CLEVELAND -- Jaylin Walker made just three of his 11 shots in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Friday night, but his third and final sure was a big one.
With 10.8 seconds left in regulation, Walker secured a rebound off of a missed free throw, sprinted down the left sideline the length of the floor and into the lane, where he finished off a running jumper that propelled the Kent State Golden Flashes to a 68-66 victory over the Ohio Bobcats at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I was just saying that we needed to get to the hole, that was my mindset,” Walker said. “My mindset was just get in there to the hole, trying to create contact, at least if they foul, I go to the free-throw line, but we’re only down two, so my mindset was just go to the hole.”
Kent State takes on Ohio in the MAC Tournament Semifinals
Prior to hitting the game-winning shot, Walker had connected on just two of his previous 10 attempts in the game.
“I can’t really explain it because I’ve never been,” Walker said. “This is my first rodeo to this, my first journey to this, so I’m just trying to take it as far as we can.
“We actually had Adonis (De La Rosa) for the play, but he asked him for the free throw, so I just took it coast to coast and it was a wide open lane, and I got it.”
Following Walker’s shot, Kent State applied so much pressure defensively that the Bobcats failed to get off a shot in the final 4.1 seconds.
“Just to focus in on our defensive principles to make sure we communicate and not miss a beat because that was the game right there,” senior center Jimmy Hall said.
While Walker made the final shot of the game, Hall carried the mail for the Golden Flashes as he registered a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, to go along with four assists, two blocks and one steal over 38 minutes of action.
Courtesy of a four-for-six performance from three-point range, guard Kevin Zabo added 15 points for the Golden Flashes.
With the win over the Bobcats, the Golden Flashes will take on the Akron Zips in tonight’s MAC Championship Game.
“These type of games have been the type that we like, grind it out, tough, physical, hard fought games, and we’ve been making enough plays here over the last month-and-a-half to put ourselves in this position,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said.
“Just proud of the guys. Every huddle, every timeout, everybody’s saying the right stuff. Nobody I think again today, Jaylin, not a great offensive game, but (he was) able to make the plays that he needed to, to help us win.”