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Kent State Golden Flashes vs. NJIT Highlanders men's basketball final: Flashes grab 80-75 road win over NJIT

Kent State rides play of Jimmy Hall and clutch performance by Kellon Thomas to win at NJIT.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

There was not a moment's hesitation from Kellon Thomas when he let fly a 3-pointer that fell through to give the Kent State Golden Flashes a 78-75 lead over the NJIT HIghlanders. The shot, which went down with 1:12 in regulation was his sixth triple of the night. Jimmy Hall, who was double-teamed along the right baseline, made the confident skip pass to Thomas, who hit the uncontested shot from the top of the key that proved to be the winning bucket.

Thomas after exchanging possessions, Thomas proceeded to corral the defensive board off a Damon Lynn missed attempt that sealed the game for the Flashes.

After a Tim Coleman layup put NJIT up 71-67 with under four minutes remaining, Thomas responded with a trey. And then wouldn't you know it, another Thomas dagger from beyond the arc made it 73-71 Golden Flashes. After NJIT knotted things up again on a hard-nosed take from Terrence Smith, a Thomas deuce made the count 75-73. Tim Coleman responded for the Highlanders with two free throws to tie things up. It was shortly thereafter that Thomas struck anguish into the fans from Newark, New Jersey with another bucket:  his game-winning 3-pointer.

It was back-and-forth action between the Flashes and Highlanders as the home team tried to extend a 10-game winning streak on Fleisher Family Court Monday night. That streak was snapped Monday night.

Kent State nagged at the heels of the Highlanders who consistently tried to build steady leads throughout the night, but for some reason or another, couldn't hold them off. NJIT would have a lead. KSU would have a small lead. It got sloppy. In the first half, NJIT had a lead of 29-19. In the second half it lead leads of 44-35 and 69-65. The Highlanders were responding to every KSU run in turn.

In the first half, Thomas helped stem an NJIT run. The Highlanders up to the point (where it led 29-19) had done a satisfactory job outplaying Kent on the boards and by defensively employing a combination of pack-line man defense and 2-3 zone. Three Thomas 3-pointers from that point on though helped spur a run that brought KSU back even with NJIT before it trailed 35-32 at the half.

Early contributions from Jaylin Walker (8 of Kent's first 10 points) helped the Flashes jump out early. The play of the dependable Jimmy Hall ended in a workmanlike 17 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Thomas, who finished with 22 points, also contributed 6 assists. In uncharacteristic fashion, the Flashes lost the rebounding battle, but made up for it by passing the ball much better and utilizing a better shot selection in the second half to win. Though Kent's choice of shots was admittedly poor for a good portion of the first half, it improved steadily over the game. Better ball movement helped contribute to 17 assists for coach Rob Senderoff's team.

Tim Coleman played clutch ball and battled with Thomas and Hall for much of the night. Coleman finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Damon Lynn ended the night with 14 points (and shot 4-15 from beyond the arc).