Peterson’s game-winner caps wild finish in win over Western Michigan

Sophomore forward Danny Pippen and a referee exchange glances during Kent State’s 73-71 win over Western Michigan. Pippen scored a season-high 16 points, all in the first half.

Cameron Hoover

Kent State led Western Michigan by as many as 18 points in the second half Tuesday night, but with 9.9 seconds left, a goaltending call on junior guard Jaylin Walker tied the game at 71.

Kent State coach Rob Senderoff chose not to call a timeout, and senior guard Kevin Zabo dribbled the length of the court before losing the ball at the rim.

4.1 seconds left.

Sophomore forward Danny Pippen collected the loose ball with his back to the basket, twisted and left a point-blank layup short. The ball was whacked out of mid-air by Western Michigan’s Reggie Jones, directly into the hands of sophomore guard Mitch Peterson, five feet away from the basket.

1.9 seconds left.

Peterson collected the ball and calmly lifted, using only his right hand to propel the ball toward the net. It’s a shot Peterson has been famous for during his time at Kent State and one he’s made dozens of times over his two seasons.

“We call it the floater,” Zabo said of Peterson’s patented move. “It’s his shot. It’s Mitch’s shot.”

The ball hadn’t even fallen the whole way through the net before Peterson pumped his fist in celebration of his first career-game winner. With 0.2 seconds on the clock, Peterson was mobbed by his teammates in celebration of a 73-71 win over Western Michigan that brought the Flashes record to 9-9, including 3-2 in the Mid-American Conference.

Peterson said it was no accident he was in position to play the hero.

“It was a little bit of (being in the right place at the right time),” Peterson said. “But I’d like to think I was reading the play. I was counting on Danny making it, but the ball came my way so I put it in.”

The Flashes jumped out to an 18-point lead with 3:36 remaining in the first half, thanks to red-hot three-point shooting. At that point in the game, Pippen, Zabo and Walker combined to go 8-for-8 from behind the line. Pippen’s 16 points in the first half were a season-high for a whole game.

Kent State led, 45-33, at halftime, but the Broncos (11-7, 3-2 MAC) slowly chipped away at the lead thanks to 15 made second-half free throws.

“Obviously, Western Michigan is a great team, — one of the toughest teams in the league — so we knew they were going to try to come back in the second half,” Zabo said. “We did a good job staying composed in the end.”

Senderoff focused on his team’s defensive rebounding statistics against one of the stronger teams on the offensive glass in the MAC. The Broncos only secured nine offensive rebounds, three less than their season average.

“We had more second-chance points, including the game-winning basket,” Senderoff said. “To me, the biggest key for us in this game was how we defended.”

Zabo finished with a game-high 23 points, while Pippen chipped in with 16, all in the first half. Junior center Adonis De La Rosa picked up his fifth double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while junior point guard Jalen Avery added nine assists.

Kent State will hope to continue the momentum from a two-game home win streak in their next game on the road, where the team is winless in conference play.

“We celebrate now, but we’re onto the next tomorrow,” Zabo said. “We have another tough opponent, and we’re looking to steal one on the road. We’ve done a good job protecting our house, but now we have to get one on the road.”

Kent State will look to keep the win streak alive for its next game at Toledo at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20 at Savage Arena.

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].