Flashes look to jump-start season in tightly contested Mid-American Conference

Kent+State+junior+guard+C.J.+Williamson+attempts+a+dunk+during+the+Flashes+game+against+Shawnee+State+on+Nov.+13%2C+2018.+Kent+State+won+the+game%2C+90-69.

Kent State junior guard C.J. Williamson attempts a dunk during the Flashes’ game against Shawnee State on Nov. 13, 2018. Kent State won the game, 90-69.

Henry Palattella

Despite suffering its worst conference loss for Kent State under coach Rob Senderoff on Saturday against Eastern Michigan, the Kent State men’s basketball team is in a good place.

The Flashes (12-4, 1-2 MAC) finished their non-conference schedule at 11-2 on the season, which was not only the Flashes’ best start since the 2002-03 season, but also featured wins over “Power 5” opponents Oregon State and Vanderbilt. Jaylin Walker has once again been the offensive catalyst for the Flashes, averaging 21.8 points per game in 11 games this season, only two of which were starts.

Walker also sat out the first four games of the Flashes’ season due to a suspension. Walker’s scoring has been complimented by senior guard Jalen Avery, who has 63 assists compared to eight turnovers on the season. Last year, Avery led the nation in assist to turnover ratio.

Junior center and University of South Carolina Upstate transfer Phillip Whittington has turned in a solid season thus far, averaging 10 points per game and eight rebounds. Fellow newcomer Antonio Williamson has turned in a more up and down season. Williams scored 22 points against Savannah State in November, but has fallen out of starting lineup, with Walker taking his starting spot in the Flashes’ past two games.  

Kent State is currently in a three-way tie for third with Ohio and Akron in a loaded MAC East that features 3-0 Bowling Green and Buffalo. The Bulls, who come to the M.A.C. Center on Jan. 25, are ranked No. 19 in the latest AP poll.

The MAC as a whole is one of the stronger mid-major conferences in the country, and Western Michigan (6-10) is the only team under .500 in the conference. The Flashes take on Ohio in Athens on Tuesday before taking on 3-0 Northern Illinois in the M.A.C. Center on Saturday.

The Flashes’ matchup against the Huskies kicks three straight home games, the only home back-to-back they have left this season.  The Flashes will travel to Akron to take on the Zips on Feb. 9, and end their season against the Zips at home on March 8.

Henry Palattella is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]