"We didn't play very well in the second half, which is obvious. Kent State's defense had a lot to do with that," said Chadwick after the game. "In the second half we got a little complacent against the zone. They did a great job defensively, and that's why they're playing tomorrow and we're not."
The first half, however, was all about Marshall. Guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall took the reigns and lit up the Kent State defense for 16 points. That enabled The Herd to shoot out to a 20-7 lead with 11:03 left in the first half. KSU chipped away at Marshall slowly during the remainder of the half, and Kacie Vavrek drained a three at the buzzer to cut Marshall's halftime lead to only four at 32-28.
"We knew DeGrate was going to get going sooner or later," Marshall coach Royce Chadwick said in recalling his halftime talk. "She'd been getting 30 every night."
DeGrate was held scoreless in the first half, missing four shots and turning the ball over three times.
KaShawna Curry (right) battled for a loose ball in the second half loss to Kent State in the MAC Tournament.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"Just not playing very smart," DeGrate said. "I didn't come to play in the first half."
That all changed in the second half for the Golden Flashes. Working their zone defense in much better fashion than had been done in the first half, Kent took control of the game on DeGrate's first basket of the game, a three-pointer that gave KSU a five-point lead, 39-34, with 15:32 remaining.
"We lost our composure. We tend to forget to play defense," said Marshall center/forward Modupe Ishola. She was the lone exception to the rule in the second half, grabbing 14 rebounds and scoring 7 of her 9 points.
DeGrate hit another three to shoot KSU out to a double-digit lead of 13 points, 56-43, with 9:06 left. She would perform the same three-point trick two more times down the stretch, her final three keeping the Flashes out by 10 points, 63-53, with just 2:23 left.
"We just never really got it going," summed up Chadwick of Marshall's disintegration in the second half. "We showed our youth, I thought, in the second half when things didn't go our direction."
Marshall's Crystal Champion reacted to the loss moments after the finall buzzer sounded in the MAC Tournament loss to Kent State, 73-57.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Kent State's DeGrate, Lindsay Shearer, and Mallorie Griffith each hit two free throws down the stretch to seal the 73-57 win and advance to play Bowling Green for the MAC Championship on Saturday afternoon. Marshall guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall thought the striking difference between the two halves stood out like a sore thumb.
"In the first half we attacked more, a lot more aggressive," Shepard-Hall commented in the post-game press conference. "In the second halfÉthe mentality wasn't the same. When that went away, they made a run. The run they madeÉwe just couldn't get back from it."
Shepard-Hall finished the game with 20 points, 16 coming in the first half. Kim Griffin scored 10, the only other Marshall player in double figures. Ishola added 9 points and 14 rebounds as well. Marshall shot just 37.3% for the game (22-of-59), and committed 21 turnovers. Kent turned those turnovers into 20 points.
"Play harder or go home," Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said when asked of his team's halftime turnaround. "We weren't playing the game very smart. We responded in the second half and that was key to the game."
Marshall finishes the season with a 19-10 overall record, 12-4 in the MAC. KSU bumped up to 21-8 overall, 12-4 in the conference with the win.