Keene’s heroics lifts CMU to OT win over Kent State

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Kent State senior forward Jimmy Hall catches an inbound pass over Central Michigan University redshirt junior guard Josh Kozinski at the M.A.C. Center on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Kent State lost 98-105 in overtime.

Nick Buzzelli

After Kent State redshirt senior Jimmy Hall tipped in a missed layup by sophomore Jalen Avery with 1.9 seconds remaining to knot the score at 83 and force overtime against Central Michigan University, the afternoon crowd of 3,197 scattered throughout the M.A.C. Center erupted with a thundering applause.

But when CMU junior Marcus Keene drained a step back three-pointer 37 seconds into overtime, the fans went silent, in awe of what they saw from Division I’s leading scorer.

Keene then mimicked the play on his team’s next possession — this time a 22-footer over Kent State sophomore Jaylin Walker that caught nothing but net — and again one minute later.

All in all, Keene scored nearly half of the Chippewas’ (14-7, 4-4 Mid-American Confrence) final 23 points in overtime and netted his fourth 40-point game this season. He helped propel his team past the Flashes (11-10, 3-5 MAC), 105-98, Saturday for their first win at Kent State since the 1996-97 season.

“Tough loss, obviously. When it went to overtime, I thought we had the momentum, but it didn’t carry over there,” head coach Rob Senderoff said. “(Central Michigan’s) guys played really well and made some big plays down the stretch and in overtime, and we just couldn’t get a stop — as you can see by the overtime and the second half defensive numbers.”

Trailing 78-73 and with less than two minutes remaining, Kent State senior guard Deon Edwin hit a three from the corner to cut the deficit to two. However then CMU freshman forward David DiLeo grabbed the offensive rebound off a Keene missed three to widen the gap to four.

On the ensuing play, Hall — who finished the game with 28 points and 12 rebounds — converted an old-fashioned three point play. But CMU senior guard Braylon Rayson then broke Kent State’s half-court press and found a wide open junior Cecil Williams for the uncontested alley-oop.

Down three with 12 seconds left following the Flashes’ final timeout, Hall used a screen to create and knock down a jumper to get his team within one, 82-81.

DiLeo, who was intentionally fouled, went 1-2 from the charity stripe, setting up Hall’s game-tying bucket.

In overtime, though, Keene was too much to handle.

“Yeah, he’s a good player. He can shoot the ball, he can score,” a somber Hall, slumped in his chair in the media room, said following the overtime loss. “A good player.”

In Senderoff’s mind, it wasn’t Keene’s impressive play that led to the loss, but rather the blown defensive assignments and mental lapses his team committed down the stretch — which included fouling CMU redshirt senior Josh Kozinski on a three-point attempt.

“At the end of the day, we lost because — in the last five minutes, last six minutes of the game — there’s stops that you have to make, plays that you have to make, mostly on the defensive side of the ball,” Senderoff said. “And we didn’t make them. That’s the difference; not how many three’s we shot (or) what we shot from the free throw line.”

The Flashes play Tuesday at Eastern Michigan. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.

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