Walker, De La Rosa lead Flashes to resounding victory over Central Michigan


Junior guard Jaylin Walker celebrates a shot in Kent State’s 79-78 win over Oregon State Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Walker led the Flashes with 25 points on 5-of-19 shooting. 

Cameron Hoover

After a nonconference slate filled with inconsistency and foul trouble, Kent State (7-8, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) finally got the performances from Jaylin Walker and Adonis De La Rosa they’ve been looking for all season.

The pair combined for 50 points en route to a convincing 85-69 win over Central Michigan (12-3, 1-1 MAC) Saturday night, who entered the game ranked No. 22 on CollegeInsider.com’s Mid-Major Top 25, one of only two MAC teams featured on the list.

The duo helped the Flashes jump out to a 46-30 lead at the half. The 46 points were tied for the team’s highest first half scoring output against a Division I opponent this season.

After a brief spurt from the Chippewas cut the lead to eight with 12:45 remaining, nine points from Walker in the last 10 minutes allowed Kent State to pull away and seal its first conference win and its first win in general since upsetting Oregon State on Dec. 21.

Walker led the charge for the Flashes with 26 points, tied for a season-high, on 7-for-13 shooting, including 6-for-9 from three-point range. The performance comes on the heels of a three-game stretch where he shot 28.5 percent from the field and 16.7 percent on three-pointers.

Walker said he spent more time working on his shot in the past week of practices and that it “felt good” to see more of his three-pointers drop.

“I’ve been in the gym more lately because that’s what you’ve got to do when you go through bad shooting performances,” Walker said. “I’ve just been in the gym shooting.”

While Rob Senderoff appreciated Walker regaining his shooting stroke on the night, the coach reiterated the junior guard’s impact is seen on his entire statline.

“I’ve said this, and I’ll continue to say it: I don’t think he can be judged just on the shooting percentage,” Senderoff said. “Though today was great, there have been some days that weren’t great. He had five assists and two steals today, which led the team. He had two offensive rebounds, which was second on the team, and four rebounds total. … The whole team did a great job defensively, … and I think he played a big part in that.”

De La Rosa also posted a huge double-double, setting career-highs in points (24) and rebounds (14). Perhaps more importantly, the 7-footer who has worked all season on conditioning and staying out of foul trouble only committed two fouls in 37 minutes.

The junior center said he didn’t feel tired at all after the game.

“I don’t feel anything,” De La Rosa said. “I feel like we just won a game.”

Senderoff said De La Rosa, along with the entire frontcourt, performed as well as the unit has all season.

“(De La Rosa) was really, really good on the glass with six offensive rebounds,” Senderoff said. “He got to the free-throw line. The biggest thing with him is consistency. He’s got to do that night after night. … He’s got to control the paint, control the glass and play without fouling. … Our guys will continue to have confidence in him and throw it to him.”

Kevin Zabo continued his impressive scoring streak with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting and four assists. The senior guard is averaging 14.8 points per game in his last five contests.

Junior guard Jalen Avery added 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and no turnovers.

Senior forward Luke Meyer led Central Michigan with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Senior guard Josh Kozinski made four three-pointers en route to a 12-point performance, and sophomore guard Kevin McKay added 11 points.

Senior forward Cecil Williams, the Chippewas’ leading scorer heading into the game at 15.1 points per game, was held to just four points in 24 minutes before fouling out.

The Flashes return to the court at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Oxford, Ohio, against Miami (OH) (8-7, 1-1 MAC).

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