RECORD-COURIER STAFF REPORT
A combined 35 points by Amber Dunlap and Ashley Evans on their Senior Day were not enough for Kent State's women's basketball team, which suffered an 80-66 loss to Akron on Sunday at the M.A.C. Center.
Dunlap scored 19 points and Evans added 16 to lead four Golden Flashes in double figures, but the Zips still managed to increase their school-record win streak to 12 straight games.
"It was a fitting senior day performance for those two," said Kent State coach Danielle O'Banion. "I was happy to see them play the way they did in their last game in the M.A.C. Center. That's the way senior days are supposed to go, except that we have to close out one of these with a win."
Montia Johnson finished with 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds, and CiCi Shannon added 10 points and six rebounds for the Flashes.
The Akron scoring duo of Rachel Tecca and Hanna Luburgh, along with the Zips' 45-29 rebounding advantage, proved to be too much for Kent State to overcome.
Akron (19-8, 13-3 MAC) took advantage of 10-for-12 shooting from the foul line to build a 33-27 lead at halftime. The Zips outrebounded the Flashes by a 27-14 margin in the second half and outscored Kent State 20-0 on fastbreaks to seize control after the break.
"I was proud of our team, but I also thought the tougher team got the free-throw advantage in the first half," said O'Banion. "That's something we preach, but that tougher team was Akron in the first half.
"Free throws and then rebounding were the story."
Kent State trailed by a slim 43-41 margin following a layup by Shannon at the 14:18 mark of the second half. After a another Shannon offensive rebound and stick-back with 12:30 to play, the Flashes were still in touch, down by just four points at 47-43. But when Luburgh answered with a layup of her own, the Zips started a 15-2 run that effectively ended the home team's hopes.
"In the first matchup in Akron there were two tough windows, one that was around an 11-2 run in the first half, and then another that was about 10-5 in the second half," said O'Banion. "In those eight minutes it kind of got away from us. We did a better job today of hanging around longer, but that four-minute lapse was really what set us back. We showed some more improvement with regard to consistency, and that has me excited about next week."
Kent State (6-21, 3-13) closes the regular season with road games at Ohio on Wednesday and Buffalo on Saturday.
"I'm excited for this next week of basketball because we have a chance to really shake things up in the standings heading into the MAC Tournament," said O'Banion. "This team is still very excited about the chance to get to Cleveland."
The MAC Women's Tournament opens with first-round games on campus sites on Monday, March 10. The winners advance to a second-round game at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday, March 12.