For the second time this season, the Kent State women’s basketball team finds itself emerging from a lengthy break that was not on the original 2021-22 schedule.
The Golden Flashes went 8-1 against non-conference opponents before COVID-19 issues within the program forced them into a pause. They did not play for 18 days and have struggled since returning to action in late December, opening the Mid-American Conference season 2-5.
On Wednesday, Kent State will play for the first time since Jan. 17 due to a series of schedule switches brought on by COVID-19 issues throughout the conference. The Flashes (10-6, 2-5) will take on Northern Illinois (6-9, 2-4) on Education Day in DeKalb. Tip-off is set for noon, allowing children from several area schools to attend the contest.
After Wednesday’s game, Kent State will have another week off before returning to action on Feb. 2 against Central Michigan at the M.A.C. Center. The Flashes will play four games in eight days from Feb. 2-9, after playing just once from Jan 18-Feb. 1.
What’s Kent State coach Todd Starkey’s take on the quirky schedule?
“Every team has had to deal with something. We could debate all day about who has had it better or worse, but at the end of the day we all have to play games in unusual circumstances,” said Starkey. “I think teams that continue to stay resilient and adaptable, and stay healthy, give themselves the best opportunities to win. We’ve got to continue to stay focused on getting better ourselves. It really comes down to focusing on self-improvement as a player, a team and a coaching staff, and just taking the challenges as they come.”
Closer to full strength
When the Flashes emerged from their COVID-19 pause in late December several players were still recovering from illnesses, and they lost three games in their first eight days back on the hardwood. Kent State is healthier overall coming out of the most recent break, but two players in particular are still dealing with health issues.
Senior forward Lindsay Thall, KSU’s leading scorer (12.8 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (6.7 rpg), was still suffering from the aftereffects of COVID-19 when her team returned from its first lengthy break of the season. Thall wound up missing the first four games of her collegiate career. She has played the past two contests and performed well considering the circumstances, posting 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
“Lindsey is still working through her stuff,” said Starkey. “I don’t think she will be completely healthy until the season is over, and she can get good rest.”
Senior guard Hannah Young suffered an ankle injury in the first half of the Flashes’ last game at Buffalo, and was not able to return.
“She has practiced in a limited way the last few days,” Starkey said. “We’re cautiously optimistic [Young will be able to play on Wednesday].”
Scouting the Huskies
Having not played since Jan. 17, Kent State has had plenty of time to prepare for a talented Northern Illinois squad that features a pair of prolific scorers in junior guard Chelby Koker (18.1 ppg) and junior forward A’Jah Davis (15.6 ppg).
“Honestly we’ve probably spent 75 percent of the time focused on us, because we feel that’s where the biggest issues lie,” said Starkey. “Northern Illinois has two all-conference-level players in Koker and Davis, and a 3-point shooter in [senior guard] Janae Poisson that can really stretch defenses. They have a good offensive team, and when they get going and get in a rhythm they can certainly be a handful.
“But we’re mostly focused on just being a better version of us moving forward. If we do that, I think we’re capable of playing with and beating any team in the league.”
What: Women’s Basketball
Who: Kent State (10-6, 2-5) vs. Northern Illinois (6-9, 3-4)
When/Where: Wednesday, Noon/Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill.
TV/Radio: ESPN+/Kent State Radio Network
2020-21 records: Kent State 11-9, 10-6. Northern Illinois 12-12, 10-8
Huskies leaders: Chelby Koker, 5-6, Jr., G (18.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists). A’Jah Davis, 6-1, Jr., F (15.6 points, 11.9 rebounds). Janae Poisson, 5-8, Sr., G (12.5 points, 2.7 rebounds).
Flashes leaders: Lindsey Thall, 6-2, Sr., F (12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2 assists). Katie Shumate, 5-11, Jr., G (12.2 points, 3.6 rebounds). Casey Santoro, 5-4, So., G (12.8 points, 3.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds). Nila Blackford, 6-2, Jr., F (9.5 points, 9.3 rebounds). Hannah Young, 5-10, Sr., G (7.6 points, 6.7 rebounds).
This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Kent State will visit Northern Illinois on Wednesday