With 4:42 left in the game, Kent State women’s basketball team was down by 10 against Robert Morris University.
With 33 seconds left, Kent State was down by six.
With 12 seconds left, Kent State was down by four.
And then, with seven seconds left, sophomore forward Lindsey Thall hit a three pointer and the Flashes were down by one.
With four seconds left in the game, Robert Morris’ sophomore guard Isabella Posset was making an inbound pass. Freshman guard Katie Shumate tipped the ball into the air, and senior guard Megan Carter grabbed it. Carter took one quick step towards the basket before making a clean layup.
“We got a tip, and I just scooped it up, looked up and I saw the basket and I didn’t see anybody in front of me, so I shot it,” Carter said. “And it went in. And I was yelling for everybody to get back.”
With one second left in the game, Kent State had its largest lead of the game. They lead by one point.
“I was like, well with that kind of time, we’ve got to get a deflection,” coach Todd Starkey said. “So we put Katie, whose bouncy, and Lindsey, whose long, on it. I said ‘you’ve got four hands in there. Get one on the ball.’ The rest of the three were just playing safety, like in football. I said ‘shoot the gap, find a way to get a steal.’ And Megan had enough wherewithal to be like, ‘oh, I’ve got to score quick.’”
It was Carter’s second game winner of the season, the first coming on a buzzer beater against Duquesne.
“Once Megan got that steal, I was like ‘okay, I trust Megan,’” freshman forward Nila Blackford said. “She’s unbelievable. So I was like, ‘alright, we got it.’”
Blackford had 31 points and nine rebounds. 16 points and six rebounds came in the second half.
“We really wanted to get the ball to Nila a lot in the second half,” Starkey said. “They were helping so heavy on Lindsey, so we really used her as a decoy in a lot of plays to get Nila open on the inside. And then Nila did a great job of finishing down the stretch.”
Blackford’s 31 points are the most scored by a Kent State freshman in a single game since Ellie Shields scored 31 points against Toledo on Jan. 30, 2008.
“I was just really trying to be aggressive,” Blackford said. “You know, help my team out by being that tough component and snagging boards and making physical plays.”
Robert Morris’ top scorer was senior center Nneka Ezeigbo with 18 points. Ezeigbo had seven points in the second half.
“Ezeigbo was a load,” Starkey said. “Eight for nine from the floor, she’s a very good talent. But I’ll take Nila’s 11 for 16 any day.”
At the half, Kent State was down 42-30. Robert Morris made 53.6 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half. Kent State made 39.1 percent.
“We just kept telling them, ‘listen, we haven’t done a whole lot right,’” Starkey said. “”They’re making every shot they take, contested or otherwise. Hang around, hang around, hang around. Give us an opportunity at the end.’ And we did and we took advantage of it.”
In the second half, Robert Morris made 46.4 percent of its field goal attempts. Kent State made 59.4 percent.
“We’re going to give Coach Starkey a heart attack, with the way we play,” Carter said. “But I’m proud of this team. Nila went off for 31. That game winner isn’t possible without Nila’s 31.”
Contact Gina Butkovich at firstname.lastname@example.org