CLEVELAND -- Despite struggles through the middle of the regular season, the Kent State men’s basketball team never doubted its ability to win the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
And that belief has guided them throughout the season, which the Golden Flashes (21-13) have extended three times this week with victories, all of which have put the goal of a MAC Tournament Championship within reach at Quicken Loans Arena tonight.
“The belief is what it actually has been the whole year, to win this whole thing, you know, and so, that’s what we’re just trying to do,” said Kent State senior Jimmy Hall. “We’re coming in to win.”
Kent State takes on Ohio in the MAC Tournament Semifinals
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.
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.
“It was just designed to get down the court and make a play,” Ohio guard Jaaron Simmons said. “If it was for me, if I was open, I would have shot it. If I could have gotten the ball to Kenny (Kaminski), he would have shot it, and if I got it to JD a little earlier, he would have shot it. It was really just designed for me to get down there and try to make a play for my team to win.”
While Walker made the final shot of the game, senior center Jimmy 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.
Hall totaled the 22 points despite a slow start to the game from the field.
“The worst part is that they were rimming out, so it was real frustrating,” Hall said. “My teammates, during the timeouts, they kept motivating me. My coaches (were) telling me that the shots are going to fall, just keep being aggressive and guarantee your spots, and it paid off in the second half.”
While Hall fought through his struggles early, he never lost focus defensively, holding Ohio forward Jason Carter to four points over 21 minutes of play before forcing the freshman to foul out.
“(I) just tried to be as physical as I can with him,” Hall said. “He’s a good player. He’s going to be a good player in the next coming years, and I just tried to be as physical as I can and just take opportunities to score.”