HUNTINGTON — Kristen Mayo’s senior day will be about what might have been as much as what was.
The 5-foot-5 guard from Grayson, Kentucky, enters Marshall’s University women’s basketball Senior Day contest with Rice having played in merely seven of the Thundering Herd’s 13 games this season.
Twice the former East Carter High School star was quarantined for COVID-19 contact tracing.
The change was difficult for the only MU player to start every game in the 2019-2020 season.
On Saturday in Marshall’s 64-48 loss to the Owls at Cam Henderson Center, Mayo returned to the court for the first time since Jan. 23 and despite rust accumulated from sitting out, scored a team-high 15 points, grabbed three rebounds, issued two assists and made one steal in 35 minutes.
“It was awesome,” Marshall center Lorelei Roper said of Mayo being back in the starting lineup.
“Kristen is one of our biggest leaders. I love playing with her and having her back in there.”
Mayo broke Rice’s opening 10-0 run with a 3-pointer at 3:38 of the first quarter.
The basket was her only one in three attempts in a first half when the Herd (5-8 overall, 4-7 Conference USA) fell behind 33-15 and made just five of 30 shots. She was better in the second half, despite battling fatigue that had her hand on hips and bent forward at times as she tried to get back into game condition.
Mayo finished 4 for 8 from the floor, 3 for 6 from 3-point range, and 4 for 5 from the free throw line.
“I can’t remember that she hasn’t played since January whatever,” Marshall coach Tony Kemper said, expressing frustration with how COVID-19 has altered the schedule. “Kristen has been affected by it more than anyone. Because she’s affected by it, it affects our whole team.”
Kemper said he was pleased to see Mayo play well in the second half when the Herd outscored the Owls 33-31. Mayo made a trio of free throws and a basket off a drive before assisting Mahogany Matthews on a bucket to pull Marshall within 44-31 with 1:25 left in the third quarter. She also swished two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Herd within striking distance.
“Kristen played better in the second half,” Kemper said. “She didn’t play well in the first half. Early on, we needed her to make some shots.”
Kemper said he expects Mayo and fellow senior Taylor Pearson to turn in strong performances when Marshall and Rice (13-1, 9-0) meet again at noon Saturday.
“Our two seniors have to be ready from the start,” Kemper said.