Flashes Win 2017 MAC Men's Basketball Championship
The Kent State University men's basketball team (22-13) won the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship, defeating the top-seeded Akron Zips (26-8), 70-65.
"Tonight the story is about our guys and what they've been able to accomplish here tonight, what they've been able to accomplish here over the past week, what they've been able to accomplish over the entire season," exclaimed head coach Rob Senderoff. "I'm just really, really proud of the entire group."
The championship is the sixth in program history and the first under Senderoff. After taking down Central Michigan in the first round at home, Kent State went on to defeat the third, second and first seeds in succession. The win gives the Golden Flashes an automatic bid into the 2017 NCAA Tournament, with the selection show taking place Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on CBS.
"To me, it's just an amazing story, right?" Senderoff said. "That was all part of the story… that we had won all these games and lost senior night, and then we come out against Central Michigan, and we're down I think it was 26-9… just the resiliency. Over this last month, we've been up only two games at halftime, tonight and Buffalo, so we had been down almost all of them. So just the toughness we've shown and the togetherness they've shown, just an incredible story."
Kent State was led by the MAC Tournament MVP Jaylin Walker, who scored a career-high 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting. He also brought down six rebounds and dished out a pair of assists. Jimmy Hall earned another double-double, this time recording 19 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. His three assists and blocks were team-bests as well.
The first half was close, but the Flashes led for much of the period. Kent State came out swinging, shooting 4-for-7 from the floor to open up an 11-3 lead over the Zips. It took over five minutes for Akron to pick up its fifth point, but the Zips eventually found their groove. The Zips made five straight shots and took their first lead of the game at 22-21 with 3:25 left in the period. The Flashes were undeterred, immediately going on a 6-0 run to retake the lead. Kent State finished the half up, 27-24.
The second half started much like the first, with the Flashes opening up an eight point lead by starting on a 9-4 run. Akron quickly answered back with a 6-0 stretch themselves and eventually tied the game at 42 all with 11:15 remaining.
An Akron 3-pointer gave the Zips a lead and seemed to tip the momentum away from Kent State. However, the Flashes went on a 10-0 run that was followed by a Mitch Peterson 3-pointer, giving Kent State its largest lead at 60-51 with 3:35 left.
The nine point edge would be enough breathing room down the stretch, as the Flashes finished shooting 2-for-3 from the floor and 6-for-7 from the free throw line. Akron kept fighting down the stretch and cut the score to three points with eight seconds left. Kent State iced the game when Jalen Avery knocked down a pair for free throws on the team's last possession.
Overall, Kent State shot 53.1 percent (26-for-49) and scored 34 points in the paint. Akron shot 45.6 percent (26-for-57) from the floor. Kent State won the turnover margin, 6-10.