Walker, defense push Flashes past Northern Illinois

Kent State coach Rob Senderoff calls out a play during the second half of the Flashes’ matchup against NIU on Jan. 19. The Flashes won, 78-68.

Ian Kreider

A Consistent defensive effort is something that has been lacking in recent games for the Kent State men’s basketball team (14-4, 3-2 Mid-American Conference).

The Flashes defense was the difference maker on Saturday, especially in the first half when their offense was just 11-for-30 from the field.

“We won with our defense and by not turning the ball over and by sticking with the game plan for 40 minutes,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said.

A large part of that game plan included limiting Northern Illinois (10-8, 3-2 MAC)  guard Eugene German. German came into the game averaging the second most points per game in the conference at 20.8 points per game. While he was amass that mark, 10 of his 22 points were scored over the final 5:14 of the second half. In the first half he was limited to four points on 2-for-6 shooting, while guarded mostly by senior guard Jalen Avery.

“Jalen is a good, solid defender who has played against him a number of times and knows what his tendencies are,” Senderoff said.

The Flashes offense sputtered for most of the first half, and they almost went the entire half without going to the foul-line. That changed when junior guard Antonio Williams launched a half-court shot with .5 seconds left. The shot missed, but he created contact with the Huskies’ Trendon Hankerson that sent him to the line for three free-throws. The Flashes escaped one of their worst shooting performances in a half and trailed, 30-28.

Kent State continued to be aggressive and the calls came in bunches during the second half. They shot finished 17-for-20 from the line, which is their highest mark since conference play began. That, coupled with senior forward Akiean Fredrick 12 points off the bench, were large contributing factors in the 78-68 win. Fredrick tied the career-high he set against Savannah State earlier in the year.

Senior guard Jaylin Walker finished with 31 points on 11-for-22 shooting, but struggled from deep. He shot 3-for-12 his worst performance from three of the season. It was the first time this season that he scored 26 or more points while making less than four three pointers. He had not broken the 30-point mark in 11 games.

Walker was honored pre-game for breaking the all-time three pointers record in his previous game against Ohio.

“It’s a great accomplishment and an a testament to his career here,” Senderoff said.

The Flashes will enter their toughest week of the season as they take on the two top teams in the MAC: No. 16 Buffalo (17-1, 5-0 MAC) and Toledo (15-3, 3-2 MAC).

Senderoff implored the fans to come out and support.

“We would really appreciate if as many fans showed up as possible,” Senderoff said. “It would make a huge difference, especially over the next two games.”

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