Remarkable Turnaround Season Concludes With WNIT Loss
The Kent State University women’s basketball team (19-13) put forth an impressive second-half effort on Thursday, March 16, but ultimately fell 67-60 to a tough University of Michigan Wolverines team (23-9) in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
Despite being down 21 points at the half, the Kent State Golden Flashes had the lead within five points with two minutes to play. Every player that entered the game made an impact in some way in what was a great display of an all-around team effort to bring the 2016-2017 season to a close.
Jordan Korinek got the scoring started for the Flashes with a three pointer after she was left alone at the perimeter. However, after a made free throw, Kent State missed its next eight field goals to allow the Wolverines to get out to a nine-point lead.
Not long out of the media timeout, McKenna Stephens broke the scoring drought with a three. Back on defense, Alexa Golden had a steal. Larissa Lurken then grabbed an offensive rebound and was good on the putback to lessen the deficit.
Another Lurken basket made it just a 14-11 game, but Michigan strung together seven straight points to lead 21-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Lurken worked her way to the line in the second quarter. Her sixth made free throw of the day was No. 276 on the season, breaking the NCAA single-season record for made free throws set in 1982.
Outside from seven foul shots by Lurken, a layup by Merissa Barber-Smith equaled the only scoring for the Flashes in the second quarter. That allowed the Wolverines to take a 43-22 lead at the half.
The third quarter started with a nice jump shot from Golden. After a steal by Stephens, she made a layup to start the second half of the game strong. The two teams traded layups before Stephens stayed hot and hit a three that sent the game to a timeout.
Not long out of the break, Barber-Smith picked up a block. Naddiyah Cross then found her on a no-look pass in the paint where Barber-Smith made it a 49-35 game leading into the third quarter media timeout. It would be 55-43 at the end of the third.
Golden had a great hustle play to grab a possession as Megan Carter came in on the play and dove on the loose ball to get credit for the steal. That play made it a 10-point game, 55-45, as Korinek made a layup.
Barber-Smith dropped that deficit down to eight as she grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in, making the score 55-47 at 6:46 in the fourth. Lurken was fouled going in for a shot to bring the final quarter to its media break.
Back-and-forth baskets allowed Michigan to get its lead back to 10, but Kent State was not done. Lurken made a three, and an empty Wolverines’ possession allowed Carter to connect on another layup. The score was 61-56 with two minutes left on the clock.
However, Michigan was able to hold on to the lead down the stretch en route to the seven-point victory.
The Flashes won the rebound battle 46-34 and outscored the Wolverines 38-24 in the second half. Both teams had an even 30 points in the paint.
Lurken led the team in scoring with 19 points. She added in eight rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal. Stephens finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Barber-Smith led all on the floor with 13 rebounds while adding in eight points.
The team will lose five seniors who put forth dedicated careers and will look to build on this year’s success next season.
For more information about Kent State Athletics, visit www.kentstatesports.com.