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Walker comes up big down stretch for Kent State

MAC leading scorer has 13 points in final 6 minutes of 78-73 Golden Flashes win

KENT – After struggling early, Mid-American Conference leading scorer Jaylin Walker caught fire late to help Kent State edge Ohio 78-73 on Tuesday at the MAC Center.

Walker scored 13 of his 23 points in the final six minutes as Kent State erased a four-point deficit. Jalen Avery also made a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch when the Golden Flashes were 5 of 6 from long range after starting 3 of 14.

It all started with a little luck as Walker banked in a 3-pointer to answer one by Connor Murrell that had given Ohio (12-15, 4-11 MAC) a 61-57 lead with 6:11 remaining. Avery followed with a trey to put Kent State in front, and after a triple by Jason Carter for the Bobcats, another one by Walker put the Golden Flashes (20-8, 9-6 MAC) back on top 66-64.

After a Walker layup, Murrell scored a layup on a Jason Preston assist, and Preston split two free throws with 3:03 to go, making it a one-point game. Preston then assisted a Kirk layup that gave the lead back to Ohio, 69-68, but Walker struck again from deep to put Kent State back up. Murrell hit a jumper to knot the score at 71 before an Anthony Roberts jumper gave the Golden Flashes the lead for good with 1:19 to play.

Murrell split from the foul line, and Avery connected from deep following a Walker offensive rebound, making it 76-72. Carter split two free throws with 18 seconds to go, and after Ohio fouled three times to finally put Kent State in the bonus, Walker made two free throws with nine seconds left to put it away.

Carter led the Bobcats with 20 points and five rebounds, while Doug Taylor had 12 points but only three rebounds. Preston had 11 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and no turnovers. Kirk finished the game with 11 points.

Antonio Williams had 15 points to back Walker for the Golden Flashes. Akiean Frederick finished with 10 points and nine rebounds – eight of them offensive.

"There was a lot of long rebounds that they were able to chase down,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “I didn't feel that we got completely out-muscled. I thought we scored well in the paint on our end. But if you end up shooting 22 less field goal attempts than your opponent, then it puts you in a spot where you have to be really, really efficient. And that was the case tonight. We played admirably offensively tonight, but It wasn't enough to close the gap."

Kent State used an early 16-4 run to take a 22-10 lead with 8:42 left in the first half, but Ohio recovered, getting to within 35-31 at the break on a Carter 3-pointer at the end of the half.

The Golden Flashes went up 47-47 with 13:44 to go, but Gavin Block hit a 3-pointer and Preston converted a three-point play to get the Bobcats right back in it. Block’s 3-pointer with 7:57 to go gave Ohio a 56-55 lead, and after a Fredrick dunk, Taylor scored a layup and Murrell connected on a 3 to put the Bobcats on top by four.

Block finished with 9 points, while Murrell had 8 points – all in the second half – for Ohio.

The Bobcats operated at a high level offensively, shooting 52.9 percent with 11 turnovers, but it was not enough to make up for the 21 offensive rebounds they surrendered that allowed the Golden Flashes to win despite only 43.8 percent shooting with 14 turnovers.

Ohio takes on Akron at 2 p.m. Saturday at James A. Rhodes Arena.

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