Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
KENT, Ohio – There were a lot of things coach Keno Davis and his Central Michigan men’s basketball team were counting on going into Monday’s Mid-American Conference Tournament game at Kent State.
Red-hot 3-point shooting from the Golden Flashes was not on that list.
Kent State hit 16 triples, far and away its season-high, and outscored the Chippewas, 25-15, in overtime in ending CMU’s season with a 116-106 victory at the Golden Flashes’ M.A.C. Center.
It was CMU’s eighth consecutive loss as it finished 16-16. Kent State (19-13) advances to the tournament quarterfinals where it will play Buffalo on Thursday in Cleveland.
Marcus Keene scored 41 points and Braylon Rayson had 32, two shy of his career-high, to lead CMU in a game that featured 21 lead changes and seven ties.
“Unfortunately the season ended the way it did, but we had the effort, we had the attitude,” Davis said. “We knew if we could get to Cleveland we had a great shot. I give our guys credit for playing as hard as they did. Disappointed they didn’t get a chance to be able to continue the tournament run.”
It was the final game in a CMU uniform for Rayson, a senior. Keene, a junior in his first season at CMU after transferring from Youngstown State, finished the year as the nation’s leading scorer at 29.96 points per game and set the single-season MAC record with 959 points.
Rayson finished his career as a two-time Third Team All-MAC selection and stands third on CMU’s all-time scoring list with 1,885 points.
The Chippewas’ backcourt tandem, both undersized (5-foot-9) and under-recruited, combined to dazzle fans night in and night out throughout 2016-17.
“They definitely were electric to watch,” Davis said. “The idea of what Rayson and Keene have been able to do for our program. They’ve opened doors in our recruiting that we would have never been able to. The kids that we’ll go look at this week, two, three years ago we couldn’t get in the door and now we’re there. It’s exciting to see.”
Jimmy Hall, a 6-foot-8 senior and one of the MAC’s top players, scored a career-high 33 points and hauled down 13 rebounds to lead the Golden Flashes on Monday.
Hall drew much of the Chippewas’ defensive attention in the post, opening the outside for Jaylin Walker and Jalen Avery. Walker scored 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Avery had 24 points as the pair combined to make 12 of their 20 3-point attempts.
Avery took over in the extra session, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts and scoring 16 points. His second triple, which came with 3:34 left, broke a 94-94 tie. The Chippewas never regained the lead. Avery’s last 3-pointer, with 1:29 remaining, extended Kent State’s lead to 106-101 and the Golden Flashes closed on a 13-5 run.
Keene and Rayson finished a combined 14-for-26 from 3-point territory and Rayson made all nine of his free throw attempts.
Kent State finished with a 47-31 rebounding advantage including 19-8 on the offensive end. Cecil Williams had seven boards to lead the Chippewas.
Kent State made 16 of its 31 3-point tries for a season-best 51.6 percent. CMU was 18-for-37 (48.6 percent) from long range. The 18 triples was CMU’s second-highest total of the season.
“I’m excited about the program and where we’re headed and I’m thrilled for these guys that we’ve raised the bar so that when we don’t make it to Cleveland or we don’t have 20 wins or we don’t have this or that, it’s disappointing,” Davis said. “Because before it was accepted. Apathy for a program is the worst thing, and we don’t have that anymore.
“We have high expectations and we’re going to get there. There’ll be some bumps along the road. These guys are working extremely hard and I know the guys returning are looking forward to getting back in the gym and working towards next year.”