Kent State women’s basketball 2018-19 season ended in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) against Baylor University. It was the second time in three years the Flashes were invited to the tournament and the first time since 1996 the team won a postseason game (against Green Bay).
This season, the Flashes are already off to a strong start despite being 1-2 in the Mid American Conference. Kent State is 8-6 after playing tough components like Ohio State, Purdue and No. 24 University of Michigan.
The Flashes are playing with a slightly older team than last year. Sophomores Asiah Dingle and Lindsey Thall returned to the lineup and have played consistently well. Dingle posted a season-high in total points against Youngstown State, the team’s second game of the season, with 19 points. Her season high in rebounds was against Ball State on Jan. 8 with eight rebounds.
“We've got a roster full of really good players and whether it's me not communicating clearly enough to them, I got to continue to coach them better and they got to continue to play better and be aggressive," coach Todd Starkey said in a post-game interview Jan.11.
Dingle is already averaging more minutes of playing time than last season with an average of 29.1 whereas last season she averaged 28.3 minutes of playing time. Dingle has also averaged more rebounds (4.1), almost doubling her average from last season (2.9).
“If she finishes a little bit better. This isn't a close game. I mean she's getting some good looks. It's just a matter of her finishing and she's frustrated with it. She wants to get better at it too. But when we're playing that way and she's able to push tempo in that type of thing, it really puts the defense on their heels a little bit. So she's continuing to learn how to do that. And it's tough for a point guard when you have three players in the court that you didn’t play with last year. So she's relearning that a little bit as well,” Starkey said.
Thall is also averaging more playing time this season (29.3) than last season (28.9), but her average in rebounds has decreased. Last season Thall averaged 4.7 rebounds while this season she has averaged 3.8.
With redshirt senior Megan Carter being the only senior to consistently start, the Flashes have relied on freshman guard Katie Shumate and freshman forward Nila Blackford. Carter, who is currently sick and out indefinitely, has improved on her 3-point percentage and her free throw percentage.
“But we've got pieces to do some really nice things and it's just a matter of finding a way. Once again, there's a learning curve here. We've been playing against teams with a lot of experience. And conference play is different,” coach Todd Starkey said. “We have three freshmen playing major minutes and you don't know what you don't know until you get in there and see it. And now Katie and Claire and Nila are learning conference is tough. Every game, every possession is a battle. And so you don't really know how that looks until you get in the middle of it and learn from it.”
Shumate posted her season high in total points with 20 against Western Michigan Saturday, Jan. 12. She also led the Flashes that day in rebounds with eight.
“She's a great rebounder… and when she keeps that in her mindset, and the forefront of her mind as she's playing, I think she's as good of guard rebounder in the league,” Starkey said.
Shumate is learning to adjust to playing at a collegiate level. She said one thing that differs from high school basketball is the level of communication and learning to play with post players.
“I think one of the biggest things about learning to play together in this new team is just the level of communication that I have to compete at now. I have to talk more, I have to be connected to my teammates and then just learning like what everyone can do,” Shumate said.
Kent State will take on Northern Illinois Wednesday in DeKalb, Illinois at 7 p.m
Contact Amanda Levine at firstname.lastname@example.org.