Women’s basketball secures second WNIT win in program history


David Dermer

The Kent State women’s basketball team celebrates its win over Youngstown State University in the first round of the WNIT in Youngstown, Ohio March 16.

Kathryn Rajnicek, Reporter

Kent State’s women’s basketball team (19-11, 10-10 MAC) beat Youngstown State University (24-7, 18-4 Horizon League) by a final score of 68-59 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

“I think the biggest thing is we didn’t do these miraculous things,” coach Todd Starkey said on the Kent State Radio Postgame Show. “We were just doing those ordinary things over and over again that lead to wins. Really solid defense, we did a great job in the second half talking defensively. Great second half. Really proud of our team, and we’ll get a chance to move on.”

The win was the program’s first WNIT win since 2019 when Kent State beat Green Bay to advance to the second round.

“This program hadn’t won a postseason game since 1996 when we got here,” Starkey said. “This is the second postseason win that we’ve had  in the last three years. So, really proud of where our program is and the progression of it.”

The Flashes beat the Penguins in Youngstown, a place where YSU has been fairly dominant this season, finishing with a 14-4 record at home.

Kent State and Youngstown played a fairly even first quarter with each team shooting 50 percent from the field on 6-of-12 shooting. The Flashes were 3-of-4 from the three-point line while the Penguins were 2-of-5 from the three-point line in the first quarter. The only main first quarter difference was Youngstown took and made two free throws while the Flashes had no free throw attempts in the quarter. The Flashes were down 16-15 after one quarter of play.

The Flashes struggled shooting from the three-point line in the second quarter shooting 16.7 percent on 1-of-6 shooting from the three-point line while the Penguins shot 50 percent on 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range. Overall, KSU shot 40 percent in the second quarter compared to Youngstown’s 46.2 percent. Despite ending the quarter on an 11-4 run, the Flashes found themselves down 33-30 at the half.

Kent State continued the offensive success it found in the second quarter in the third quarter of play. The Flashes shot 50 percent overall and 50 percent from three-point range in the third quarter including a 13-0 run in the quarter. Defensively, KSU held Youngstown to 10 points on just two made field goals on 16.7 percent shooting in the third quarter. The Flashes took a 48-43 lead into the final 10 minutes of play.

“They [Youngstown] were mixing it up, man and zone in the second half, and we just told them when we came to the first timeout to just run our stuff,” Starkey said. “We don’t have to do anything special against the zone to try and exploit it.”

The Flashes continued their offensive success in the fourth quarter, shooting 53.8 percent overall in the quarter compared to the Penguins 40 percent shooting. Kent State went on to win 68-59 Wednesday.

“We didn’t get caught on the flare screen threes, like we were in the first half, and then we just executed,” Starkey said.

Overall, Kent State shot 48.1 percent and 38.1 percent from three-point range.

“We really tried to pound it inside,” Starkey said. “We felt like we had the advantage there.”

The Flashes set a single-season record for made three-point field goals when freshman forward Jenna Batsch knocked down the team’s 242nd made three-point field goal on the season.

Leading the way for the Flashes was senior forward Lindsey Thall with 15 points and junior guard Katie Shumate with 13 points.

“I thought Lindsey Thall had a great second half, just really patient, rebounded the ball,” Starkey said.

Batsch added 11 points off the bench in her postseason debut with Kent.

“I think most of the season I’ve kind of played hesitant, and tonight I just kind of went out with no fear and credit to my teammates, they got me good looks, and it worked out in my favor,” Batsch said on the Kent State Radio Postgame Show.

Youngstown shot 38.5 percent overall and 33.3 percent from behind the three-point line.

Leading the way for the Penguins was sophomore guard Malia Magestro with 16 points, senior forward Lilly Ritz with 14 points and redshirt senior guard Chelsea Olson, who left the game with a lower leg injury, with 11 points.

KSU outrebounded Youngstown 35-21, and junior forward Nila Blackford and freshman forward Bridget Dunn led the way with six rebounds each for the Flashes. The Penguins leading rebounder was junior guard Mady Aulbach with six boards.

“I thought on the glass we did a great job,” Starkey said. “35-21 on the glass. Kept them off the offensive boards.”

The Flashes turned the ball over 17 times which accounted for 20 Youngstown points while the Penguins turned the ball over 12 times which accounted for 15 Kent State points.

“We didn’t turn the ball over like we did in the first half,” Starkey said. “We had 10 turnovers that turned into 13 points for them and so that was difficult.”

Kent State will face the winner of the University of Toledo (26-5, 19-1 MAC) versus Houston Baptist University (16-10, 12-2 Southland Conference) matchup that will take place Friday at 7 p.m. in Toledo. Toledo won the Mid-American Conference regular season championship, but lost in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament. Houston Baptist University won the Southland Conference regular season title, but lost in the semifinals of the Southland Conference tournament.

Round two of the WNIT will take place between March 19-21 and specific dates and times are yet to be determined.

Kathryn Rajnicek is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]