Flashes’ struggles on the road continue with tough loss at Toledo

Kent+State+center+Adonis+De+La+Rosa+attempts+a+shot+during+the+second+half+of+the+game+against+Cleveland+State+in+the+M.A.C+Center+Saturday%2C+Dec.+2%2C+2017.%C2%A0

Kent State center Adonis De La Rosa attempts a shot during the second half of the game against Cleveland State in the M.A.C Center Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. 

Cameron Hoover

The difference between Kent State’s home and away records has been night and day: 7-2 at the M.A.C. Center, but just 2-7 in neutral site and true road games.

While the Flashes definitely saw improvement over some early road defeats, the team couldn’t finish down the stretch, resulting in a 72-65 loss to MAC West-leading Toledo (13-6, 5-1 MAC).

“It’s tough to play on the road anywhere in this league,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “(Toledo’s) a good team. They played well tonight — well enough to win.”

As has been the case with many of Kent State’s road losses, the Flashes came out of the gates sluggish. A three-pointer from Toledo junior guard Jaelan Sanford put the Rockets up, 15-3, with 13:25 remaining in the first half.

Senderoff quickly called a timeout, and Flashes’ junior guard Jaylin Walker, who came off the bench for the third straight game, caught fire, showing Kent State fans a glimpse of what they’ve been waiting for all season.

Walker scored 14 points in the first half, ending with a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 30 heading into the break. Many of Walker’s shots came after a series of dribble moves with Rockets draped all over him; his ability to make shots over tight defense is an aspect of Walker’s game that has been missing over the first 20 games of the season.

Walker lost his touch down the stretch, however, missing three shots from beyond the arc in the final minute as the Rockets sealed the game from the free-throw line.

Walker finished with 19 points on 7-for-16 shooting, including 5-for-10 on three-pointers.

“Jaylin’s one of our main players, so he’s supposed to play well,” Senderoff said. “He played great in the first half, but he’s supposed to play well. He’s a good player.”

Kevin Zabo continued his impressive scoring run after tweaking his knee early in the second half. The senior guard finished with 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Zabo has now scored 20 or more points in three straight games, and he is averaging 18.7 points per game on 46.5 percent shooting in conference play.

“Kevin’s playing well,” Senderoff said. “We need him to continue to play well.”

Junior center Adonis De La Rosa added nine points and 14 rebounds, tied for a season-high.

“He did a good job on the glass tonight,” Senderoff said. “At the start of the game, we didn’t do a good job rebounding. But for about 35 minutes, we did a really good job. Adonis had a big part of that.”

Senior guard/forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher, who entered the game third in the MAC in scoring (18.2 points per game) and rebounding (8.2 per game), led the Rockets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, his seventh double-double of the season.

Sophomore forward/center Luke Knapke added 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting and nine rebounds off the bench, while junior guard Jaelan Sanford made all four of his free throw attempts en route to a 14-point performance.

Kent State will look to bounce back at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the M.A.C. Center as the team plays host to Ball State (12-7, 3-3 MAC).

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