Walton's career performance gave Ball State Men's Basketball overtime opportunity
Known for driving to the basket and mid-range jump shots, Ball State's redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton dropped a career-best 26 points on Saturday afternoon in the Cardinals' 83-80 loss to Kent State. In addition to his high-scoring effort, Walton was able to break four other career bests in playing time and at the line against the Flashes.
The Indianapolis native played in a career-high 38 of the 45 total minutes in the game that went into overtime. Walton also downed nine of 12 at the free-throw line for a 75 percent free throw efficiency.
The icing on the cake was a buzzer-beating three to send the Cardinals into overtime. The crowd erupted, and the home bench went berserk. This step-back was Walton’s first made three of the season, and he said he did what he had to do for the team.
“It felt great, and I was just trying to get a win,” Walton said. “In big moments, you got to be able to step up.”
Although this shot was rare for Walton, as well as essential to keep the game going, this was not his only buzzer beater of the game. Walton put in a layup as time expired at the end of the first half.
Redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons is known around the Mid-American Conference for hitting big 3-pointers when the game is on the line. However, it was Walton who pulled up and hit the shot to tie the game at 70. Kent State was unable to pull together a shot, which pushed the game into overtime. Persons was impressed to see Walton step up for the team.
“[Walton] has been working hard ... He was the reason we were in the game,” Persons said. “I love the dude to death. He bailed us out.”
Although dropping 26 points played a significant role in the Cardinals' offensive performance, head coach James Whitford saw a solid defensive effort on top of a team-leading presence on offense.
“I thought [Walton] was good on offense ... and he is always going to play well,” Whitford said. “I thought where he was really unique and was really involved was defensively. I thought he was great on defense.”
While Walton’s big three was able to extend the game for the Cardinals, putting up more 3-pointers does not seem to be a new step for the guard, as it was only his eighth attempt from behind the arc this year.
“I do a lot of other stuff well to help this team,” Walton said. “I just try to play to my strengths.”