Golden Flashes Fall in First Round of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Kent State’s Late-Season Surge Comes to an End With 97-80 Loss to UCLA

The 14th-seeded Kent State University men’s basketball team played third-seeded UCLA close in the second half, but ultimately fell to the Bruins, 97-80, March 17 in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.

Through the first 32 minutes of action, the Golden Flashes (22-14) looked like it might pull off the biggest upset of the tournament’s opening weekend when a driving layup by Kevin Zabo got the Flashes to within 74-66 with 7:38 to play. However, the nation’s top-scoring team responded with a 16-2 run to pull away.

“Very proud of our group,” said Kent State men’s basketball head coach Rob Senderoff. “We had our chances. We didn’t start off the game very well, down 16-2, but battled back. At halftime, it was an eight-point game. Started the second half off well, but ultimately, we didn’t get enough stops and they’re a very good team.”

Jaylin Walker was one of four Flashes to score in double-figures with a game-high 23 points. The Mid-American Conference Tournament MVP knocked down five three-point field goals, the most by any Kent State in all-time in NCAA Tournament play.

Playing in a Kent State uniform for the final time, Jimmy Hall had his 23rd double-double of the season with a game-high 15 rebounds and 20 points. Hall’s 15 boards are five more than the Flashes’ previous record in a NCAA Tournament game and helped the smaller team hold a 36-33 edge on the boards. Kent State also led 15-4 in second-chance scoring.

Deon Edwin scored added 18 points on an efficient 5-for-8 shooting, while Kevin Zabo chipped in 12 points and a team-high five assists off the bench.  

Kent State made just one of its first 11 field goals as it fell behind 16-2 at the 14:20 mark of the opening half. UCLA took its largest lead in the opening 20 minutes, 43-26, with 3:42 to play before the Flashes made their own run heading into the break. A 13-4 run was bookended by an Edwin three-pointer steal and dunk by Edwin to get within 47-39.

The Flashes continued their push out of the locker room, extending the run to 24-11 on a Walker trifecta to get within 54-50 with 16:19 to play. The Bruins went on a 9-3 run of its own after calling a timeout, and the teams traded baskets until UCLA’s big run.

UCLA made 37 of 59 field goals (62.7 percent), which included 7-for-14 (50.0 percent) from beyond the three-point stripe. T.J. Leaf scored a team-high 23 points as one of five Bruins to score in double-figures. Thomas Welsh pulled down a team-high eight rebounds to go with 16 points. Aaron Holiday had a double-double with 15 points and 11 assists.

Kent State won 20 or more games for the 16th time in the last 18 seasons and played in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time.

“They’re a good team, tremendous offensive team,” Senderoff said. “But I couldn’t be more proud of our guys in terms of how hard we fought throughout the entire game and for the season that we had this year.”

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POSTED: Friday, March 17, 2017 - 11:40pm
UPDATED: Saturday, March 18, 2017 - 8:23am
Gene Canal