Megan Carter (31) celebrates with teammates Monique Smith (left) and Lindsay Thall on the way to the locker room after the Kent State victory. (Photo by David Dermer.)
Megan Carter’s injured thumb had been hurting most of the game.
But she still was the person Kent State wanted with the ball in a tie game with four seconds to play.
Carter inbounded the ball to Ali Poole, then Poole gave it back to her at the top of the key. Carter dribbled into the lane and dropped a four-foot floater cleanly into the basket to give the Flashes a 77-75 win over Duquesne in their season opener Tuesday.
“I looked at all my options,” Carter said. “I didn’t want to turn the ball over, so I just played it safe. I knew I had some time left, and I drove.”
It was a set play, coach Todd Starkey said.
“Putting the ball into Megan Carter’s hands with four seconds left — that’s always a really good option,” the coach said. “She’s not afraid to take big shots.”
— Kent State Women’s Basketball (@KentStWBB) November 6, 2019
Carter is a fifth-year senior and was the Flashes’ leading scorer last season. She had injured her thumb in practice about 10 days ago, had been limited in practice, and didn’t even start Tuesday.
But she came in two minutes into the game and played almost all of the rest of the way, scoring 12 points in 35 minutes.
Carter had a large ice pack on her thumb after the game. Was it hurting?
“Yeah, but that’s OK,” she said. “We won, so I don’t care.”
Did she notice the pain when she took the winning shot?
“It was just adrenaline. I wasn’t even thinking about the thumb.”
The Flashes started three freshmen and two sophomores because of injuries to Carter and Poole. They looked very young and often unsure in the first half, even when the seniors were playing.
“We came out very slow and played very (long pause) porous defense,” Starkey said. “They’re a team that runs their stuff well, and they exposed us.”
Duquesne made 50% of its first half shots. The Dukes led by as many as 11 points and 45-38 at the half. KSU shot just 35% in the first half.
“We talked about that at halftime,” Starkey said. “We didn’t do a whole lot right in the first half, and we were only down seven.”
The Flashes fell behind by 13 early in the third quarter. At that point, Starkey said, “I didn’t know how this was going to end.”
“But our players showed a great deal of resiliency. We made adjustments, and they listened.”
Kent State held Duquesne to 30 points in the second half and 30% shooting in the fourth quarter. The Flashes shot 53.4% in the second half.
Five Kent State players scored in double figures.
Sophomore Lindsay Thall equalled a career high with 22 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. She made six of nine 3-point shots, blocked four shots and had five rebounds.
“She kept us in the game,” Starkey said. “If she doesn’t play the way she did in those first 30 minutes, the last five minutes isn’t possible.”
Freshman Katie Shumate scored 17, playing more than 38 minutes in her first college game. She made 7 of 11 shots and both her 3-point attempts.
“She makes plays all over the court,” Starkey said. “She can get by people and she can shoot the three. So she’s really a true three-level scorer. With her length defensively, she can really guard multiple people, and she did a much better job defensively in the second half.”
Freshman Nila Blackford led the team with nine rebounds to go with 11 points. She grabbed a defensive rebound in traffic with 10 seconds to play, then was fouled. Even though she missed both free throws, it was “big, big play.” Starkey said.
Sophomore Asiah Dingle joined Carter at 12 points. She also had four assists and two steals.
Kent State won the game by dominating two statistical categories: turnover margin and fouls drawn.
Three Duquesne starters fouled out, all of them before three minutes to go and two of them before eight minutes to go. Overall Duquesne fouled 29 times, Kent State 17.
The Flashes scored 24 points on 21 Duquesne turnovers. The Dukes scored 12 on 14 KSU turnovers.
“A big point of emphasis for our steam is to capitalize on the other teams mistakes,” Starkey said. “That’s one of the things we’ve struggled at in he past three years.”
Rebounding, however, went overwhelmingly to Duquesne — 44-30. The Dukes were clearly bigger than the Flashes in at least three positions for most of the game.
The Flashes play next at Youngstown State at 1 p.m. Saturday. YSU beat Canisius 87-59 Tuesday.