Lee went 8-of-13 from the field and 3-of-4 on 3-point tries. His 13 free throw points equaled the entire Akron lineup combined. Karrington Ward, meanwhile, had his sixth double-double of the season with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Tim Bond chipped in 12 points, and Mike Talley added eight with a game-best six assists and four steals. On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles had eight blocks, four from Ward alone, and 14 steals.
As a team, the Eagles shot at a 53.1 percent clip on 26-of-49 shooting, which is the second-best of the season and the highest against an NCAA Division I opponent this year. The Zips were held to 25-of-78 from the field for 32.1 percent, and the Green and White held the advantage on fastbreak points, 24-8.
The Zips had the edge in rebounding and second chance points, pulling down 47 boards compared to EMU's 39, which helped Akron win the second chance point battle, 26-4. Akron was led by Pat Forsythe with 17 points and eight rebounds, while the trio of Jake Kretzer, Reggie McAdams, and Noah Robotham combined for 10 of the Zips' 12 three-pointers.
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From there, the Eastern went on an offensive burst as Talley and Lee scored on fastbreak layups, forcing Akron head coach Keith Dambrot to call a timeout. Akron answered with five-straight points, coming within two points of the Eagles before Ward nudged a tip in.
The teams traded baskets for the next few points until Bond scored with a steal and dunk, followed by a triple to give the Eagles a 23-15 advantage with 9:41 to play.
As has been the trend lately, the Eagles continued to pour in triples. Lee drained a three-pointer and followed it up with a mid-range jumper. Mike Samuels added to the scoring effort with a bunny in the paint before Akron turned to Jake Kretzer for a sideline three-pointer. Lee got fouled on the next possession while taking a three-point attempt, and converted all three of his free throws.
Forsythe made his presence known in the paint, scoring back-to-back points, but Eastern consistently drained basket after basket with a layup by Ward, a hook shot off the glass by Anali Okoloji and a two-handed fastbreak throw down by Lee.
The half closed out with Akron finding Kretzer open for his third triple of the afternoon, but the Eagles still retained a stable 43-35 lead heading into the locker room.
Lee led all players in the first half with 15 points to go with four rebounds and three assists. Eastern spread the wealth on offense, with Ward posting nine points, Talley chipping in eight points, and Bond adding seven points to the count. As a team, the Eagles shot 61.5 percent from the field, hitting 16-of-26 shots, and sank 4-of-6 three-pointers. The Zips were held to 12-of-35 shooting for a 34.3 percent clip, and the Eagles held a fierce advantage in speed, scoring 18 points off of fastbreak.
Lee added to his tally with the first points of the second half. After a layup by Bond and another three from Lee, Eastern's scoring was stifled for the next three minutes, but the Zips were also limited to a low output with just five points in the first seven minutes of the half.
Eastern was able to keep the Zips at a nine-point distance, and extended the lead even further after Ward grabbed a steal out of mid-air and allowed Talley to find a soaring Brandon Nazione for a layup and-one. Nazione later found Bond following a scramble under the rim for another easy basket, and added a fastbreak layup to put the EMU up 59-45 with 10:05 remaining.
Robotham drilled two three-pointers to help Akron come within seven points of the Eagles, 66-59 with 5:48 to play, after which the teams traded points until Lee threw up an alley oop for Ward to give Eastern a 71-61 edge with 1:20 in the contest.
Akron strung together four points, but started to foul as time dwindled. The Zips then came away with two steals in a row that were dished out to Kretzer for a three and Aaron Jackson for a paint jumper to come within three points of the Eagles, still trailing 73-70 with 25 seconds remaining.
A last ditch effort from Antonio Jackson beyond the arc fell short and into the hands of Ward, who was subsequently fouled and sank two free throws to seal the victory. Robotham connected on another triple with one second to spare.
Eastern will host Buffalo in another cross-divisional matchup Wednesday (7 p.m. ET). Akron entertains Toledo (7 p.m. ET).