Kent State guard Jaylin Walker, playing his first game of the season, scored a game-high 22 points off the bench in leading the Golden Flashes to a 77-75 upset of previously-unbeaten Vanderbilt in Nashville on Friday afternoon.
Walker, who had been suspended for an undisclosed violation of school policy for the team’s first five games, averaged 16.6 points last season.
Guards Jalen Avery and C.J. Williamson each added 18 for Kent State (5-1).
Vanderbilt forwards Simi Shittu (20 points, eight rebounds) and Joe Toye (15) led the Commodores in scoring, with guard Saben Lee adding 13.
Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, the team’s leading scorer at 19.8 points per game coming in, exited the game early in the first half with what was described as a left knee injury and did not return. The 2018 McDonald’s All-American sat on the bench in the second half and watched Lee and Maxwell Evans struggle to replace him at the point. Vandy turned the ball over 15 times, led by six from Lee.
Kent State committed just eight turnovers and shot 75 percent from the foul line on 20 tries, many coming late to ice the game.
Leading by seven at the half, Williamson hit a 3 to put Kent State up 44-34 on its first possession of the second half. Vanderbilt clawed back and tied the game at 63 with just over three minutes left on Lee’s steal and layup.
But Walker hit Avery with a pass for a layup and after Vandy’s Toye missed a 3, Walker answered with one from the left side to put KSU up by five.
Vanderbilt never pulled even again. Avery hit a pair of foul shots with 31 seconds left, and Williamson hit a pair with 16 ticks left. Vandy’s Matt Ryan answered with a 3 from the left corner with nine seconds left by pull the Commodores within two, but guard Mitch Peterson canned a pair of foul shots with 6.4 left.
Vandy’s Garland hit a layup with 18:29 left in the first half, his only points of the game. Twenty-nine seconds later, Garland exited the game and spent the remainder of the first half with medical personnel looking at his knee.
Lee, a sophomore, ran the point most of last season for Vanderbilt. He has been Vandy’s starting two-guard but would likely run the point if Garland misses extended time.
—Field Level Media