Momentum plays prove to be difference for Flashes in regular season finale

Kent State senior guard Deon Edwin splits through Akron junior guard Noah Robotham and sophomore guard Josh Williams at the M.A.C. Center on Friday, March 3, 2017. Kent State lost 66-56.

Nick Buzzelli

Rob Senderoff wasn’t upset about his team’s effort on the court following Friday’s loss to rival Akron. When he addressed reporters in the M.A.C. Center’s media room, the head coach said he was proud of the way Kent State competed for 37 of the game’s 40 minutes against the Mid-American Conference’s regular season champions.

He was, however, disappointed that his three seniors — Jimmy Hall, Deon Edwin and Jon Fleming — weren’t able to come away with a victory on senior night.

But, in the grand scheme of things, the loss didn’t have any impact on Kent State’s seeding heading into the upcoming MAC Tournament. Regardless of the outcome, the Golden Flashes were going to have a first round home game Monday night.

Despite cutting the deficit to three on a late Jaylin Walker three, Akron (24-7, 14-4 Mid-American Conference) used a 10-0 run during the game’s next three minutes to fend off a Kent State (18-13, 10-8 MAC) comeback and seal the 66-56 victory at the M.A.C. Center.

“Tonight was not our night, so you move on, especially this time of year. What are we going to do? We can’t really dwell on it. You move on,” he said after the game. “We were playing Monday, win or lose. The only thing it changes is who we play. We’ll play Monday and go from there.”

Hall led all scorers with 16 points on a 7-14 performance from the floor while Walker and Edwin chipped in 12 points, respectively. The Zips were paced by guard Jimond Ivey, who recorded 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Akron converted its first three attempts from beyond the arc and shot 83.3 percent from the field in the first five minutes to go up by seven. Hall countered by scoring Kent State’s first eight points – two layups and two jump shots – and the Flashes then used an 8-0 run to get within one, 19-18.

Both teams traded baskets for the remainder of the first half and initial minutes of the final frame until Walker connected on a midrange jumper at the 15:53 mark to give the Golden Flashes their first lead.

It was short-lived, however. The Zips answered with an Ivey jumper to on the ensuing possession.

Walker’s three in transition with 4:55 remaining got Kent State within striking distance, but the Flashes were unable to get a defensive stop on the other end.

After Noah Robotham missed the front end of a one-and-one, Akron kept the possession alive by corralling three consecutive offensive rebounds before Robotham hit a three from the wing that pushed the lead to six and, ultimately, sealed the win.

“That’s what Akron does. That’s their bread and butter. They shoot the three. Turns out they just made big shots at key times,” Edwin said. “We tried to run them off the line. Credit to them they just got a good win. We just got to move forward now and look forward to Monday.”

While Senderoff admitted that Kent State’s failure to get a defensive rebound on that possession was a turning point, he pointed out that there were other plays that altered the swing of momentum.

“There was a lot of plays in the game. That was a big play, but there was a ton of them. We all know that,” he said. “We’ll move on to the next game.”

Kent State hosts Central Michigan and Marcus Keene, the league’s leading scorer, Monday at 7 p.m. in a first round MAC Tournament game. Keene led CMU’s offensive barrage on Jan. 25, the first time these two teams met, scoring 11 of his 41 points in the final five minutes en route to a 105-98 win.

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].