KALAMAZOO, Mich. – If Tuesday was any indication, the Mid-American Conference men's basketball season is going to be a thrill ride.
Clutch performances down the stretch from a slew of players, highlighted by Jimmy Hall, Chris Ortiz, Xavier Pollard and Khaliq Spicer, helped the Kent State Golden Flashes pull away in overtime for an 87-84 win over Western Michigan at University Arena.
Hall finished with team highs of 21 points and seven rebounds, and came up with a key steal late in regulation, setting the stage for an Ortiz three-pointer to give KSU a three-point lead with 24.8 seconds on the clock. Western Michigan's Thomas Wilder answered with a three to force the extra session tied 76-76.
Defense and some clutch free-throw shooting allowed . . .
"I've watched players like Antonio Gates and Michael Porrini come up with great individual efforts late to pull close games out of the fire here at Western Michigan," said KSU head coach Rob Senderoff. "This was a great team effort. Tonight, everybody played at a very high level, and especially late in regulation and overtime. We needed contributions from everyone."
"Chris Ortiz hit that huge three to give us the lead late, and then obviously they tied it. But Ortiz' defense was such a big factor in the game."
Tucker Haymond scored 18 points, just two-tenths of a point better than his team-best scoring average, but he did it on just 4-for-15 shooting from the field while also committing five turnovers. Ortiz was charged with guarding Haymond most of the night. A closeout by Ortiz also forced Wilder to miss a potential game-tying three in the final minute of overtime.
Ortiz finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three steals. Xavier Pollard added 14 points in 26 minutes off of the bench, while Marvin Jones added 12 points in 22 minutes.
In his first significant minutes of the season, Jones also added four rebounds and an assist while being charged with defending Western Michigan sharpshooter Kellen McCormick (16 points).
"I'm happy for Marvin," said Senderoff. "Over the course of the year Marvin has had a bunch of good practices…especially recently."
Kent State showed poise after losing starting point guard Kellon Thomas to his fifth foul with 2:47 to play in the second half. The Flashes were already playing with Pollard and Khaliq Spicer saddled with four fouls since the four-minute mark. That duo added to KSU's steal (11) and blocked shot (5) totals while playing all of the final nine minutes without committing foul No. 5.
Kent State's defense forced a total of 19 turnovers leading to a 28-7 scoring advantage off of those miscues.
The Flashes also dominated the paint to the tune of 50-24.
Wilder was held scoreless in overtime after scoring 28 points on 9-for-13 shooting in the first 40 minutes.
KSU returns home to face Buffalo at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at the M.A.C. Center. Western Michigan will host Northern Illinois Saturday (7 p.m. ET).
(Courtesy of KSU Athletics)