Avery’s career-high leads Flashes to first MAC road win


Kent State senior guard Deon Edwin takes a corner three while a Northern Illinois defender contests the shot at NIU Convocation Center on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Kent State won 73-66.

Nick Buzzelli

After his team dropped its fourth consecutive Mid-American Conference game via an 82-69 home loss to Buffalo Jan. 17, sophomore Jalen Avery realized his team had to concentrate on playing as a collective unit.

During the losing streak, the Kent State point guard noticed his teammates were focusing more on individual success and stats than winning alone. And after the coaching staff informed the Flashes to pretend as if they were starting with a blank slate before every game, things started to fall into place.

Against Northern Illinois University Tuesday night, a team Kent State lost in overtime to Jan. 10, the Flashes got down to basics. Redshirt senior forward Jimmy Hall recorded another double-double – the 18th of his career. Avery notched a career-high 16 points in 24 minutes of play and the Flashes downed NIU, 73-66, in DeKalb, Illinois .

“We definitely took that to heart. After we took those four losses in a row, we taught ourselves that we were going to leave that in the past and we were going to begin our season at that point,” Avery told Ty Linder of the Golden Flashes radio network following the win. “We told ourselves we were 0-0. We won our last game, made us 1-0, and then we wanted to continue to go onto that and win this game to make us 2-0.”

Both teams traded baskets for a majority of the first half, but two back-to-back three pointers by NIU’s guard Austin Pauga put his team ahead at the midway point. On the next possession, Kent State’s senior guard Deon Edwin responded with a three of his own.

Despite trailing to begin the final frame, the Flashes knotted the score at 39 less than 1:30 into the second half and took the lead for good on an Edwin free throw two minutes later.

With his team down by six with 41 seconds left, NIU’s guard Eugene German – a 55 percent free throw shooter – drew a blocking foul on sophomore center Adonis De La Rosa while attempting to drive the lane and hit both subsequent free throws to cut the deficit to four.

On the ensuing in-bounds play, Avery was fouled and went 1-2 from the line. However, freshman guard Mitch Peterson then stole the ball from German as he was brining it up court passed ahead to Edwin for a fast break opportunity, who then fed Avery for the easy layup to put the game out of reach with 24 seconds remaining.

“I really can just pinpoint it to trying to win. I think when we just focus on winning, the plays that you try to make, they just happen to go in,” Avery said. “So we just focus on winning instead of focusing on individual success and a lot of your shots start to go in, you start to play better defense, you rebound the ball and everything is just easier for you.”

Kent State returns home to face off against Central Michigan and Marcus Keene, the nation’s leading scorer, Saturday at noon in a game that will be televised.

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