Freshmen shine in loss to Kent State

Angola Indiana freshman, Hanna Knoll, dribbles down the court during the game against Michigan at McGuirk Arena on Nov. 20th.

Riddled by injuries, Central Michigan women’s basketball let it fly against the second-best defense in the Mid-American Conference on Wednesday. 

Although the Chippewas netted a season-best 3-point shooting performance, Kent State escaped McGuirk Arena with a 78-67 victory.

The loss drops CMU to 4-18 overall and 2-11 in conference play, extending its losing streak to four games. This marks the Chippewas’ third losing streak of four-or-more games this season. 

“Despite how things are going so far, we’re still hungry,” said guard Hanna Knoll. “We have a lot of games left, and we’re still looking to fight and claw our way into this.”

Although having freshman Tiana Timpe and senior Kalle Martinez out of uniform left CMU with seven players for the rematch with the Golden Flashes, both teams started fast. 

Facing a Kent State team that ranks second in the MAC for team 3-point percentage, the Chippewas focused on denying the deep ball.

CMU’s defensive intensity frustrated the Golden Flashes, forcing a 1-for-6 performance for three in the first. However, Kent State made adjustments and began working the interior en route to a 15-7 lead going into the second quarter. 

As fouls piled up on Jahari Smith and Lisa Tesson, the Chippewas struggled to control the glass. Looking for a spark, Anika Weekes turned up the pressure on the glass and began crashing with reckless abandon.

“I think that she could have a performance like that every game,” Assistant Coach Courtney Shelton said. “She’s one of our most aggressive players. She’s one of our most aggressive rebounders between her and (Smith), I mean, they can lock up the boards.”

With the glass under control, CMU started to figure out its offense. Karrington Gordon got it started hitting back-to-back threes as the Chippewas went on a 7-0 run. 

But with Smith on the bench, the Golden Flashes had an answer on the other end every time the CMU tried to close the gap.

“There were times where we just couldn’t get stops,” Shelton said. “We were putting the ball in the hole. We had 67 points. That’s above our average. We just needed to lock up and get stops. We were trading baskets at times. They were going inside on us, I thought we could have gone down there and doubled and helped a little bit more in the paint. They hurt us in the paint the first game. In this game, they had 38 points. That was something we talked about before the game. We probably could have done a little bit better job defending down there. But, it comes down to us getting stops.”

Kent State continued to find mismatches in the paint throughout the third quarter, but the Chippewas hung tough. However, a collision at the bench sent head coach Heather Oesterle to the locker room. 

Although Oesterle returned to the bench after a few minutes, CMU couldn’t stop the Golden Flashes as they pushed the margin 15 going into the final ten minutes.

With junior guard Molly Davis struggling to get a basket for much of the game, Knoll stepped up, adding eight points in the fourth quarter. 

“I think just being able to step up and help out my team, kinda just opens things up for other people as well, helps us grow as a unit and overall be more effective as a team,” Knoll said. 

Tesson added two 3-pointers as well in the frame, but it wasn’t enough to topple the Golden Flashes, as they secured a sweep in the season series with the 78-67 win.

“I thought our freshmen really stepped up today in multiple ways with (Knoll) having a career-high, (K. Gordon) gave us 11, and you talk about (Tesson) being at 10, I mean you have three freshmen in double-figures, I think that’s promising,” Shelton said. “That’s just showing their progression and their handwork throughout the season, and we’re gonna build on that. I just think it all needs to come together, and once it does we’ll be just fine. But again, this is still a hungry team, there are still a lot of games to play, and we understand that it’s a process. We’re continuing to work, continuing to get better, it just all to needs fall in place, and we’ll be all right.”

Knoll led the way offensively and notched a career-high in points with 20, going 5-for-8 from three. Gordon finished with 11 points and five rebounds, while Tesson added 10 points and three assists.

Davis ended the game with nine points and five assists, shooting 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

Even though they showed improvement, Shelton said the coaching staff hopes to see increased aggression on the glass going forward.

“We’ve been trying to push a couple of our other players, especially at the guard spot, to go in and get more rebounds,” Shelton said. “It’s something that we’ve been struggling with throughout the season, just talking to them about being more aggressive being more physical on the boards.”

The Chippewas look to end their four-game losing streak when they head to Oxford, Ohio, on Saturday to face Miami (OH) at 1 p.m.