Women’s basketball eliminated from the MAC tournament in loss to Toledo

Kyle Kuchta, Reporter

The Kent State women’s basketball lost twice to Toledo in the regular season.

Friday, in the semifinals the Flashes lost for a third time, scoring the lowest amount of points out of the three matchups. 

Kent State is now 8-14 overall against Toledo and 4-6 in its last 10 meetings.

“Our shots just didn’t go down today. As good as we shot the ball coming into this we had great looks and it just didn’t go down for us,” coach Todd Starkey said. “Toledo is a heck of a team and there’s a reason why they’re back-to-back regular season champions.”

Second chance opportunities and bench points was the story of this game as UT had 12 second chance points, allowing just five. Toledo’s bench collected over 20 points with KSU having just seven. 

It was an aggressive start of the game as the Flashes recorded the first basket from graduate student forward Lindsey Thall two minutes into the game and only held the Rockets to five points at the five minute mark. 

Over the next scoreless three minutes of play, Toledo’s senior guard Jayda Jansen knocked down a three with 5:43 left to play in the opening quarter. Toledo finished  the quarter on a 5-0 run with a lead of 17-7. 

Senior guard Katie Shumate and senior guard Clare Kelly struggled to start the game as Shumate went 0-of-4 from the field, while Kelly attempted just one shot as she came up empty.

Kent State graduate student Hannah Young and senior Katie Shumate guarding UT Jayda Jansen from making a move during the MAC Tournament Semifinal on March 10, 2023. (Emma Van Winkle )

Kent State was just 2-of-15 from the floor, shooting 13% while only connecting on 1-of-6 three attempts in the first quarter.

Senior guard Jayda Jansen came out strong shooting perfectly from the floor and from three collecting eight points. Senior guard Quinesha Lockett and three of her teammates were only held to just two points. 

Starkey received his first technical foul at the end of the quarter after arguing with the refs about the calls on the court. 

“We we’re trying to adjust to the whistle but it was elusive,” Starkey said. “I’ll just say that it was an elusive whistle today it seemed like.”

Thall cut the lead in half with a jumper to open up the second quarter, making the score 18-9. 

Both teams traded baskets as Toledo maintained the lead going up by seven after Shumate converted on a three. 

After the media timeout with 4:44 left in quarter, Kent State found a spark as junior guard Casey Santoro made a three, capitalizing off of back-to-back turnovers from the Rockets. The lead was cut to just one with 3:16 left in the quarter. What ignited that spark was a fired up coach Starkey.

“Came out of the timeout and the team was pretty fired up too. There may have been a little strategy to that,” Starkey said. “I also thought we started playing with more focus and intensity, defensively we were really tight in that second quarter and we held them to 11 points and then we played through our actions. We got really good shots and we finished.”

KSU then took the lead for the first time 28-27 off Shumate’s layup with just over two minutes to go. UT then took the lead back off a jumper by senior guard Sophia Wiard as that’s how the half ended with a 28-27 Toledo lead.

“There was a lot of what if’s in this game and if we can finish plays early and put some pressure on them then what does that look like,” Starkey said. “We got the shots from the players that we wanted to get the shots from, from the spots that we wanted them. It was difficult, it was a physical game early so I thought that led to some of those things.”

As a team Kent State improved offensively, shooting 53.33% from the floor in the quarter and converted on 3-of-4  3-pointers. 

Thall and Shumate led in points with eight each. Shumate had nine rebounds and was perfect from deep, converting on both three pointers. Santoro had five as the Flashes outscored Toledo in the second quarter 20-11.

Kent State junior Casey Santoro looking for her next play during the MAC Tournament Semifinal game against UT on March 10, 2023. (Emma Van Winkle)

Jansen and Wiard were tied with eight points apiece with junior guard Sammi Mikonowicz leading in rebounds with eight all defensively. 

Both teams went back-and-forth, as the largest lead deficit was four in the opening minutes of the third quarter as both teams traded baskets to maintain a close score of 36-35 with 6:36 to play. 

Over the next four minutes, fouls from both teams occurred, sending two players from Toledo to the line and one from Kent State. 

The next successful field goal didn’t happen until the 2:28 mark off a layup by Toledo’s sophomore forward Jessica Cook. 

Toledo expanded its lead to go up by seven with 0:48 left in the quarter finishing with a 48-42 lead. 

Kent State shot 35% from the floor and 50% from deep to end the third quarter. Toledo shot 40% from the field and just 33% from 3-point range. 

In the final minutes of regulation Kent State cut the lead down to five after a jumper from Shumate with 6:39 to go. The score was 54-49 Toledo.

 Shumate connected on a layup to cut the lead to three in the final four minutes of play. 

Toledo pulled away, going up by nine with just over a minute to go in the final quarter. 

KSU was forced to foul, sending Wiard to the line twice in the final seconds as the lead was pushed to 13 with 0:29 to go. 

“I think we learned a lot this season and we played together more than we ever have. We were just a really tight group this year, we played hard and we played for each other,” Shumate said. “It’s tough to end like this and Toledo is a really good team. I wouldn’t want to have done it with any other girls.”

In the 40 minutes of play, KSU shot 35% from the field and three and shot 75% at the free throw line. Kent State only had the lead once in this game and was outscored 32-24 in the paint.

Shumate finished with her second double-double in the tournament scoring 21 points with 12 rebounds and three blocks. Thall was second on the team in scoring with 15 points and converting on 7-of-14 attempts. 

The Rockets shot 46.2% from the field and 40% from three as a team. 

Starkey couldn’t stress enough on what his seniors meant to him this season. 

“It’s hard to put into words. They’ve conducted themselves better than any coach could hope for not only as basketball players they really have fought hard to get better every single year but with them in the classroom with the majors that they’ve got,” Starkey said. “To win 20 regular season games with a team that has a 3.71 cumulative GPA, this is an exceptional group, they’re like daughters to me. I think we’ve got more basketball left to play but what an incredible group to have the honor to coach.”

Toledo will play the No. 2 seed Bowling Green in the championship finals.

Kyle Kuchta is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]