KENT STATE 79, AKRON 73
CLEVELAND, OH -- RayJ Dennis scored 28 points to lead Toledo past Ohio in MAC Men's Basketball Tournament action Friday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
It was the 17th straight win for UT, which has not lost since falling at Kent State (75-63) back on Jan. 10. Toledo is now one victory away from an elusive tournament championship and automatic spot in this year's NCAA tournament field. The Rockets last appeared in an NCAA Tournament back in 1980. Standing in their way is Kent State. The No. 2 seed defeated Ohio 79-73 in Friday's other semifinal matchup.
Dennis, who was a unanimous choice for MAC Player of the Year, connected on 11-of-20 shots from the field, contributing several key baskets along the way to help UT hold off Bobcat rallies. Dante Maddox Jr. (20 points) was the only other Rockets player to reach double figures, but JT Shumate and Setric Millner Jr. added nine apiece.
Jaylin Hunter was the only Ohio starter in double figures. He nearly matched Dennis, scoring 27 points. His 9-of-18 performance from the field included 7-of-11 on 3-point tries. Devon Baker (17) and AJ Brown (13) came off the bench to combine for 30 points. Dwight Wilson III chipped in seven points and 11 boards.
OHIO REBOUNDING EDGE
Toledo led for most of the game, but rebounding helped the Bobcats stay within striking distance. Ohio finished with a 40-29 edge in rebounds, including a 20-5 advantage on the offensive end.
The Rockets, meanwhile, outshot Ohio, hitting 29-of-56 (51.8%) from the field overall. Ohio made 27-of-70 shots (38.6%). Although the Bobcats had three more treys, UT owned six more at the free throw line.
Devon Baker gave Ohio its last lead, 12-11, at 12:57. Dennis, however, answered with a jumper at the other end, and Kent State never trailed again. The Flashes led 37-31 at the half.
ROCKETS FIGHT OFF CHALLENGE
Ohio managed to pull within one (42-41) following a Hunter triple at 16:17, but the Rockets responded with six straight.
Three free throws by Brown with 55 seconds left made it a two possession game as Ohio pulled within four at 76-74. However, Toledo was able to put the game away at the free throw line.
CLEVELAND, OH -- Miryne Thomas hit 6-of-11 from the field and all 10 of his free throws on the way to 24 points while leading Kent State to a 79-73 victory over Akron Friday in MAC Men's Basketball Tournament semi-final action Friday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
With the win, KSU (27-6) advances to Saturday's championship game, where the No. 2-seeded Flashes will meet No. 1 seed Toledo. The Rockets are riding a 17-game winning streak, with their last loss coming back on Jan. 10 at Kent State.
Joining Thomas in double figures were Sincere Carry (21 points), Malique Jacobs (14) and Jalen Sullenger (11)
Akron was led by Enrique Freeman, who registered game-highs in both points (26) and rebounds (18). Xavier Castaneda tallied 21 points, while Trendon Hankerson added 11. Sammy Hunter chipped in nine points.
Akron shot the ball better, hitting 45.5 percent from the field overall. The Flashes finished at 37.9 percent.
Although KSU had two more treys, both teams recorded 25 field goals. Each also grabbed 39 rebounds, but the Flashes managed to tip the scales in their favor with a defense that forced 18 turnovers. Kent State recorded 10 steals and outscored its rival 31-7 in points off turnovers. The Flashes also had a 17-9 edge in second chance points.
Kent State, which led most of the first half, owned a 15-point advantage (34-19) with 6:06 left in the first stanza. Akron then went on a 13-0 run. The Flashes took a 38-34 lead to intermission.
When play resumed, Kent State expanded its advantage to as many as 18 points (59-41) after a triple by Sullinger at 13:07.
Akron, which upset KSU in last year's MAC Championship game, wasn't done and chipped away at the Flashes lead. Freeman's layup at 1:20 pulled the Zips with four at 73-69. However, Kent State scored the next five points and went on to the 79-73 win.