago today, the Flashes entered the MAC tournament on an eight-game winning streak but fell to Marshall, 64-58.

Luckily for the Flashes, the result was different this time. They advance to face Marshall in the semifinals tomorrow at Gund Arena.

Last night, the outcome was in doubt after the first half.

After holding the Bobcats to just 39 points in their last meeting, the Flashes’ defense sprung Titanic-sized leaks. They allowed 50 points in the half and allowed the Bobcats to shoot 61 percent from the floor. The Flashes entered the game with the best 3-point defense in the conference but allowed six 3s in the first half.

“There was really nothing sound to anything that we were doing on defense,” Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said. “We didn’t guard them in the first half. I was very disappointed in the defensive performance in the first half.”

Kent State quit treading water in the second half and fixed the leaks. The Flashes held the Bobcats without a field goal for the first seven minutes of the second half. But the final result remained in limbo for much of the second half.

Enter Lindsay Shearer and Melissa DeGrate.

Both were named to the All-MAC first team earlier this week, and they scored 15 of the Flashes’ 24 points to start the second half.

“I wanted to help my team win and that’s all,” DeGrate said. “I didn’t want to go home right now. I don’t want our season to be over yet. I want to play.”

DeGrate scored a game- and career-high 32 points. Shearer added 12 points, all in the second half.

Sophomore guard La’Kia Stewart matched her career-high with 18 points, while junior Tiffany Kelly added 13.

“We scored 93 points, so I am not going to argue with it,” Lindsay said. “It was like an open gym out there.”

DeGrate hit a 3 that put the Flashes up, 79-68, with 4:20 left in the game.

While the Flashes fell in the quarterfinal round last year, Lindsay said this team is playing harder and better defensively.

“I don’t know if we are capable of winning the whole thing,” he said, “but this team certainly wants to win it.”

Contact women’s basketball reporter Joshua Hudson at [email protected].