Kent State was unable to claim its second-consecutive first-round WNIT victory, as it fell to Syracuse 84-56. The Golden Flashes’ lopsided loss was not without an early fight. As one of just four squads of the 64-team field to hit the floor on Wednesday night, Kent State kicked off this year’s WNIT with an impressive defensive display.
The Todd Starkey-led crew held Syracuse’s offense to a cold 5-of-18 line from the field, and a 0-of-3 clip from beyond the arc in the first quarter. This was no small feat, as the Orange came into the game ranked as the ACC’s third highest-scoring offense.
The Golden Flashes capitalized on their defensive performance, and they built a 16-13 lead through the first ten minutes of play. Although Kent State claimed the first quarter, the remaining periods belonged to the hosting Syracuse Orange.
Syracuse grabbed hold of every aspect of the game from the second quarter onwards, and outscored the Golden Flashes 71-40 over the remaining periods.
The most glaring issue that resulted in Kent State’s defeat was its ineffective play down low. The Golden Flashes were unable to box out the more physically-imposing Orange squad, and fell into a 41-30 deficit on the boards. In addition to Syracuse’s rebounding exhibition, it also exposed Kent State’s interior defense, collecting an astounding 48 points in the paint.
Also contributing the Kent State’s loss was its inability to move the ball, as it left the JMA Wireless Dome court with a 10-to-19 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Although her team fell, Katie Shumate shined under the bright postseason lights. The All-MAC third-team honoree logged a double-double, with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Behind her was the Golden Flashes’ only other double-figure scorer, Casey Santoro, who bagged 13 points.
Leading the way for Syracuse with 24 points was a stellar guard that is well-known around the MAC: Dyaisha Fair. The five-foot-five guard arrived at Syracuse after spending three seasons at Buffalo, where she helped lead the Bulls to a 2022 MAC crown.
The outcome ends a year that yielded great success for the blue and gold. The 2022-23 season saw the Golden Flashes earn 21 wins, notching program’s first 20-win campaign since 2018-19, and it featured a statement road win over Oklahoma State during the non-conference slate
The loss also marks the final game in four Golden Flashes’ careers: Annie Pavlansky, Abby Ogle, Hannah Young, and Lindsey Thall. Two others — Shumate and Clare Kelly — are listed as seniors on the squad’s roster, but they each have another year of eligibility if they choose to use it.
Despite the number of players exiting the program, Kent State will return junior guard Santoro and freshman guard Corynne Hauser. The backcourt duo look poised to contribute at a high level next season, as they combined to average just under 18 point per game this season.