Walker leads men’s basketball to sloppy win over Mississippi Valley State


Kent State University junior guard Jaylin Walker goes for a layup against Mississippi Valley State Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017.

Cameron Hoover

Jaylin Walker picked up right where he left off after last season’s Mid-American Conference Tournament MVP award.

Walker is leading the Kent State men’s basketball team in scoring, averaging 17.3 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting, including 41.2 percent from three-point range, through Kent State’s first three games of the season.

Walker led Kent State (3-0) to another victory Sunday afternoon over Mississippi Valley State, 80-67. The 6-foot-1-inch guard scored 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting, including three three-pointers.

Walker said while he understands the bigger scoring role he needs to take on in the absence of Jimmy Hall, it’s important for him to get teammates involved as well.

“I know the ball is going to be in my hands,” Walker said. “I need to create for others.”

Coach Rob Senderoff said Walker may have put too much emphasis on assisting his teammates early in the game, leading to many of his team-high five turnovers.

“Early in the game, he was giving up what I thought were shots he should shoot to try to pass the ball,” Senderoff said of the junior guard. “He was trying to over-pass a little bit. He’s making a conscious effort to get other guys involved, but when he’s open, he should be shooting and not even thinking twice about it.”

Junior guard Jalen Avery had a career-high 10 assists without any turnovers and added five points and four rebounds.

“For me, it’s the most important thing as a point guard: being able to take care of the ball and get my teammates involved,” Avery said. “I’m much more comfortable being on the court, getting more reps with the ball in my hand.”

Avery added he would “definitely rather have 10 assists and a win than 20 points.”

Senderoff said having an “unselfish” player like Avery on the court during an otherwise sloppy game can help the team play better.

“Jalen’s a guy that really cares about winning above anything else,” Senderoff said. “When you have guys like that, they seem to play well. That’s just how it works.”

Despite the win, Senderoff was unimpressed with his team’s performance, specifically with his front court’s lack of defensive rebounding. Mississippi Valley State pulled down 12 offensive rebounds, and junior center Emmanuel Ejeh had 21 points and eight rebounds, including four offensive.

“We did a poor job defensive rebounding, a horrible job,” Senderoff said. “We’re going to watch the film, and we’ve got to get better. That’s the bottom line. I’m happy we won. … You don’t want to lose games. You want to learn from winning as opposed to learning from losing.”

Senderoff said much of the team’s defensive problems came from a lack of intensity.

“The amount of layups they had and second-chance points — you could just see that they outcompeted us inside tonight,” Senderoff said. “And some of that (comes from our) guards too. It’s not just the big guys. They had layups from guards getting to the rim.”

Senderoff said he looks forward to righting some of the team’s defensive wrongs in their next game, which is at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Southeastern Louisiana in the M.A.C. Center.

“I’m still concerned that we didn’t guard the way we need to to be a good team,” he said. “We’ve got to get better defensively for sure if we want to be successful. If we’re defending like this in February, we’re going to be losing a lot of games.”

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