Flashes will rely on bench in matchup with No. 14 Buffalo


Kent State’s Antonio Williams drives to the basket against Toledo’s Chris Darrington in the second half of Tuesday’s game at the M.A.C. Center. 

Ian Kreider

It would be easy to point to senior guard Jaylin Walker’s 36-point outburst as the reason Kent State (15-4, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) secured a 17-point comeback win against Toledo on Tuesday. While Walker’s Tuesday night  scoring outburst went a long way to the Flashes securing the win over the Rockets, Kent State’s inital comeback was jumpstarted by some lesser known names down the Flashes bench. For Kent State to have any chance to upset No. 14 Buffalo Friday night, those same names will need to step up once again. That said, another cold-blooded performance from Walker wouldn’t hurt either.

The emergence of freshman guard Anthony Robert paired with impressive minutes late by senior forward Akiean Fredrick were just as important as Walker’s contribution. Coach Rob Senderoff has tinkered with the Flashes’ lineup for most of the season, but Tuesday night may have provided some clarity.

“(Anthony) brought a defensive spark, he got a lot of steals and brought a lot of energy to the game,” senior guard Jalen Avery said. “We need that the rest of conference play.”

Avery and Walker are the only two Flashes to start every conference game thus far.

Roberts could prove to be the difference maker Friday. His impressive play allowed Avery to get some well-earned rest in the second half. He was also able to lessen the load on the offensive side, bringing the ball up most positions when Avery was off the floor.

“He takes control of the team when he comes in,” Avery said of Roberts. “We need him to continue to do that.”

Buffalo (17-2, 5-1 MAC) has the fourth-leading scorer in the conference in CJ Massingburg. He will see heavy defensive doses of junior guards Antonio Williams, CJ Williamson, with Roberts serving as a potential wild card.

The Bulls ability to stretch the floor with forward Nick Perkins is another talking point. In his three games against the Flashes last season, Perkins averaged 14 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting. Buffalo is 10-1 this season in games that he hits at least one three-pointer.

The burden of guarding Perkins will fall on junior Phil Whittington, who is coming off his worst game during his time at Kent State. He scored just two points in 13 minutes against the Rockets, and most of his minutes in the second half went to Frederick. 

“I need to be able to score off of offensive rebounds, dump off to my teammates or make a high-level play,” Whittington said. “I need to make more high energy plays that (Frederick) has been making so far.”

Frederick finished 5-for-11 with a career-high 12, three of which came on his first made three-pointer of the season. He also finished with a 16 plus-minus, which was best on the team.

Whittington understands that the matchup with Perkins is a pivotal part of the game.

“(I have to make sure) he doesn’t touch the ball in the post,” Whittington said. “I have to front him as many times as I can if he picks and pops. I have to make him sit on his left hand to make him a right-handed driver.”

Tip off is set for 6:30 p.m. inside the M.A.C. Center.

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