CLEVELAND -- It was quite the week for Kent State University sophomore guard Jaylin Walker.
The shooting guard from Detroit doubled his scoring average in two of Kent State’s four Mid-American Conference Tournament games, totaled 80 points and led the Golden Flashes (22-13) to four victories over a six-day span on the way to a Most Valuable Player performance for the MAC champions.
“It's not going to sink in until I lay down, just start thinking about it, like, ‘Dang, this really happened,’ you know?” Walker said. “Our dreams really came true. Now, we've just got to keep going forward.”
Kent State Golden Flashes win Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship
With 10.8 seconds left in regulation of the semifinals, 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 Golden Flashes to a 68-66 victory over the Ohio Bobcats at Quicken Loans Arena.
Following Walker’s shot, Kent State applied so much pressure defensively that the Bobcats failed to attempt a shot in the final 4.1 seconds.
“He's our second-leading scorer on the season,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “He struggled from the field, but he hit the game winner, and I think that really helped his confidence because he really hadn't played as well as he's capable of, and (against Akron), he was like a man possessed. He deserves to have been the MVP. He was unbelievable.”
In the win over Akron, Walker led the way for the Golden Flashes (22-13) with a 30-point performance on 11-of-18 shooting, including a two-for-seven showing from three-point range and perfect six-for-six mark at the free-throw line.
“Deon (Edwin) and I think Jimmy had gotten in foul trouble, so we were kind of just on me. I had to pick up my waiting a little bit and during halftime, you know, I think I had like 11 points and I was just feeling myself and my teammates. They were saying, ‘Just keep going, keep going,’ and we came out on top,” Walker said.
Against Akron, the Golden Flashes came out strong in the second half, making four of their first six looks from the field and pushing their lead out to 36-28 at the 15:57 mark.
Despite battling foul trouble for much of the game, Edwin got the Golden Flashes rolling in the second half with a three-point play on the first possession. Over the next two minutes, Walker knocked down a pair of jumpers and had a keep tip-in off of a missed shot later in the second half.
“We're fourth, I think, in the country in offensive rebounding, and it was fitting,” Senderoff said. “He's a two-guard, and we allow our two-guard to go rebound because it's Jaylen Walker, and he's one of the best that you would ever see.
“(I) didn't really think about it until you just mentioned it, but it really is fitting that those offensive rebounds were huge, huge plays to allow us to win.”