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Kent State women’s basketball defeats Buffalo 78-60, wins first MAC Tournament Championship in 22 years

Kent+State+women%E2%80%99s+basketball+defeats+Buffalo+78-60%2C+wins+first+MAC+Tournament+Championship+in+22+years
Mid-American Conference

The Kent State women’s basketball (21-10, 13-5 MAC) team defeated Buffalo (19-13, 10-9 MAC) in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament Championship on Saturday, 78-60, winning their first conference championship in 22 years. 

“The biggest thing I’ve told them is championships are hard to come by. It’s hard to win championships,” Kent State head coach Todd Starkey said postgame. “Behind every team, there’s a lot of stories that the media doesn’t know; they just see the product on the court. But all the hard work and all the tough moments that they’ve gone through together as sisters, it pays off in big ways.”  

After defeating Bowling Green in the quarterfinals and pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament against Toledo in the semifinals, Buffalo fell short of completing the Cinderella story.  

“Happy for their program, obviously disappointed for ours. I thought we played hard; I just didn’t think we made winning plays today. We made winning plays in the last two games. It wasn’t our effort; I think it was just a little bit of our attention to detail,” Buffalo head coach Becky Burke said postgame. “Disappointed for our players, obviously. But I told them, ‘I don’t want them hanging their heads for one second. I don’t want to see frowns and sad faces; I want this result to never take away from what these guys just did in year two of a complete rebuild.’”  

FIRST QUARTER  

Both teams started slow, combining to commit four turnovers in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game.  

Although the Bulls scored the game’s first two points at the charity stripe, they missed their first five shots from the field, as Kent State went on a 9-0 run to jump out to an early nine-point lead halfway through the first quarter, 9-2.  

While the teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the quarter, UB closed the period on a 6-2 run, cutting KSU’s lead to 20-15 after 10 minutes of action.  

SECOND QUARTER  

After Kent State scored the first two points of the second quarter, Buffalo got red hot, going on a 9-0 run stretching nearly six minutes to put the Bulls ahead halfway through the quarter, 24-22.  

While the Golden Flashes struggled to shoot the ball for most of the quarter, they found their rhythm towards the end of the period, closing within one point of Buffalo multiple times.  

The teams combined for three straight three-pointers to end the first half, with Buffalo redshirt senior guard Chellia Watson making two triples, including one at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 34-30 advantage going into the locker rooms.  

THIRD QUARTER  

Following a three-pointer by Buffalo to open the second half, Kent State went on an 11-0 run to take a four-point lead with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter, 41-37.  

After the teams battled for a few minutes, the Golden Flashes caught on fire again, going on a 10-0 run over a four-minute stretch, ballooning their lead to 11 points, 56-45.  

KSU redshirt senior Katie Shumate drained a three-pointer to close the third quarter, giving the Golden Flashes a 12-point lead after 30 minutes, 59-47.  

FOURTH QUARTER  

Kent State carried its momentum over to the start of the final quarter, scoring five unanswered points to push their lead to 14 points, 64-47.  

However, Buffalo kept fighting before taking the momentum and going on a 7-0 run, cutting KSU’s lead to eight points with just over four minutes remaining, 66-58.  

The Golden Flashes never slowed down, finishing the game on a 12-2 run, securing the 18-point victory and conference tournament championship.  

REVIEW OF THE GAME  

Kent State shot 47.5% (28-59) from the field, 36% (9-25) on three-pointers and 81.3% (13-16) on free throws.  

Meanwhile, Buffalo shot 39% (23-59) from the field, 42.9% (9-21) from beyond the arc and 83.3% (5-6) from the charity stripe.  

Along with outrebounding the Bulls 38-32, Kent State committed just nine personal fouls and 10 turnovers, while Buffalo committed 17 fouls and gave the ball away 15 times.  

Shumate, named MAC Tournament most valuable player, led the Golden Flashes with 18 points on 6-11 shooting from the field, adding nine rebounds and three blocks. Shumate averaged 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game during the tournament.  

“We just picked each other up, we took a look at each other in our faces, and we said, ‘we believe in each other, and we’re not losing this game; this is our game,’” Shumate said. “And we put in the work to do it.”  

KSU sophomore guard Dionna Gray and junior forward Jenna Batsch each added 14 points.   

Meanwhile, fifth-year center Mikala Morris rounded out Kent State’s double-digit scorers with 11 points, while junior forward Bridget Dunn led the Golden Flashes with 12 rebounds.  

“We’ve been working for this. This has been our goal for the last four years,” Dunn said postgame. “So, it’s just a surreal moment for us.”  

On the other side, Watson led Buffalo with 21 points on 9-20 shooting from the field.  

Senior guard Rana Elhusseini tallied 11 points, while freshman guard/forward Alexis Davis added 10 points.  

Although she shot 0-9 from the field and did not score a point, freshman guard Kirsten Lewis-Williams, MAC Freshman of the Year, led the Bulls with nine rebounds.  

NEXT UP  

The Golden Flashes will await their seeding for their first appearance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament since 2002.  

“It’s an honor to represent the Mid-American Conference going to the NCAA Tournament; that sounds really good,” Starkey said. “But we want to represent the MAC real well.”  

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Tyler Kavalecz, Sports Production Director

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