KENT, OHIO – The Kent State Golden Flashes emphatically ended their four-game losing streak with an 85-61 victory over the Toledo Rockets Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 6,327 at the MAC Center.
For Kent State (10-9, 2-4), it was the Flashes first victory since the start of Mid-American Conference play back on January 3, when they defeated Ball State 100-90. It was their third win in the last four games against the Rockets.
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Senior Jimmy Hall led all scorers with a season high 27 points. In addition, he pulled down five rebounds, had three assists and a steal. Senior Deon Edwin posted a career high 23 points with four boards and five helpers.
“We have to play better on the road,” UT head man Tod Kowalczyk said. “We’ve been very good at home. Last year, we played better on the road than we did at home and now this team has to find a way to be tougher.”
Senior Steve Taylor led UT with 16 points and nine rebounds while fellow senior Jonathan Williams added 15 and sophomore Nate Navigato had 10.
The game was close in the early going, with the home team having as much as an 8-5 lead. The Rockets grabbed their first lead 10-8 at the 13:14 mark on a driving layup by sophomore point guard Jaelan Sanford.
KSU took the lead for good on a layup by Hall for an 18-17 edge. From there, the Blue and Gold expanded that advantage slowly and steadily, going into halftime with their largest lead 38-24.
In the opening 20 minutes, the Flashes shot just under 50 percent from the field (15-of-31) and held a slim 19-17 rebounding edge. Toledo struggled mightily from the floor, going just 7-of-24 (29.2%). Taylor and Williams went 2-of-7 and 1-6 respectively.
“That was the worst offensive performance we had in the first half,” Kowalczyk said. “And in the second half, we didn’t guard inside at all. Jimmy Hall had his way with our post players. He’s a very good player and obviously this game meant an awful lot to them, and their urgency showed it and their crowd showed it.”
The game was effectively decided early in the second half when the home team went on a 13-4 run to open a 51-30 lead at the 16:42 mark. Edwin keyed the run, scoring seven of the points while freshmen Jalen Avery and Mitch Peterson each had three-pointers.
KSU was simply red hot from the floor early in the second stanza, hitting five of its first six shots and 9-of-10 through the midway point of the period. Kent State finished the half at 67.9% (19-of-28) was at 57.6% (34-of-59) overall.
The Flashes lead grew to as many as 26 points in the final moments. The final 24 point margin was the largest win on the home floor since December 2nd when KSU defeated Grambling, 86-57
During the game, Hall moved into 10th place on the all-time KSU scoring list with 1,343 points. He has scored 20 or more points in each of his last three games.
The decisive run ended the evening for the men in Midnight Blue as they shot just 36.7 percent from the field (18-of-49) and were dominated on the boards 35-23.
Among the keys to the game was the Kent State defense, especially on Taylor. The transfer from Marquette had a couple of baskets in the early going and was getting in position for rebounds. However, as the game went on and KSU started to build a lead, Taylor became less of a factor. He did lead the Rockets in scoring, with 12 of them coming in the second half, but the points came when the game was decided.
Both teams are back in action on Tuesday night with KSU heading to Northern Illinois facing the Huskies for the second time this season. NIU defeated the Flashes on January 10, 74-70 in overtime.
Toledo completes this two-game road trip with a stop in Athens against the Bobcats.