Walker, Avery’s late threes help snap two-game losing streak

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Mitch Peterson attempts to shoot over Ohio’s Teyvion Kirk in the first half of Kent State’s game on Tuesday. The Flashes won, 78-73.

Ian Kreider

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Kent State senior guard Jaylin Walker was cleared to play after suffering a thigh bruise during Sunday afternoon’s practice. About three hours later, he knocked down a pair of free throws to secure a 78-73 win for the Flashes over Ohio.

“I got a call from my trainer saying he may not play tonight,” coach Rob Senderoff said postgame. “If this game was in January he probably wouldn’t have played. He was in treatment from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. He came out and did his shooting with our graduate assistant Jon Fleming and told us he was ready to go.”

Walker had five points in the first half on 2-for-9 shooting, including 0-for-3 on three-pointers. He finished with 23 points on 8-for-21 shooting, including 4-for-9 from three. He made his first three in 68 minutes of game time with 18:44 left in the game. His 23 points was the first time he scored 20 points in a game since Feb. 14 at Western Michigan.

“There are very few players who have the confidence that he has,” Senderoff said. “He didn’t make shots early, but the shots he made in the second half were off the charts.”

Kent State improves to 20-8 and 9-6 in the Mid-American Conference. The Flashes currently in a tie with Central Michigan for four in the MAC with three games to go. The win snapped a two game losing streak for the Flashes. The Chippewas hold the tiebreaker over the Flashes thanks to their 84-74 win earlier in the season. The top four teams in the conference get an automatic bye to Cleveland for the MAC tournament. The Bobcats dropped to 12-15 overall and 4-11 in the MAC.

Senior guard Jalen Avery finished with six points, all coming from three-point field goals. The second three gave the Flashes a 76-72 lead with 25 seconds left. 

“I was trying to milk the clock a little bit,” Avery said. “When I came off the screen the defender went under it. I came back over to see if he would go under again, and he did. Anytime guys go under screens, coach wants me to shoot the ball so I just shot it with confidence.”

Avery helped secure the win despite playing off the ball for most of the first half, while junior guard Antonio Williams and freshman guard Anthony Roberts ran the offense.

“It’s been great because I’m still getting healthy,” Avery said. “I see the floor differently now being off the ball.”

Williams and Roberts combined for 23 points on 10-for-22 shooting while recording five assists and zero turnovers. Kent State finished with a season-low five turnovers while recording 17 assists, its most since Feb. 2 at Ball State.

“We’ve been a great assist to the turnover team all season,” Senderoff said. “I think the Buffalo game was uncharacteristic for us. Tonight is more indicative of what we’ve normally done.”

Kent State secured a season-high 21 offensive rebounds in the win. Senior forward Akiean Frederick was a large part of that effort, as he secured a career-high eight offensive rebounds. He was one rebound short of his first career double-double. He played over 26 minutes, as junior forward Philip Whittington got into early foul trouble.

“He was active as can be as soon as he checked into the game,” Senderoff said. “I can’t remember a time that (Phil’s foul trouble) was the reason we lost a game.”

Kent State plays at Bowling Green at 7 p.m. Friday. The Falcons are coming off back-to-back losses after leading the MAC for most of the season. They beat Kent State, 86-64, on Jan. 5.

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