Flashes sputter in final minutes vs Bowling Green

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Kent senior guard Jaylin Walker makes his way towards the basketball during the first half against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. 

Ian Kreider

Kent State coach Rob Senderoff motioned for a timeout with the Flashes trailing Bowling Green 73-70 with under a minute left. Seconds prior, senior guard Jaylin Walker secured a long offensive rebound in front of the Flashes’ bench after senior guard Jalen Avery missed his fifth 3-pointer of the game.

The officials did not see Senderoff, who hesitated when making the decision. Instead of getting a timeout and resetting their offense, Senderoff and the Flashes got a deep contested 3-pointer from Walker that clanked off the rim.

Walker sputtered badly after the miss. He missed two more 3-pointers, one of which was wide open from the top of the key that would have cut the Bowling Green lead to one. Instead, the Flashes lost 77-72.

Kent State drops to 20-9 and 9-7 in the Mid-American Conference. Bowling Green improves to 20-9 and 12-4 in MAC play.

Walker struggled, shooting just 9-for-28 and 4-for-16 on 3-pointers, the worst single-game 3-point shooting performance of his career. He shot 1-for-9 overall over the final 11 minutes as Kent State was outscored 17-12.

“Jaylin’s going to get a lot of attention,” associate coach Eric Haut said. “There’s games where we’re going to shoot a lot of 3’s and tonight was one of those nights where they didn’t go down at a high enough rate. I don’t think anybody took any uncharacteristic 3’s.”

Foul trouble limited junior forward Philip Whittington again. He totaled 19 minutes but played mostly in short bursts. He finished with seven points and grabbed three offensive rebounds.

“Phil’s a great player,” Haut said. “I don’t know if he knows that, but I know that. When Phil starts knowing that he’s the best big man on the floor, it’s going to be exciting to watch him take off. He’s already been really good, but I think there’s a next level for him.”

Whittington and senior forward Akiean Frederick combined for eight of Kent State’s 20 offensive rebounds. Frederick also struggled to stay out of foul trouble in his third start of the year. He fouled out with about two minutes left.

Junior guard Antonio Williams recorded his first double-double of his career to go along with a career-high six assists. He served as the facilitator for the Flashes on offense for most of the night as Avery continues to play on a minutes restriction due to a left ankle sprain.

“I think Jalen is still coming back from injury,” Haut said. “I don’t think his ankle is 100 percent.”

Avery finished with eight points with all of his field goal attempts coming from 3-pointers. He finished 2-for-7 shooting, while making a pair of free throws.

The Flashes were able to keep the game close despite allowing the Falcons shooting 55 percent. It was the third time in the last four games that Kent State has allowed its opponents to shoot at least 50 percent, a span in which they are 1-3.

“I think at times when we let teams shoot at a high percentage it’s because we’re worried more about one end of the floor than the other,” Haut said. “The defense, to me, that shows your commitment to the team. When you’re a good defensive team you have a really connected team. We’ve shown that at times, but the consistency hasn’t been there yet.”

With the loss, the Flashes drop out of their tie with Central Michigan for the fourth seed in the MAC. The Chippewas play Toledo on Saturday.

Kent State continues its season Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Miami (OH). The RedHawks are coming off a 70-67 loss to No. 22 Buffalo on Friday night. The RedHawks are currently the eighth seed in the MAC and are two games behind the Flashes in the conference standings.

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]