Kent: The University of Akron women’s basketball team arrived at Kent State’s M.A.C. Center looking for its first season sweep of the Golden Flashes in team history.
The Zips almost completed a remarkable comeback to get it, but lost 77-76 Saturday when a 3-point attempt fell short as time ticked away.
“I thought we panicked a little bit at the end with not having a timeout, but I thought we got two good looks at the end,” UA coach Jodi Kest said.
Trailing by four points with under a minute left, the Zips (12-17, 6-9 Mid-American Conference) had already made an improbable late-game run to give themselves a chance to win the game, but the Flashes (6-19, 5-10) held them at arm’s length.
With 34 seconds left in the game, the Zips almost broke through that arm.
Trailing 77-73, sophomore forward Sina King grabbed an offensive rebound off a free-throw miss by teammate Carly Young.
King found junior guard Taylor Ruper, who stepped beyond the arc and nailed a 3-pointer to make it 77-76, the closest the Zips had been since they held a one-point lead with 1:22 left in the first half.
The Zips had chances to win the game.
After a quick foul, they caught a break when Kent State’s Jamie Hutcheson missed on the front end of a one-and-one.
Ruper grabbed the rebound with 27 seconds left. Stuck without a timeout, the Zips came up short in a wild finish.
They missed three 3-point shots, coming up just short of erasing what had been a 17-point deficit.
“They were shooting 3s like it was the last second. I was waiting for the buzzer to go off, I think they were really flustered,” said center Leslie Schaefer, who tallied a double-double for Kent State with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said that he expected that one of those shots was going to fall.
“There were a lot of bounces at the end that seemed to go their direction, some of which they just went and beat us to the ball,” he said. “They got a lot of shots at the end and we were very fortunate that one of them didn’t go in.”
The win snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Flashes. It extended the Zips’ losing streak to three games and delayed their clinching of a home game in the upcoming MAC Tournament.
Although she acknowledged that her team should never have been in that position, Kest remained impressed with the Zips’ effort down the stretch. They began their run at the 6:06 mark trailing 70-53, eventually going on a 13-0 run.
“We basically played a very good five-minute game,” she said. “And we almost got lucky and won at the end. They controlled the whole game. They were the aggressive team from the beginning.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://zips.ohio.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.