By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Lady Colonels pulled away in the second half Wednesday to hold off Kent State and pick up their second consecutive win to open the season, 56-42, at McBrayer Arena.
Jade Barber led the way for EKU, scoring a team-high 16 points while gathering 18 rebounds and blocking four shots against a very physical Kent State team.
“It was a competitive, physical battle. Kent State played extremely hard,” EKU coach Chrissy Roberts said. “They were able to come in and apply the heat on the ball and deny us the passing lanes, but our kids found a way and I think we did a better job in the second half of getting ourselves open and hitting some shots.”
Brittany Coles added 12 points, five rebounds, six assists and one steal, while Raechele Gray added nine points, two assists and four steals for the Colonels, who were playing without point guard Marie Carpenter, who broke her hand late in Friday’s win over Miami (Ohio),
Playing without Carpenter, the Lady Colonels looked out of sync early and had difficulty putting the ball in the basket for most of the first half.
But thanks to the rebounding efforts of Barber (18), Alex Jones (11) and Brittany Coles (5), EKU was able to slowly build a 24-18 lead at the half against the Golden Flashes.
“Our rebounding was definitely a difference for us tonight. Brittany Coles got in there and mixed it up. Alex Jones down the stretch got some big rebounds and Jade made a commitment to rebounding and went out and did it,” Roberts said. “When she makes up her mind to go rebound the ball I don’t know if there is anything that anybody can do. She is so long and so athletic and does a good job of crashing the boards. She did another great job tonight.”
Barber said her improved rebounding this year came from pickup games this summer against a member of the men’s team.
“I get in the gym all the time with Orlando (Williams) and he doesn’t let me have anything and makes me fight for everything,” Barber said. “Playing against him all preseason and all summer has made me a lot better. Coming in I was thinking I would be a little better because of it, but nothing like this. This is amazing.”
After shooting only 29 percent in the first half, EKU finally began to find the range in the second half. The Lady Colonels held the Golden Flashes scoreless for more than five minutes and slowly stretched their lead back out to nine, 38-29 mid-way through the half.
Kent State fought back, running off five straight points to trim the lead to four at 38-34. But EKU scored 14 of the next 16 points to essentially put the game away.
For the second game in a row, the Lady Colonels got strong play from its bench with freshman Miranda Maples. She gave them some strong minutes after Jones picked up her third foul just four minutes into the second half and was forced to watch from the bench for the next eight minutes.
Roberts said she has a lot of confidence in her bench players and doesn’t hesitate to play them.
“We want to play up-tempo and force the issue and I feel like we can do that with this team because we are so deep and talented,” Roberts said. “I have a lot of players that can play and be effective. It’s huge anytime you can go to your bench and get that kind of productivity while they are on the floor.”
Maples finished the night with six points, while Pilar Walker added five, Jalisa Bryant and Jones chipped in three each and Shelly Harper had two points.
The Lady Colonels are back in action at home Saturday when they take on UNC Asheville at 2 p.m. before heading to San Juan Puerto Rico Nov. 23, where they will play Florida State.
With those games looming on the horizon, Barber said the team would enjoy their 2-0 start for one night, then get back to work.
“We can’t let these two wins cloud what we need to do. We won tonight and we can celebrate tonight, but at 7 in the morning we will be going back at it,” Barber said. “We’ve got to remember that tougher and tougher opponents are coming at us later in the year and we’ve got to be ready for them.”