CLEVELAND — For the first time since 2008, the Kent State Golden Flashes are going to the NCAA Tournament.
Despite being the No. 6 seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament and having to play four games over a six-day span, the Golden Flashes (22-13) fought through three one-score contests just to get to the MAC Championship Game, where they upset the No. 1 seed, the Akron Zips, 70-65, at Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night.
On the strength of successful interior scoring, the Golden Flashes started the game on a 9-3 run, and Walker, the hero of Friday night’s semifinal against the Ohio University Bobcats got Kent rolling when he converted both of his looks at the basket, including a three-pointer.
Although Akron cut the deficit to three points, 11-8, by the next break in the action, the Zips did so because of their ability to draw fouls, as Kent State was whistled for four infractions over a four-minute span. Those extra chances at the hoop turned into five points for the Zips.
The score remained tight throughout the rest of the first half, which allowed Akron to take its first lead of the game, 22-21, when reserve guard Josh Williams buried a spot-up three-pointer from the left wing with 3:25 to play in the half.
That was the only lead Akron held in the first half, as Kent State closed on a 6-2 run and took a 27-24 advantage into the intermission.
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, guard Deon 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.
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Article Courtesy of WKYC Channel 3 News Cleveland
Picture Courtesy of Mitchell Layton and Getty Images