Flashes look to stabilize against Northern Illinois

Joe Murphy

Guard Melissa DeGrate attempts a shot during the Flashes’ 57-35 victory Saturday.

Credit: Andrew popik

After a week of extreme highs and lows, it seems to be back to normal for the Flashes.

In a span of 72 hours, the Kent State women’s basketball team played one of its worst road games, then bounced back to win its first conference road game, all while earning coach Bob Lindsay’s 300th win and Lindsay Shearer’s 1,000th point.

Busy week.

Kent State (13-8, 6-4 Mid-American Conference) now looks to keep its home unbeaten streak alive tonight at 7 when it takes on Northern Illinois (6-14, 3-6 MAC) out of the West Division.

It was one week ago that the Flashes were in Huntington, W. Va., battling for first place with the Thundering Herd. While they did battle back late in the game, the hole was too big to climb out of.

They would have needed to be airlifted.

After being down by 12 at the half, Marshall pushed the lead to 22 before a Malika Willoughby hot streak brought the Flashes within a reasonable deficit. But 24 turnovers for Kent State on offense helped Marshall run up the score. A usually reliable defense fared equally as well, as five Marshall players reached double figures in scoring. After only giving up an average of 61 points per game, the Flashes collapsed inside and allowed a season-high 84.

“Quite honestly, in the Marshall game, our defense was embarrassing,” coach Bob Lindsay said. “If our defense is playing well, we have a chance to win some games. If it isn’t, we don’t. That’s just the way it is.”

The team’s second opportunity in the week to pick up its first road win came against Akron on Saturday. Lindsay also had his second shot at win No. 300 against a much-improved Akron team.

Early on, it was Akron that set the pace of the game. Despite good defensive pressure from the Flashes, the Zips managed to hit shots from the perimeter, something the Flashes did not do. The second-best 3-point shooting team in the MAC hit the locker room 0-of-7 from behind the arc, four of which came from senior guard Melissa DeGrate. No. 30 was 0-of-4 at the half, some of which could’ve been mistaken for passes.

“I couldn’t make a shot to save my life,” DeGrate said. “I knew if I worked hard on defense, I could get some steals and get some easy lay-ups. That’s what I was concentrating on. I know I need Lindsay (Shearer) on the court with me. I knew I had to keep us in the game somehow, so defense was the main focus.”

Shearer sat most of the first half after picking up two quick fouls. Shearer and DeGrate brought the offense in the second half, and all five players on the court brought the defense. Double-teams and aggressive defense forced Akron to close its eyes and shoot. The result: 10 second-half points and 35 for the game — Kent State’s best defensive performance in nine years.

Now, four days later, the Flashes step back onto the hardwood of the M.A.C. Center, hoping Saturday’s team shows up to play. The last time the two teams played, Northern Illinois came back from 13 points down and won on a shot in the final seconds.

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