Kent State’s women’s basketball team struggled coming out of a lengthy break for the second time this season and fell to host Northern Illinois 61-55 Wednesday afternoon in DeKalb.
Playing their first game since Jan. 17, the Golden Flashes (10-7, 2-6 Mid-American Conference) shot 33% from the floor and hit just 6-of-34 3-point attempts (18%). They’ve now dropped six of eight games since the program was forced into a two-week pause due to COVID-19 issues in December, with five of those setbacks coming by six points or less.
Despite their offensive struggles the Flashes still nearly stole one on the road Wednesday, tying the contest with a late 10-0 run. But the Huskies (7-9, 4-4) hit six free throws in the final 32 seconds to earn their third consecutive victory.
Junior forward Nila Blackford scored a season-high 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Kent State. She shot 10-of-14 from the floor and hit 4-of-5 free throws. Senior forward Lindsey Thall added 11 points, hitting 3-of-6 3-pointers.
The rest of the Flashes combined to shoot 5-of-35 from the field and 3-of-28 from 3.
Junior forward A’Jah Davis led Northern Illinois with 16 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Chelby Koker and senior guard Janae Poisson added 13 points each.
The Flashes fell behind 12-7, but 3s by Thall and sophomore guard Casey Santoro (9 points, 3 assists) put them up 13-12. Kent State led 16-15 after the first break thanks to four 3-pointers in 12 attempts.
The 3s stopped falling in the second quarter, but the Flashes kept shooting them. They missed their first nine shots of the period, six coming from behind the arc, and did not score until Santoro hit a pair of free throws at the 3:33 mark.
The Huskies led by as many as eight points in the second quarter at 24-16. A 6-0 KSU run featuring a 3-pointer by freshman forward Bridget Dunn (8 points, 4 rebounds) made it a two-point game, but a 3-pointer by freshman guard Sidney McCrae helped Northern Illinois push the lead to 29-23 at the intermission.
The Flashes shot 21 3s in the first half, making five (24%), compared to six 2-point attempts. Meanwhile the Huskies made 4-of-9 3-pointers behind Koker, who drained 3-of-4 bombs and scored 11 points.
Kent State went inside to Blackford for two quick baskets to start the second half, then reverted to 3s that were unsuccessful. The Flashes missed all five 3-pointers in the third period, while McCrae hit another late-quarter bomb to give the Huskies a 44-37 cushion heading into the final eight minutes.
A door opened for the Flashes early in the fourth quarter when Koker, NIU’s leading scorer at just over 18 points per game, suffered a knee injury and had to be helped off the floor. Moments later Blackford scored inside to bring Kent State within four, but Northern Illinois pushed the lead right back up to 10 at 53-43 following a Poisson 3.
The Flashes promptly ripped off 10 straight points, seven coming from Blackford. Thall's 3-pointer, after her team had missed its first 10 shots from beyond the arc in the second half, brought Kent State within three. Blackford then tied it at 53 with a three-point play at the 1:08 mark.
After a Davis bucket gave the lead back to the Huskies, Blackford scored inside to tie it once again. But following a replay, Blackford was called for a flagrant foul that sent a Huskies defender to the floor with a bloody nose before scoring the basket.
Poisson hit one of two free throws to put her team ahead to stay, then NIU was awarded the ball with 32 seconds left. Poisson was eventually fouled again, and connected on two free throws to make it 58-55 with 22 ticks remaining.
Flashes junior guard Clare Kelly got a decent look at a potential game-tying 3 but could not convert, and sophomore guard Jayden Marable put the game away with a pair of charity tosses at the 15-second mark.
Kent State will be off for another week before hosting Central Michigan (3-14, 1-7) next Wednesday.
This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Kent State fell to Northern Illinois 61-55 on Wednesday