Flashes secure win against Toledo behind career-highs from Walker, Roberts

Kent State’s Jaylin Walker puts up a shot against Toledo’s Willie Jackson in the second half of Tuesday’s game at the M.A.C. Center.

Ian Kreider

Senior guard Jaylin Walker delivered the win in a way only he could: a one-foot floater from beyond the foul line in the waning seconds of overtime.

“I just made a good move and he bit on it,” Walker said of the shot. “I crossed over and he left me a little space so I could float it up. I practice those type of shots on the daily.”

Despite the impressive end to his night, dropping his 36th point in from the rafters en route to the 87-85 win, Walker had a slow start to the game. He did not attempt his first field goal until there was 11:28 left in the first half. The shot was from a few feet behind the foul line and it came up about a foot short of skimming iron.

“My teammates told me to keep my head up,” Walker said. “They told me (my shots) would drop. I put in a lot of work, and I know my next shot is going to go in. I don’t worry about the shot before.”

Walker finished with 36 points, which ties his career high. He shot 11-for-21 from the field, including 7-for-14 from deep. However, he did not catch fire until midway through the second half.

Toledo opened the second half on a 12-2 over the first 4:04 of the half. Kent State (15-4, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) was down 17 points with 15:56 left in the game, and every-time it appeared that they were going to claw their way back Toledo answered. The Rocket’s final answer came on a Willie Jackson one-handed putback slam with 7:41 left that extended their lead to 71-58.

Then Walker took over.

He scored 23 of his points in the second half, including a 6-for-10 showing from three that saw him draining heavily contested threes like he was playing a game of H-O-R-S-E, leaving fans and coaches alike shaking their heads. He knocked down four threes over the final 6:40 which evaporated a 13-point Toledo (15-4, 3-3 MAC) lead.

Freshman guard Anthony Roberts played a huge role after not seeing the floor in the previous two games. He had a steal that he took coast-to-coast to cut the Rockets lead to 78-77 with 1:15 left in regulation. The play set up Walker’s late game heroics, during which he contorted his body and hit a floater with 32.9 left to knot it 79-79, ultimately sending the game to overtime.

“Anthony’s had some growing pains, but he came in and played really hard early (in the game),” coach Senderoff said. “He guarded the best he has all season. He has to be patient, stay ready and then compete when his opportunity comes. Tonight he was one of the difference makers.”

He finished with two steals and a career-high seven rebounds, but he did not play the final 1:54 of overtime due to a cramp.

“He had never played that hard before,” Senderoff said through laughs. “That’s why he was cramping so he had to come out, but CJ Williamson made huge plays in overtime.”

Junior guard CJ Williamson checked in off the bench and picked up where Roberts left off. He had a critical steal and ran up the floor with only one defender to beat, but as he approached he threw a behind-the-back pass to senior guard Antonio Williams who flushed it through with two hands, giving the Flashes the 85-83 lead with 1:25 left. It was their first lead of the game.

“That’s the JUCO in him,” Senderoff said of the behind-the-back pass. “He has had some ups and downs, but for him to have the confidence that he has is really important for our team.”

The Flashes secured arguably their most impressive win of the season in a game, which it appeared that they were finished.

“The resiliency we showed down 17 in the second half was just unbelievable,” Senderoff said. “I’m really proud of these guys.”

The Flashes will finish their toughest week of the season when they take on No. 14 Buffalo (17-2, 5-1 MAC) who is coming off their first conference loss of the season when lost 77-75 to Northern Illinois (11-8, 4-2 MAC) Tuesday night.

Kent State beat the Huskies 78-68 on Jan. 19.

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