Walker, Flashes smothered by Akron’s defense

Philip Whittington makes a play around Akron defense during the Friday night matchup between Kent State University and the University of Akron. The Flashes lost 72-53.

Ian Kreider

Senior guard Jaylin Walker screamed for a pass from junior Mitch Peterson that never came as the horn sounded to end the first half.

Once the ball got to Walker’s hands, he slammed the ball on the court in frustration before walking to the locker room.

Moments earlier, Akron’s Daniel Utomi used a crossover to send Peterson stumbling into the lane and hit a three to give Akron the 31-30 lead heading into halftime.

Kent State went on to lose 72-53. It was their worst loss since Jan. 12 at Eastern Michigan.

Kent State is now 17-6 and 6-4 in the Mid-American Conference, while Akron is 14-9 and 6-4 in the MAC. Akron came into the game boasting the best defense in the MAC and the 14th best scoring defense in the country, allowing just 62.4 points per game.

The Flashes limited Akron — who was 27th in the nation in three-pointers  heading into the matchup — to 3-for-8 in the first half.

But that changed during an 11-0 five minute run by Akron mid-way through the second half. The Flashes allowed back-to-back threes from Loren Cristian Jackson, pushing the Zips lead to 50-39 with 9:04 left.

“We need to be able to win games that are in the 50’s,” Rob Senderoff said. “Right now we can’t do that.”

Kent State was unable to string together any consistent offense as Walker finished with a season-low 10 points on 4-for-19 shooting, including 0-for-10 from three. It was the first time this season that he failed to make a three. He has shot 15-for-61 over the last three games.

“When we don’t make shots we stop defending,” Senderoff said.

Kent State lost despite out-rebounding Akron, 40-33. It was the second time this season that they lost despite out-rebounding their opponent. The Flashes were able to secure the majority of rebounds with senior forward Philip Whittington on the bench. He played a season-low 10 minutes after committing two fouls in the first five minutes of the game.

“I probably should have played Phil more,” Senderoff said. “I was disappointed with how he defended, but I was probably wrong about that because he had four blocks. He has to play more for us to have a chance to win.”

Kent State finished with a season-low five assists. Senior guard Jalen Avery finished with zero assists for the third time this season. The Flashes are 0-3 in such games.

“The emphasis at the half was to move the ball better because we only had two assists at halftime,” Senderoff said. “We had two early on in the second half, but only one the rest of the way. We’re not going to win many games that way.”

Avery sustained a left ankle injury after making a three with 6:34 left. He landed awkwardly and stayed down for about a minute. He was helped to the locker room and checked back in with 4:47 left, trailing 64-47.

“We were down 17, but if we were down two he probably would’ve kept playing,” Senderoff said. “He’s too valuable to the team when he’s out there limping.”

Kent State continues its season at 5 p.m. Thursday against Western Michigan at Read Fieldhouse. Western Michigan is 6-16 and 0-9 in conference play. They are coming off three straight double-digit losses; two of which were home games.

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