Jaylin Walker was held in check for long stretches as the primary focus of Oregon State’s defense Friday afternoon.
But Kent State’s standout senior guard still got his points and made the big plays his team needed, particularly in the game’s final minutes.
Walker, who came in averaging 25.2 points, scored 26 including two free throws with 12.6 seconds left after a crucial offensive rebound.
Stevie Thompson’s potential game-tying 3-pointer was off, and the Golden Flashes held on for a 66-63 win at Gill Coliseum and a second victory against the Beavers in as many seasons.
Walker was shooting 55.6 percent on 3-pointers before making 4 of 7 deep balls Friday.
“He’s a good shooter, but our guys are still trying to learn. They don’t think they can guard the ball with a hand up,” Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle said. “Everybody’s hands go down, and for a good player, one dribble, pull. Anybody can make that. He hit some tough ones now.”
Oregon State (7-4) trailed by nine at halftime after an early 14-point lead. Kent State (9-2) led by as many as 11 in the second half before the Beavers made their comeback.
But every time OSU got close, it was often Walker making a shot to turn the tide.
Kylor Kelley’s offensive rebound and basket coupled with Ethan Thompson’s 3-pointer got the Beavers within one for the first time since the final minutes of the first half. A minute later, Walker hit a 3-pointer that pushed the deficit to six.
OSU later closed within three and Walker answered with a 3-pointer.
Under two minutes and down four, the Beaver defense forced the ball out of bounds with four seconds on the shot clock. Out of a timeout, Walker hit a deep two-pointer.
“We got there. I think we maybe should have run a couple guys at him, and he made a tough shot there at the end,” coach Tinkle said. “He’s a heck of a player. We just shouldn’t have allowed him to get on a roll there in the first half.”
Tres Tinkle’s wild reverse layin with 40 seconds left closed the gap to one. Kent State’s Jalen Avery missed a contested layin, and Walker wrestled the rebound away from a teammate.
Tres Tinkle had a team-high 20 points plus seven rebounds. Kelley added a season-high 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocks to give him 45 for the season. Ethan Thompson had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Walker also had seven rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes coming off the bench, which he’s done since returning from a suspension that cost him the first five games of the season. Avery added 16 points.
Kent State shot 10 of 21 (47.6 percent) on 3-pointers, marking the fourth time in the last five games that an OSU opponent has shot better than 40 percent from deep.
“They were a team that shoots good from 3 and they continued to do that. We tried to switch up our defense and it worked for a while” Tres Tinkle said, noting the Golden Flashes’ 24 second-half points compared to 42 in the first. “But we just got lost at times and they hit some tough shots. We’ve still just got to fly around and follow the game plan.”
Stevie Thompson couldn’t find the same last-second heroics he’s displayed at other times in a Beaver uniform.
The miss finished off a rough game for the senior guard.
He shot 1 of 16 from the field, including 0 for 6 on 3 pointers, for three points with four rebounds, three assists, one steal and two turnovers.
In Monday’s win against Pepperdine, Thompson rebounded from two poor shooting efforts — where he was a combined 6 of 29 — to score 20 points on 7 of 13 from the field. But he’s now a combined 14 of 58 overall and 4 for 24 on 3s in his last four contests.
Oregon State had everything going well early in the game.
Kelley picked up where he left off Monday, when he set a single-game school record with nine blocks. He had two swats on Kent State’s first possession to extend his school mark of consecutive games with multiple blocks to 11.
Kelley tipped in a teammate’s missed shot, finished two lobs from Ethan Thompson and added two free throws for a 13-5 lead.
Tres Tinkle went high for a follow dunk on a Stevie Thompson miss from outside; Alfred Hollins stripped Walker and finished on the other end; and Ethan Thompson completed a 12-2 run with a reverse layin for a 21-7 OSU lead.
Soon after, Avery and C.J. Williamson started a Flashes 10-0 run with consecutive 3-pointers.
Tres Tinkle stopped it with a conventional three-point play, and Antoine Vernon later made his first two free throws as a Beaver for a 26-19 advantage.
But Kent State found its momentum again and Walker scored for the first time on a layin with 6:21 left in the half after the Beavers had smothered him defensively to that point.
“Once I make my first one I’m pretty much going,” Walker said afterward.
Walker scored 10 points in a little more than three minutes to spark his team down the stretch. The Flashes took their first lead at 27-26 on a Walker 3-pointer.
Kent State scored the final eight points of the half, covering the final two-plus minutes, to lead 42-33 at the break.
The Flashes made eight of their last 10 shots of the half, while Oregon State finished 4 of 14 after leading 21-7 and making nine of its first 12 attempts.