Kent State beats rival Akron 70-65 for MAC title, NCAA bid

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CLEVELAND — Jaylin Walker scored 30 points, Jimmy Hall added 19 and sixth-seeded Kent State earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008 by beating rival Akron in the Mid-American Conference championship game Saturday night.

The Golden Flashes (22-13) knocked off the tournament’s top three seeds — Buffalo, Ohio and Akron — to win their sixth conference title. They barely advanced to Cleveland, needing overtime to edge 11th-seeded Central Michigan in the opening round.

But Kent State finally found its groove in Quicken Loans Arena and is headed back to the NCAAs for the sixth time.

Isaiah Johnson scored 24 as the top-seeded Zips (26-8) had their postseason dreams dashed by their hated next-door neighbors, who ended their 30-game home winning streak just 22 days ago. Akron also lost in the final last year.

Walker, who hit a game-winning layup with 4.1 seconds left to beat Ohio in the semifinals, scored 18 in the second half.

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