Walker’s late free throws power Kent State past Eastern Michigan


Kent State senior guard Deon Edwin lays the ball in against Central Michigan at the M.A.C Center on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Kent State lost 98-105 in overtime.

Nick Buzzelli

It was a game that featured 54 combined personal fouls, 60 free throw attempts and four technicals. But the most critical mental mistake came with 12 seconds remaining and the score knotted at 64.

Looking to give his team the lead, Kent State sophomore guard Jaylin Walker launched a step-back three pointer with the shot clock winding down that fell short, hitting the front of the rim.

Though it might not have been the exact shot the Flashes were looking for, redshirt senior guard Deon Edwin was able to corral the offensive board, his fifth of the game. But he couldn’t convert the contested layup in the paint.

Walker – staying with the play – came streaking toward the basket from the top of the key, grabbed the board and was subsequently fouled by Eastern Michigan’s Baylee Steele, who was also whistled for the technical.

So, Walker went 2-2 from the line and freshman guard Mitch Peterson, who was fouled on the ensuing inbounds, drained both of his shots from the charity stripe, enabling Kent State (12-10, 4-5) to hold on for the 70-64 win Tuesday night over EMU (13-9, 5-4) at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

“Tough, hard fought game. That’s the MAC,” head coach Rob Senderoff told ESPN following the game. “We had a lot of turnovers, we didn’t shoot it well, but we grinded it out and that’s what you need to do.”

Kent State scored the game’s first nine points and its defense forced two early turnovers, but Eastern Michigan, which missed its first four shots from the field, countered with a 10-run to take the lead 12 minutes in courtesy of a James Thompson IV layup. 

Both teams then traded baskets for a majority of the second half, but the Flashes went ahead, 59-56, for good on a senior forward Jimmy Hall jumper with 3:21 left.

Nearly one minute later, however, Hall fouled out with his team clinging to a four point lead. He finished with his 13th double-double of the season (24 points and 11 rebounds) in 27 minutes of play.

Kent State went the final 2:40 without a field goal and scored its last eight points via the free throw line, four of which came from Peterson, who finished with a career-high nine rebounds.

“It [Hall fouling out] is definitely kind of a blow to the team, but next man up is our attitude and we pulled through and the guys stepped up,” Peterson told Ty Linder on the Golden Flashes Radio network. “[I’m] just doing whatever it takes to help the team win. It ended up being rebounding and knocking down a couple of free throws at the end of the game. …”

Kent State continues its two-game road trip Saturday at Miami (OH) before returning to the M.A.C. Center to take on Bowling Green Feb. 7.

“Just trying to get one at a time and try to get as many as we can here, each win is precious in this league. It’s tough to get them,” Senderoff said. “We’re happy with tonight and try to move on, get ready for Miami.”

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