For a scoreless full eight minutes, the Kent State women’s basketball team held their opponent at 36 points and took a 15-point lead four minutes into the fourth quarter.
“We did a good job of forcing them into tough shots and keeping them off the glass,” coach Todd Starkey said. “We also really put emphasis on knowing what the other team's strengths are. And we did a pretty good job of that.”
The Flashes defeated St. Bonaventure 64-53 Friday to go 6-1 overall on the season. That’s the team’s best start to a season since 2010.
Kent State made 22-of-57 shots in the field and totaled 18 second-chance points. The Bonnies, who are 5-2 overall, managed only 43 shot attempts. This is the fewest shots any team has been able to take against KSU so far this season and the fewest St. Bonaventure has attempted this season.
Starkey said this strong defensive performance heavily contributed to the night’s win.
“We said in the summer and in the preseason that we’re going to have to rely on our defense to be solid every night,” Starkey said, “Because there's nights like tonight, defense and rebounding are something that you can take with you everywhere and you can depend on it.”
Despite taking as much as an eight-point lead during the first quarter, Starkey said it still felt like the team was “playing in mud.”
“It felt like we weren’t making any progress, but we were doing a lot of work,” Starkey said. “We had to battle through that all night. But we found a way to win.”
Senior guard Mariah Modkins started the first quarter off with a three-pointer, which set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Flashes ended the first quarter 19-13, but St. Bonaventure caught up to 19-18 in the early minutes of the second quarter.
“We let St. Bonaventure bully us a little bit in the beginning of the game,” Starkey said. “But we got a lot tougher in the second half."
The Bonnies did not catch up the rest of the second quarter, and the Flashes went into halftime 26-24.
KSU stayed ahead the entire third quarter by at least six points, but with four minutes to go the Bonnies got two three pointers to bring the score to 40-36.
However, for the next eight minutes, KSU took off and did not let up.
The Flashes scored the next eleven points. Junior forward Nila Blackford scored two free throws in the third quarter and a layup in the fourth.
Kent State brought this momentum into the final minutes of the night and maintained double-digit leads in the fourth quarter until SBU shot a three-pointer to bring the score to 58-52.
Three KSU players had high numbers in rebounds: senior guard Hannah Young with nine and Blackford and senior forward Lindsey Thall with eight.
Blackford scored 16 total points Friday night, but Young and Thall did not put any points on the board. Despite not scoring, Starkey said their performance contributed to the team’s success.
“Their performance is a testament to them just doing whatever it takes to win,” Starkey said.
“This team has really started to figure out that there's more than one way to add value to the team. In a tough, gritty game like that, where it seems like you're not quite getting into a flow, you can still win basketball games by doing the hard things.”
Junior guard Katie Shumate led the team with 19 points.
Junior forward Bexley Wallace also played her first minutes in a Kent State uniform after recovering from an Achilles injury from last season.
The Flashes play Duquesne (4-4) in their first of four consecutive home games at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the M.A.C. Center.
Starkey hopes for a big crowd.
“This is a great group to cheer for,” Starkey said. “They're high-character young women, and they play hard. I'm excited and proud to coach them, and I think our fan base will continue to galvanize and continue to support them as we go through the season.”
Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.