Kent State women face Toledo tonight for MAC tourney title, NCAA berth

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

TOLEDO _ The process was a little slower than usual. But the result was the same as always.

The Kent State women's basketball team's uninterrupted march through the Mid-American Conference continued Sunday afternoon in Toledo, although the Golden Flashes were forced to use an atypically methodical approach to hand Ohio University a still-sound 80-65 defeat in their MAC Tournament semifinal battle at the SeaGate Centre.

With the win, their 18th in a row, the Flashes (22-6) advance to the MAC championship game for the third consecutive year. And they'll face a familiar foe in the Toledo Rockets, the team that has defeated them the past two years.

Kent State had bludgeoned these same Bobcats (17-11) by 40 points just last Wednesday, and had outscored their last two opponents by a breathtaking count of 215-137.

But the Flashes had to go nearly the distance to grind out a win against a resilient Ohio U. squad in Sunday's rematch, just as coach Bob Lindsay expected would be the case.

"I credit Ohio for coming in well prepared," he said. "I thought that 44-point game was an aberration and I told the kids I expected a tough, physical game this time. And that's what it was; we had to play the full length of the game to win it.

"But I also knew we could win this game. It was just a matter of going out and getting it done."

That's exactly what the Flashes did ... although it took a little longer than most fans expected.

Kent State's vaunted press forced five turnovers in the first four minutes as the Flashes jumped out to a quick 12-5 lead.

The advantage quickly reached 18-8 after Ashley Bland took a steal the length of the floor for a layup as she was fouled with 12:21 left in the opening half.

At that point, another 40-point pounding wasn't out of the question. But the Bobcats had other plans.

Ohio momentarily found a way to break the press and buckled down on the defensive end as well, holding Kent State to four points over the next five minutes while grabbing a 26-22 lead.

Kent State capitalized on three consecutive Ohio turnovers to regain the lead 28-26 on two free throws by All-MAC forward Carrie Templin. And the Flashes extended the advantage to 40-33 by halftime, even though they were uncharacteristically shaky at the free-throw line (10-of-19) and were outrebounded 23-13.

"We forced 18 turnovers in the first half and did a good job of limiting (the MAC's leading scorer Marlene) Stollings," said Lindsay. "But the one thing we didn't do was rebound.

"I thought our post players played soft. They weren't aggressive."

That all changed in the final 20 minutes.

After falling behind 49-37, the Bobcats clawed back to within 51-46 after two free throws by Stollings with 11:44 remaining.

But the Flashes answered with a quick 5-0 run that put them in control for good, culminated by Zerman's spinning layup that gave them a 10-point cushion.

Kent State continued on an 11-2 run, building a 62-48 lead on two free throws by Templin, who was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound.

The Flashes outrebounded Ohio 18-14 in the second half and finished the game with 16 offensive boards.

"We let them push us around in the first half," said Templin. "In the second half, we didn't."

The Flashes also made free throws: 10-of-14 down the stretch and 17-of-22 overall in the second half, which allowed them to maintain a comfortable lead in the closing minutes.

"We didn't make shots we normally make, both free throws and in the halfcourt," said Lindsay, whose squad shot 44 percent from the field (26-of-59). "We were fortunate to score 80 points when you consider that."

Zerman, the MAC's leading free-throw shooter at 88 percent, hit 13-of-14 overall on her way to a team-high 19 points.

Bland turned in a solid all-around effort, finishing with 12 points, six steals and four assists. She also helped hold Stollings to a quiet 21 points while spearheading a Kent State defense that forced 30 Ohio turnovers _ two below its average.

Templin finished with 14 points and four steals, while freshman Julie Studer came off the bench to score 12 points and grab a team-high five rebounds.

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