CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Kent State Golden Flashes completed an improbable run Saturday as they registered a 70-65 victory over rival Akron in the Mid-American Conference Championship game at Quicken Loans Arena. In addition to the tourney title, KSU earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Flashes’ opponent and details will be revealed during Sunday’s selection show (Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
“It was an unbelievable game.” KSU head coach Rob Senderoff said. “The story is about our guys. What they have been able to accomplish (tonight) over the past week and through the entire season. I am just really really proud of the entire group.”
Kent State (22-13) came into , , ,
Regular season champ Akron owned a No. 1 seed, thus earning a bye through the tourney’s first round. KSU, on the other hand, took the hard road. That began with a gruelling 116-106 overtime win over Central Michigan Monday night. Once in Cleveland, KSU knocked off No. 3 Buffalo (68-65) and No. 2 Ohio (68-66).
The title game served as a rubber matchup between rivals, each team winning on the opponent’s home court during the regular season. Kent State emerged victorious on a neutral court with 10,376 fans on hand.
Sophomore Jaylin Walker scored a career high 30 points and was named Tournament Most Valuable Player. Senior Jimmy Hall, who joined Walker on the All-Tournament Team, added 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Akron (26-8), reprised its role as tourney bridesmaid, having lost to Buffalo last March on a three in the final seconds. The Zips have now lost three of their last four championship game appearances.
Senior Isaiah Johnson, the 2017 MAC Player of the Year, led UA with 24 points. Sophomore Jimond Ivey added 18, going seven-of-nine from the field, and sophomore Josh Williams came off the bench to score 12.
KSU ended the half scoring six of the final eight points to take a three-point lead 27-24 into halftime.
The second half opened for the Flashes just as the first as they used a 7-2 spurt to open an eight-point lead, 34-26, on a Jaylin Walker jumper.
It was part of a second half that saw the Flashes shoot 63.6 percent (14-of-22) from the floor in the second period and 53.1 percent (26-of-49) for the game.
The Zips did manage to grab the lead one final time, 49-47, when Williams connected on a three from the right arc with nine minutes remaining. Kent State then went on a 12-2 run to open a nine-point lead, 61-50, on a three from the right corner by freshman Mitch Peterson.
“It was our day and our week,” Senderoff said.
-- The All-Tournament team consisted of Hall, Jalen Walker, Johnson, Zips guard Antino Jackson and Ohio’s Jaaron Simmons.
-- Akron’s 26-8 record should be plenty good enough to bring some kind of post-season bid. .