AKRON, OHIO – The Akron Zips emphatically ended their two-game losing streak as they routed Bluffton University, 92-53, Saturday night at Rhodes Arena.
Akron (7-4) used the entire bench and saw 13 of 14 eligible players score in the contest as the Flashes put their recent struggles behind them.
“This game was a good game for us.” UA head coach Keith Dambrot said. “Our freshness lever was mediocre the past couple of weeks. We haven’t been playing our best basketball.”
Junior Pat Forsythe led UA with 14 points, going a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, along with six rebounds and four steals. Senior Nyles Evans and redshirt freshman B. J. Gladden added 11 each.
Bluffton (4-4) a Division III school in Northwest Ohio was paced by junior Thane Recker, who led all scorers in the contest with 16 points, along with seven rebounds and two assists. Freshman Joshua Woodrich added 11 with four boards and a steal.
When a Division I basketball team meets a Division III team, there is typically a difference in height and skill set. That difference showed early as Akron scored the first 11 points of the contest. Its lead never dropped below double digits.
To the Beavers credit, they played hard the entire game, led by Recker, who scored their first 11 points. Even at 6-foot 4-inches, he gave the Zips’ big men all sorts of problems all game long.
UA’s first stanza lead fluctuated between 13 and 21 points. The largest advantage came just before intermission on a driving layup by freshman Antino Jackson for a 48-27 lead.
The Zips shot 54.3 percent from the field (19-of-35) in the first half, with five of those baskets coming from three-point range. They forced Bluffton into 12 turnovers, converting them into 20 points and held a narrow 15-13 rebounding edge.
Akron’s dominance continued in the second half when the home team used a 16-4 spurt to open a 64-33 lead after a reverse layup by Forsythe at the15:05 mark.
The largest lead of the contest was 41 points at 83-42 when Isiah Johnson hit a pair of free throws before winning by 39. That verdict insured the Zips will enter Mid-American Conference play (January 6 at home against Western Michigan) with a winning record.
UA actually shot better in the second half, going 18-of-31 from the floor (58.1%) and finished the game at 56.1% (37-of-66). They forced the Beavers into 28 turnovers, which resulted in 34 points, and also got 48 points from the bench.
When asked about his thoughts on the game, Dambrot said “I liked playing the young kids, and we shared the ball pretty well,” In regard to the youngsters on the roster, Gladden had his first start of the season and played 18 minutes after taking the court just 15 minutes over the three previous games.
If there was anything negative coming out of the stats, it was that UA lost the rebound battle 32-28 (19-13 in the second half). There was also inconsistency at the free throw line as Akron made 10-of-17 (5-of-11 in the final 20 minutes).
Even with all that, UA set a season high in points (previous high was 81 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and field-goal percentage (first time this season over 50%).
The Zips now have 10 days off before their next game on December 30th at home against the Marshall Thundering Herd from Conference USA.