The Kent State Golden Flashes came into play on Saturday having won two consecutive games. The Flashes blew out Toledo in front of a sold out crowd 85-61 last Saturday and then went on the road to Dekalb, Illinois and beat Northern Illinois 73-66, avenging a home loss to the Huskies earlier in the season. Central Michigan took down Bowling Green 82-76 earlier in the week and traveled to Kent State on Saturday for their first of two straight road games. Saturday’s game featured 3 of the MAC’s top 4 scorers with Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene (1st 29.8 ppg) and Braylon Rayson (3rd 19.8 ppg) along with Kent State’s Jimmy Hall (4th 18.1 ppg). The game was televised on CBS Sports Network and showcased a battle between the leagues leading player of the year candidates in Hall and Keene. Keene came into play leading the nation in scoring with 29.8 ppg.
Central Michigan was able to run out to an early 10-2 lead capped by a Rayson three. Kent would respond quickly as Hall got on the board at the other end, getting fouled and converting the shot. Keene would flash his incredible ability to get to the hoop at just 5’9 with a slashing layup through the Kent State defense. Hall would respond at the other end as he turned baseline away from the double team to knock down his baby hook shot. The Chippewas would lead 19-15 at the under 16 media timeout.
Neither team’s star player would disappoint in this one as both players full repertoire was on display throughout. Kent State did a good job on Rayson and Keene in the first half, limiting open looks from the perimeter and forcing them into difficult three point attempts, as they were just 4-19 from distance in the first half.
The Chippewas would double team Hall when he got the ball in the post and he was excellent in finding his open teammates. Deon Edwin would draw the much deserving start for Kent State after he has consistently established himself as the team’s second option offensively. He picked up where he left off with a strong first half.
The Flashes would go on a 9-0 run claiming their first lead of the game at 26-25 with 7:20 in the half. Kent wouldn’t give the lead back and took it into halftime up 41-36. Central Michigan would shoot just 38% from the field in the first half while the Flashes hit at 48% clip.
Central Michigan came out in the second half showing a 3-2 match-up zone and would quickly draw close at 47-46. Keene’s aggressive play continued to get him to the free throw line and drew a 3rd foul from Edwin, forcing him to sit down early in the second half. Hall would begin to exert himself offensively in the second half converting on consecutive trips while Edwin was out and the teams would remain locked up at 56-56 at the under 12 media timeout. The clubs exchanged baskets through much of the second half and with the Chippewas up 71-70, the Flashes fouled Josh Kozinski in the act of shooting a three, sending the game to the under 4 media timeout. Kent State trailed 75-71 with two minutes to play when Edwin got to the basket and cut the game to two at 75-73. Kozinski responded with a triple for the Chippewas putting them ahead 78-73, however Edwin came back with his own clutch shot from distance, pulling the Flashes within two, 78-76. After a deuce from David Dileo, Hall would come up huge with an old fashioned three point play to draw within one at 80-79, with 31.7 seconds to play. On a beautiful play, Central Michigan broke Kent’s pressure and Rayson connected with Cecil Williams for an alley-oop dunk to go up three with 21.9 to play. Kent State got the ball to their player of the year candidate and Hall would convert again cutting the lead to one at 82-81. After Dileo split a pair of free throws, the Flashes would bring the ball in with 11.1 to play. Hall rose to the occasion following a Flashes miss with a put-back to tie the game with 2.1 seconds, sending the game to overtime.
The last minute of regulation may have belonged to Kent State’s star player but overtime and the game would ultimately be Keene’s. In just the second overtime game in MAC conference play this year, it quickly became the “Marcus Keene show.” He would get to the basket on the Chippewas first possession in the extra frame putting his team ahead by two, 85-83. He followed that up with a filthy step back three ball and then another, this time fading away. After Kozinkski and Mitch Peterson exchanged triples for their teams, Keene would walk into a NBA range three to put the Chippewas up ten, 97-87. Kent State pulled close with a Jaylen Walker three making it 101-98 with 20 seconds to play, but Rayson would finish things off for Central Michigan at the free throw line, securing a 105-98 OT win. Keene was as advertised, especially in overtime when he dropped 11 points and was unguardable.
In a battle between the two best players in the MAC, both where impressive but Keene was just too much to handle, as he continues his remarkable 2016-17 season. He finished with 41 points, 10 rebounds and 4 dimes. Keene’s 40 plus point game was the fourth of the season, which makes him the first to do so since Jimmer Fredette did so en route to winning NCAA Player of the year.
Rayson hit three triples on his way to 26 points, while Kozinski was 5-8 from deep finishing with 18 points. The Chippewas were 14-36 from deep on the game but bounced back from a poor shooting first half to hit 10-22 from three-point range after halftime. This marked the first time Central Michigan has won at Kent State since the 1996-97 season. They improve to 14-7 overall and 4-4 in the MAC, after starting out 0-3 in conference play. They will travel to Buffalo on Tuesday and look to extend their three game winning streak.
Kent State fell short despite a valiant effort from Jimmy Hall. He dropped in 28 points, grabbed 12 boards and had 4 assists in a losing cause. Edwin was very good again for the Flashes and seems to improve every game as he put in 23 points and had 9 rebounds. The loss drops Kent State to 11-10 and 3-5 in MAC play. The Golden Flashes head north on Tuesday to take on Eastern Michigan.