For the first time in program history, the Kent State men's basketball team has claimed two victories over Power Five foes during one nonconference season.
Senior guard Jaylin Walker poured in a game-high 26 points to lead the Golden Flashes (9-2) to a dramatic 66-63 victory over Oregon State (7-4) on Friday afternoon in Corvallis, Oregon. They defeated the Beavers for the second consecutive year, and gave coach Rob Senderoff his program record-tying 148th career victory in just his eighth season at KSU.
“Those things are all good, but the story of the day is a gutty win by our guys,” said Senderoff, who tied Jim McDonald (1982-92) in the Flashes' record book. “This is a tough place to travel to, across the country. We've been together out here since Tuesday. Just finding a way to win when you're down 21-7 to start the game. ... These guys are playing and competing really well.”
Senderoff now has six career wins over Power Five opponents, and two this season. The Flashes knocked off then-unbeaten Vanderbilt on Nov. 23.
Walker also grabbed seven rebounds and handed out three assists. He scored 22 points or more for the fifth time in six games this season. Walker made four 3-pointers, as did with senior point guard Jalen Avery, who finished with 16 points and three assists.
Flashes junior guard Antonio Williams added 11 points, five rebounds and three assists while holding Beavers junior guard Stephen Thompson Jr. to three points on 1-of-16 shooting.
“[Williams] played unbelievable defense all night. Down the stretch, Jaylin Walker made some huge shots. The whole group just competed really hard,” Senderoff said.
Oregon State jumped out to a 21-7 lead, but a 3-pointer by Avery keyed a 10-0 run that got the Flashes back in it. Walker then heated up, scoring eight consecutive points — including two 3-pointers — to give Kent State a 30-28 lead. Walker scored all 13 of his first-half points in the final 6:19.
The Flashes closed the first half on an 8-0 run, and took a halftime 42-33 lead on another 3-pointer by Avery. They shot 7-of-12 from behind the arc as a team in the opening 20 minutes.
Oregon State slowly sliced an 11-point lead to one with eight minutes left, but Walker countered with a 3 to put Kent State up 57-51 with 7:04 to play. The Beavers made another run, and trailed just 60-58 before Walker answered with two jumpers to push the lead back to six.
A layup by Tres Tinkle after a KSU turnover brought Oregon State within one at 64-63 with 40 seconds left. Walker grabbed a critical offensive rebound after a miss by Avery, was fouled, and hit both free throws to give Kent State a three-point lead with 12 seconds to go.
The Beavers had a chance to tie, but Stephen Thompson Jr. missed a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer.
“We put five guards out there, and all five did a great job switching every action that was being run,” Senderoff said. “We really didn't allow them to get a good look at all.”