Toledo’s sharpshooting sinks Kent State on road

Kent+State+sophomore+guard+Jaylin+Walker+looks+to+pass+against+Miami+University+at+the+John+D.+Millet+Hall+in+Oxford%2C+Ohio%2C+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+4%2C+2017.+Kent+State+won+66-62.

Kent State sophomore guard Jaylin Walker looks to pass against Miami University at the John D. Millet Hall in Oxford, Ohio, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. Kent State won 66-62.

Nick Buzzelli

 Since dropping a 92-88 decision at Western Michigan University on Jan. 14, the Kent State men’s basketball team found its rhythm away from the friendly confines of the M.A.C. Center.

First, there was the seven-point victory against Northern Illinois in DeKalb, followed by back-to-back wins at Eastern Michigan and Miami (OH). In between those three games, however, were overtime home losses to Central Michigan and Bowling Green.

For as shaky as the Flashes have been on campus of late, the end result always seemed to be different on the road. No matter how Kent State played, it always came away with a victory during that span.

Saturday’s game against the University of Toledo, however, was different.

The Rockets (13-12, 6-6 Mid-American Conference) shot 65.2 percent from the floor, outrebounded Kent State (13-12, 5-7 MAC) by 10 and led for nearly the entire game en route to a 78-58 win at Savage Arena that splits the season series between the two schools.

Four UT players scored in double-figures — including Jonathan Williams, who chipped in a game-high 21 points — and the Rockets converted 8-18 shots from beyond the arc in the win, its second in a row.

Kent State, which made 40.7 percent of its shots, was paced by sophomore guard Jaylin Walker, who tallied 13 points. Redshirt senior Jimmy Hall chipped in 10 points and five rebounds.

The Flashes jumped out to an early lead courtesy of a three pointer by freshman Mitch Peterson, but Toledo responded with a Luke Knapke layup to take a 7-5 advantage less than three minutes in.

The Rockets led for the remainder of the game and cruised to a 44-34 halftime lead.

Despite trailing by as many as 16 early in the final frame, Kent State would cut the deficit to 10 with 13 minutes remaining on a layup by Walker. However, Toledo’s persistent sharpshooting enabled it to cushion its lead throughout the second half.

Kent State returns home Tuesday night to host Miami (OH) — a team it beat 66-62 on Feb. 4 before participating in the first game of the Wagon Wheel series against rival Akron three days later at James A. Rhodes Arena at Akron.

The game will be televised on ESPNU. 

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