Kent State radio man Ty Linder described the games earlier in this Gulf Coast Showdown has having an optional policy regarding the playing of defense. Well that was the case for both sides of this Kent State vs South Dakota matchup as well.
The first half was littered with broken plays that would magically end up as open layups and 3-point attempts. There were also a number of times one team would simply break out in transition much quicker than the other for an easy layup. It made for exciting viewing to be sure.
For the first five minutes or so, both teams traded baskets and fouls (fouls were called on the first four possessions), until Kent State broke out to a ten point lead at 26-16 with ten minutes remaining in the first half. Substitute Jerrelle Deberry along with Jaylin Walker led this mini run with three 3-point makes and a driving layup.
South Dakota didn’t quit however as they climbed back into the game behind a barrage of their own three point shots. That climb was largely on the back of Brandon Armstrong and Matt Mooney as each canned two threes and finished the first half with a combined 14 points.
The score at the half was 44-42 in favor of the Golden Flashes as both teams were filling up the stat sheet.
In the second half, Kent State continued to struggle on the defensive end, giving up open looks and failing to scoop up loss balls. That would have been fine had they continued to score at a similar level, only that wasn’t the case as offensively the Jimmy Hall centric offense was knocked out of sync.
The offensive problems came to a head as South Dakota would take their first double figure lead of the game at 66-55 with just over 11 minutes to play.
At this point, Kent State dug in and began to battle back due in large part to a parade to the free throw line. It seemed every time down the court Kent State would toss the ball inside and after several deflections and scrappy play someone would recover and flip up a shot drawing a foul. With 7:41 to go, Kent State found Deberry at the line with a chance to narrow the South Dakota lead down from 69-65.
Jaylin Walker would recapture the lead for Kent State after drilling yet another two free-throws to make it a 72-71 led with just over five minutes to play.
For the remaining five minutes, Kent State and South Dakota traded leads no fewer than six times. Back and forth they went with all the Kent State points coming from the big three of Jimmy Hall, Deon Edwin and Jaylin Walker.
Ultimately, Kent State doomed themselves with four big plays to wrap up their first loss on the season. First were two very sloppy turnovers on traveling calls and finally South Dakota was able to grab two key offensive rebounds, including a tip in by Tyler Flack to put the final score at 80-77.
Kent State was done in tonight by several long stretches of scoreless play and a failure to dominate the glass as they had been all season. For the night, Edwin and Jaylin Walker led the Golden Flashes with 19 points a piece along with 14 from Jimmy Hall. The loss drops Kent State’s record to 3-1 on the season and moves South Dakota to 5-0.