Williams’ last-second putback gives Flashes fourth conference win in five games


Antonio Williams takes a shot in the first half of the Flashes matchup against Buffalo on Jan. 25. The Flashes lost, 88-79.

Ian Kreider

Kent State junior guard Antonio Williams picked up his dribble at the top of the key in the waning seconds of overtime.

It appeared he was trapped.

He pivoted and threw up a prayer from about 30-feet away that smacked off the backboard, and then he did what every youth coach tells their young players to do — he followed his shot.

Williams laid the ball in to give Kent State (16-5, 5-3 Mid-American Conference) an 81-80 lead over Ball State with 2.9 seconds left. The Flashes would go on to secure the 83-80 win.

“As soon as he lets it go he’s chasing after it,” assistant coach Matt Sligh said in his postgame radio interview . “It’s an unbelievably smart play in that moment to think to do that because nobody was open.”

The Flashes had an eight point lead with 3:53 left in regulation, but guards K.J. Walton and Tayler Persons scored Ball State’s (11-11, 2-7 MAC) final 11 points to force overtime. Walton hit his first three of the season with five seconds left.

“(Walton) hit a James Harden step back three,” Sligh said. “I’m not saying it was a travel, but if you watch Harden’s step back threes, they’re multiple steps.”

Kent State secured the win despite an abysmal shooting performance from senior guard Jaylin Walker, who finished 5-for-26 from the field for 18 points. But Walker left his impact on the game through distributing, particularly in transition, as he finished with a career-high six assists.

“Ball movement is crucial for us,” Sligh said. “We made crucial drive and kick plays when we needed baskets.”

Senior guard Jalen Avery scored 18 points, the most since Nov. 23 at Vanderbilt. He finished 6-for-11 from the field, including a strong finish inside to cut the Ball State lead to 80-79 with 17.6 left in overtime. Following the basket, a defensive trap on forward Kyle Mallers next to the Kent State bench forced a turnover setting up Williams’ heroics.

Williams and Walker combined for eight of the Flashes’ nine steals. They forced 20 turnovers. It was the third time this season that they forced 20 or more turnovers.

“That’s who we have to be defensively,” Sligh said. “We struggled to rebound at times because we’re a small team, but the steals and turnovers we forced were the difference.”

The Flashes had five players score in double-digits for the second time in conference play. Walker’s poor shooting performance, withstanding, Kent State shot 54.7 percent as a team.

Kent State plays two of its next three games on the road against teams who are a combined 7-15 in conference play. The Flashes next game is Tuesday at 7pm inside the M.A.C. Center against Miami (12-10, 4-5 MAC). The Redhawks are coming off a 59-48 win at Eastern Michigan.

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