Flashes Move On to MAC Championship With Win Over Ohio

By Published: 3/10/2017 11:29:55 PM Custom Tag

Courtesy: Kent State Athletics

CLEVELAND – The Kent State University men's basketball team (21-13) is headed to the 2017 Mid-American Conference Championship game Saturday after defeating the second-seeded Ohio Bobcats (20-11), 68-66, Friday at Quicken Loans Arena. The win pits the Golden Flashes against their rivals, top-seeded Akron, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

The game was won on a floater in the paint from Jaylin Walker with 4.1 seconds left, breaking a 66-66 tie. Walker secured a rebound and ran the entire length of the court in traffic within seven seconds to score the game-winner.

Walker finished the game with nine points and nine rebounds. All-MAC forward Jimmy Hall continued his superb play, earning another double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds. He also recorded team-bests of four assists and two blocks. Kevin Zabo came up big off the bench, scoring 15 points with three steals. He was 4-for-6 from 3-point range.

"It was a great game," noted head coach Rob Senderoff. "You know, we've had battles with Ohio, two of them already, and this was a hard-fought win for us. Our guys again, our resiliency and toughness I thought really shown through here tonight and I'm really proud of the effort. Ohio has a very good team. And we're happy to be able to move on."

The first half nearly ended as a draw due to a late Kent State run. The first nine minutes were even, with the teams working their way to a 16 point tie. From there, Ohio went on a 9-0 run to build a lead they would hold for almost 10 minutes. The Bobcats led by double digits at 32-22 with five minutes left, right when the Flash defense found its groove.

Ohio was forced into shooting 0-for-7 for a stretch, allowing Kent State to go on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 32. Ohio's All-MAC point guard Jaaron Simmons scored on a floater in the lane with three seconds left in the half, making the difference in the 34-32 halftime score.

The second half remained close down to the wire. Neither team could gain more than a four point advantage over the first 11 minutes of the period. Midway through the half, Zabo scored on back-to-back possessions, with a steal in between, to give Kent State a lead of five points with 8:41 remaining. The Flashes were unable to capitalize on its largest lead to that point, as Ohio picked up two straight field goals.

Trailing 56-55 with five minutes remaining, Kent State's 3-pointer shooters came alive. The Flashes went on a stretch of 3-for-4 shooting from deep, with all three treys coming from point guards Zabo and Jalen Avery. Avery's 3 gave Kent State a 64-56 lead with 2:14 remaining. Simmons led Ohio in the final two minutes, scoring on three straight trips down the floor. On the third possession, his free throw was rebounded by the Bobcats and followed by a 3-pointer from Kenny Kaminski. The much-needed shot put the score at 66-65 KSU within the final minute of the game.

Kent State worked the clock until there was 22 seconds left, when a 3-point attempt came up short. Simmons dribbled down the floor and drew a foul to set up a possible go-ahead opportunity. He nailed the first free throw shot to tie the game, but missed the second. Walker grabbed the defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast, nailing his game-winner. Ohio inbounded the ball with 4.1 seconds left and pushed the ball up the floor. Once the Bobcats entered their side of the court, the Kent State defense swarmed to prevent a shot from ever coming off. It was the second straight night in Cleveland that the Flashes successfully recorded a stop at the buzzer.

After shooting 50 percent in the second half, Kent State finished at 41.4 percent (24-for-58) shooting overall. Ohio shot 44.4 percent (24-for-54) on the evening. Kent State won the rebounding battle, 40-30, with 11 offensive rebounds.

Mitch Peterson provided a spark early and finished with eight points and six rebounds. Avery recorded six points and three boards, while Deon Edwin tallied five points, five boards and three assists.

Saturday's championship game will be the third meeting of the Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge. The series is currently tied at 1-1, with each team winning on the road. ESPN2 will carry the game at 7:30 p.m., with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Published: 3/10/2017 11:29:55 PM Custom Tag