JM Rieger

Sophomore Rachael Hencke saw action in all 31 games last season (Michael Griggs / The Miami Student).

In a defensive struggle, the Miami University women’s basketball team fell to Kent State University 50-39 Saturday. The RedHawks had won two of their last three games going into Saturday’s match up against Kent State but were denied their fourth victory of the season, falling to 3-12 overall and 1-1 in the MAC. Freshman Kirsten Olowinski and senior Ashleigh Brown each had nine points to lead Miami.

The Red and White were coming off a big 62-55 victory over conference foe Buffalo Wednesday, where they shot a season-high 51.1 percent from the field. In addition, freshman Courtney Osborn had a career-high 30 points to lead all scorers.

“She is a phenomenal player,” sophomore forward Erin Wisner said. “She has a great scoring ability and adds so much to the team.”

Coming into Saturday, Osborn had scored in double figures in every game this season. However, the Golden Flashes were able to do something no other team had been able to do: hold Osborn to under 10 points (she finished with six points).

After starting strong, the RedHawks stretched their lead to 17-11 with 10:30 left to play in the first half. However, strong defense by Kent State only gave Miami a 22-21 advantage entering halftime, which was the first halftime lead of the season for the Red and White.

Strong defense from both teams kept the game close, and with just more than seven minutes left in regulation the RedHawks led 36-34. However, Kent State then went on a 10-1 run which ultimately was enough for them to hold onto a 50-39 victory. Miami shot 33 percent for the game but shot just under 27 percent in the second half.

The Red and White were out-rebounded for the second straight game but have made major improvements in the post as the season has gone on. Sophomore forwards Rachael Hencke and Wisner have stepped up their game throughout the season.

“Rachael Hencke has been solid for us throughout the season,” Head Coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “She has stepped up big for us both in her rebounding and in her shot blocking ability.”

Meanwhile, after a slow start where she was recovering from a back injury, Wisner has come on strong for the RedHawks. Coming into Saturday’s game against Kent State, she had three straight games of 10 rebounds, including her first career double-double against Eastern Illinois where she also scored 10 points.

“Erin holds us together and does the dirty work, such as setting screens, playing good defense and rebounding,” Fantanarosa said.

In the backcourt, Miami has gotten solid production from Osborn, Brown and sophomore Maggie Boyer. Boyer and Osborn have been consistent scoring threats for the Red and White, while Brown has provided great senior leadership for this relatively young team.

“Ashleigh Brown has been a spark off the bench for us this year,” Fantanarosa said. “She is a great vocal leader who always plays with a sense of urgency when she is on the floor.”

Even with this tough loss to Kent State, the RedHawks have begun to come together as a team as they enter conference play.

“I believe that they are beginning to gel as a team and that we are gaining a lot of valuable experience,” Fantanarosa said. “We need to continue to be confident and focus on rebounding, (minimizing) turnovers, and on our offensive execution.”

Fantanarosa’s team agreed.

“We are a very young team and we played a very tough pre-season schedule,” Wisner said. “We recently have started to play together as a team and we have developed a lot throughout the season.”

Miami now looks to bounce back against the Ohio Bobcats this Wednesday. Ohio enters 4-11 on the season and 0-2 in MAC play, and the RedHawks will have to go up against Ohio’s outstanding forward, junior Kamille Buckner, who is Ohio University’s all-time leader in blocked shots.

“Our post players are our ‘x-factor,'” Fantanarosa said. “We need to continue to focus on our rebounding. I believe it is the biggest area where we are underachieving.”

But as Wisner points out, “A lot of people can contribute on this team.”

“We have a lot of games ahead of us and a lot of talent on this team,” Fantanarosa said. “There is still a lot of potential with this team.”

Tip off for Wednesday’s game against Ohio is set for 7 p.m. at Millett Hall.