Women’s basketball season ends in loss to Syracuse

Kyle Kuchta, Reporter

Over the last eight games, the Kent State women’s basketball team turned the ball over less than 10 times a game.

Wednesday in Syracuse, New York, the Flashes turned the ball over 19 times in a 84-56 loss to Syracuse in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

KSU finishes the season 21-11 as the team’s year comes to an end. Syracuse moves on to the round of 32 improving to a 19-12 overall record.

Syracuse is now 5-0 in the first round. This was Kent State’s biggest loss of the season in point differential.

“You got to have a lot of things go your way in order to try and beat them on the road,” coach Todd Starkey said. “We had a really good first quarter and obviously struggled with turnovers.”

The Flashes traded baskets with Syracuse early on and led by three at the end of the opening quarter 16-13. This was the only time that Kent State outscored Syracuse in any quarter in this game.

KSU held the lead for the whole quarter until graduate student forward Asia Strong took the lead for Syracuse converting on both free throws with four minutes to go in the quarter.

The Flashes took the lead back with just over two minutes to play, holding Syracuse scoreless for the final three minutes before graduate student forward Dariauna Lewis hit a jumper to close out the first quarter trailing Kent State.

The Oranges’ leading-scorer senior guard Dyaisha Fair was held scoreless to start the game going 0-of-2 from the field and missed on her only attempted three in the quarter as her only points came off a free throw.

“We were executing and playing through our shots and knocked down open shots,” Starkey said. “Defensively we did a solid job.”

The score remained close throughout the second quarter. Kent State maintained the lead going up by four with 8:19 still to play.

Syracuse held KSU scoreless for the next three minutes, taking the lead 23-21 with just over five minutes to go in the first half.

In the final three minutes before halftime, KSU turned the ball over six times, allowing Syracuse to take a nine-point lead to end the half leading 38-29.

Fair scored 13 of her points in the second quarter finishing the half with 14.

The Flashes shot their best in the second quarter, shooting 50% from the floor and 60% from three.

Senior guard Katie Shumate led the team with seven points and eight rebounds in the half. KSU had seven players in the scoring column.

Syracuse shot 63% from the field, but shot three-of-five from three.

The Flashes had nine turnovers in the second quarter alone. Syracuse scored 25 points off the turnovers.

The second half  was all Syracuse as the lowest lead the Oranges had was seven at the start of the third quarter.

The Flashes scored 15 points collectively in the third quarter with only four players scoring for KSU. Shumate scored nine in the third quarter while only three of her teammates scored two points a piece. Syracuse had a 18-point lead after 30 minutes of play, heading into the final quarter 62-44.

KSU converted on just 7-of-17 shots from the field, only hitting 1-of-5 from deep.

Fair scored 10 points in the quarter, converting on four-of-five shots from the floor and 2-of-3 from deep. Syracuse shot over 50% from the floor as a team while connecting on three 3-pointers.

The story was the same in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Graduate student forward Lindsey Thall had been a sharp shooter shooting .500 or better in six games this season but missed all four shots and ended up scoreless in the fourth quarter.

Junior guard Casey Santoro and senior guard Clare Kelly were tied in points scored in the fourth with just five. Kent State had 12 collectively as a team.

At the media timeout Syracuse made it a 25 point ball game with 4:45 left to go, ending the night with a 28-point differential.

Syracuse finished the game shooting 9-of-18 from the field and 1-of-4 from beyond the arc. Syracuse shot at least 50% or over from the second quarter and on.

Kent State was just 4-of-13 shooting from the floor and shot 11% from 3-point range. All together the Flashes shot 40% from the field and 25% from deep.

Shumate had back-to-back double-doubles coming into this game, tallying another one to end her season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Santoro finished the night with 13 points and led the team in steals with two.

Fair ended with 24 points of her own and Lewis had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Kent State finished 12-6 in the conference with a .667 winning percentage and was 12-3 at home this season.

“It’s been an unbelievable run, I’m really proud of this team. We’ve had some big wins and we’ve had some tough losses,” Starkey said. “I think the loss to Toledo in the conference tournament really weighed on them heavily, they had big goals to get to the NCAA Tournament but came up a little bit short. It’s great to be back in the WNIT.”

Coach Starkey will be busy in the upcoming week as he continues to build his team.

“It’s right back to recruiting, that’s the issue with the transfer portal as we used to be able to rest at the end of the season and now we’re on high alert for transfers and visits,” Starkey said. “We’ll be busy recruiting near the spring and the fall.”

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