On a stat-stuffing night that saw the redshirt junior . . .
"The one at the very end was obviously the big one," said Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff, whose Flashes improved to 5-2 heading into a Thursday game at the M.A.C. Center against the University of Louisiana at Monroe. "The entire NJIT defense was collapsing on Jimmy Hall in the post, and Jimmy found Kellon with a great pass. I couldn't be happier for Kellon, because he has been working very hard."
Shooting in the dim light of the Fleisher Center, Thomas made 8 of his 15 shots from the field, including 6-of-9 from three-point range to capitalize on some solitary practice time.
"This was a weird gym for me, kind of like a high school gym," said Thomas. "But I've been doing some shooting on my own to (break) out of a slump over the last few games. Coach (DeAndre) Haynes said I was due for a big game. It was tonight."
The Flashes trailed by nine points on three different occasions only to battle back behind a gritty defensive effort that saw them outscore the Highlanders 25-5 off of 13 forced turnovers. Despite losing the rebounding battle 45-34, KSU's work on the offensive glass paid off with a 22-12 advantage in second-chance points.
"It was another really good team win," said Senderoff. "We had a ton of contributions from so many guys. NJIT is a very good team, and they are especially good at home. I'm very happy with this win, and especially with how we handled a tough start."
Kent State missed 12 consecutive shots during a first-half drought. After a 2-for-10 start from the arc, the Flashes battled back to make 10 of their last 20 threes.
KSU also offset its early offensive struggles by taking care of the basketball, finishing with 17 assists against just six turnovers.
"I'm really excited about the assists," said Thomas. "I've been trying to get my assist numbers up…and get my teammates involved. When we are all playing together, that's when we are playimg our best."
Thomas led four KSU players scoring in double figures. Hall finished with 17 points to go with six rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots and a steal.
Freshman Jaylin Walker added a career-best 15 points. Redshirt senior Xavier Pollard also scored 15 while adding nine rebounds and three assists off of the Kent State bench.
NJIT was led by Tim Coleman's 20 points. Rob Ukawuba and Damon Lynn finished with 14 points each for the Highlanders.
Ukawuba was 3-for-3 from three-point range, including a transition three to give NJIT a 64-63 lead with 6:24 to play. Another three by Lynn at the 4:27 mark of the second half put the Highlanders up by four at 69-65.
Chris Ortiz, who scored nine points off the Kent State bench, hit a pair of free throws with 3:53 to play to pull the Flashes within two points. Thomas then hit the second of his three late three-pointers with 2:12 on the clock for a 73-71 KSU lead. The Highlanders never led again.
(Courtesy of KSU Athletics)