CLEVELAND, Ohio --Sophomore Jaylin Walker hit a running layup in the lane with 4.1 seconds remaining to give the Kent State Golden Flashes a 68-66 win over the Ohio in the second semifinal game of the 2017 Mid-American Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Friday evening at Quicken Loans Arena.
After a timeout, Ohio rushed the ball upcourt in the final seconds but was unable to get off a shot before time expired.
“It was a really hard fought game.” KSU head coach Rob Senderoff said. “I was really proud of our guys competitiveness and their fight. I thought we had a real will to win, and they did not give up.”
With the victory, Kent State (21-13) has won eight of its last nine games. It’s often been life on the edge, but with favorable outcomes, for the Flashes so far in MAC tourney play. They will need to pull out a fourth win in six days, defeating a bitter rival in the end, to claim a MAC tourney championship. Akron, a No. 1 seed, awaits the title game matchup after defeating Ball State in Friday’s opening contest.
Senior Jimmy Hall . . .
Ohio (20-11) defeated Toledo in the quarterfinals before losing for the third time in their last four MAC Tournament games against KSU.
“We lost a hard fought battle tonight.” Bobcats head man Saul Phillips said. “I thought we made the plays to win it, and it didn’t go our way and we are not going to make any esxcuses.”
Junior Jarron Simmons led all scorers in the contest with 25 points, while senior Kevin Kaminski added 16.
The game was close in the early going, but the ‘Cats opened a pair of 10-point leads late in the period. The last was 32-22 at the 5:03 mark.
KSU managed to tie the score 32-32 before a floater in the lane by Simmons just before half time gave Ohio a 34-32 edge.
The second 30 minutes were nip and tuck, with the game tied five times. KSU would hold the lead for a majority of the period, and owned a 64-58 advantage with 2;12 remaining following a three from the left arc by Zabo. The junior guard tallied 10 points, while Hall had 14 and five boards.
Simmons scored nine of Ohio’s last 12 points. Kaminski, meanwhile, put the Bobcats on Kent State’s heels with a triple that cut the lead to a single point, 66-65, with 48.4 seconds remaining.
After a KSU miss at the other end, Simmons drew a foul with 0:10 left.
After making the first toss to knot the score at 66-all, Simmons missed the second try.
Walker grabbed the rebound and raced downcourt, tossing up his floater amongst heavy traffic in the lane. The shot fell, giving KSU its victory margin. The Cats final possession had Simmons dribbling into the forecourt but he was double teamed and did not get a shot away as time expired.
-- Kent State came into the tournament as a sixth seed and edged No. 11 Central Michigan (116-106) in a high scoring overtime affair in a first round home game in Kent.
-- Once in Cleveland, the Flashes followed with by knocking off off third-seeded Buffalo in the quarter finals and No. 2 seed Ohio in the semis. KSU now advances to the title game for the 11th time in its history and the first time since 2011.
-- This will be the third time Kent State and Akron play for the tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, The Flashes won in 2008 and the Zips prevailed in 2011.