KENT: The University of Akron’s women’s basketball team plays about as fast as coach Jodi Kest talks, which is to say nonstop and with plenty of emotion.
So after the Zips had dispatched of rival Kent State in a 77-71 Mid-American Conference victory that overshadowed the Golden Flashes’ Senior Day at the M.A.C. Center, Kest spoke as if she only had a minute to run through the list of the day’s accomplishments before music might cue her exit.
The Zips’ seventh-year coach was just excited to note her team’s accomplishments, including the first sweep of KSU in UA history, tying the school record for most victories in a season and the Zips’ first win in Kent in 25 years.
“The first time we played Kent, we dominated them from the beginning to the end,” Kest said, referring to Akron’s 93-58 win on Jan. 13. “But I knew they were going to come out stronger today because they had been playing well although their record doesn’t indicate that. Give them credit, they never gave up, even until the very end.”
Kent State (3-23, 1-12 MAC) raced out to a 5-0 lead before the Zips (18-8, 9-4) got their high-tempo offense running smoothly.
Even after Akron rebounded from the slow start to open a 10-point advantage late in the first half, the Flashes made a mini rally to cut the deficit to more manageable single-digits by halftime.
“That was a more proper rivalry-game performance,” KSU first-year coach Danielle O’Banion said. “We will never be a program that celebrates moral victories, so it was good to hear our players say so. The Jan. 13 game was quite honestly one of the worst basketball performances that I’d ever seen and been part of from an effort standpoint.”
But each KSU run was met with a responding UA offensive spurt, despite the Flashes outrebounding the Zips 38-29 and having four players finish in double-digit scoring.
Senior guard Tamzin Barroilhet enjoyed her final home game, leading the Flashes with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Ashley Evans had a career-high 19 points. Senior guard Trisha Krewson added 11 points and senior forward Diamon Beckford chipped in 10 points along with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
But UA junior forward Rachel Tecca (Archbishop Hoban) rebounded from a lackluster three-point first half with 17 second-half points to lead the Zips with 20. Junior guard/forward Sina King also contributed 17 points and nine rebounds.
“When [Tecca’s] a beast out there and she dominates, it’s very difficult for anyone to stop her because she’s that good of a player,” Kest said. “She can go left, she can go right, she can run the floor and her range from 15 feet now is money.
“But that first half she just wasn’t into the game. I challenged her at halftime, told her I didn’t think she was aggressive enough and I didn’t think she took the ball to the basket hard enough. So she came back better in the second half and it was one of the reasons I thought we had a couple runs in that second half.”
The Flashes’ opening run was punctuated by a 3-pointer from Krewson.
“I think it was our mindset at the beginning of the game,” Krewson said of the difference between the games against the Zips this season. “We had a totally different mindset and it was illustrated in the first four, five minutes of the game. The way we started the game set the tempo for the rest of the way.”
The two teams went back and forth with baskets until back-to-back 3-pointers as part of a 9-0 UA run gave the Zips a 28-18 lead with four minutes remaining in the first half. Although KSU continually battled to trim the lead to five, six points, the Zips would respond and push it back to double digits.
“We had numerous times with leads of 10 points, but we couldn’t put that final nail in the coffin to get the lead up to 15, 20 points to put the game away for good,” Kest said.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.