AKRON, OHIO – For the second consecutive game, the Akron Zips used a big second half run en route to a victory.
On Sunday, they used a 19-4 run to defeat Bryant University. Tuesday night, it was a string of 23 unanswered points to take complete control in defeating the Golden Lions of Arkansas-Pine Bluff 81-60 at Rhodes Arena.
Akron (5-2) collected its sixth consecutive home win, dating back to last season, and moved to 2-0 during the current four-game homestand.
Sophomore Kwan Cheatham led five UA players in double figures with a career-best 17 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Deji Ibitayo came off the bench to add 13 with five boards and three assists. Juniors Pat Forsythe and Reggie McAdams, along with senior Nyles Evans, had 11 points each.
“To be a good team, you have to learn who you are…even as a coaching staff,” Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said after the game. “They are going to be a work in progress.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-6), out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), finished a stretch of three road games against Mid-American Conference opposition, losing at Central Michigan and at Ohio on a seven-game road trip.
Senior Martel Mosley and junior JoVaughn Love had 20 points to hare game honors, while Moseley added two assists and two steals.
Just like its game on Sunday, UA started slowly and the visitors took advantage, opening a quick 8-5 lead thanks to a pair of three-pointers -- one by Moseley and the other by sophomore Giovanni Robinson.
The Zips tied the game on two occasions: 8-8 on a three from the left arc by Evans, and 12-12 on a free throw by sophomore Isiah Johnson.
The two teams exchanged the lead before a layup by senior Jaylon Floyd at the 6:57 mark gave UAPB a lead they would enjoy for the remainder of the first half. The Lions fashioned a pair of three point leads before the Zips tied the score, 30-30, on a pair of free throws by junior Jake Kretzer.
The visitors, however, went into halftime with the lead, 32-31, thanks to a fast-break transition layup by Mosley, who scored 12 points in the opening half.
The Zips shot just 39.1 percent from the field in the first half (9-of-23), while holding a 20-16 rebounding edge and leading in second chance points, 12-7. They did turn the ball over 11 times and UAPB exploited that by scoring 12 points while shooting 41.2 percent from the floor (14-of-34).
At the start of the second half, the Lions opened a pair of five-point leads, their largest of the evening. The last was at 42-37 when Love scored on a layup at the 16:16 mark. That, however, would be UAPB’s last points in over in almost seven minutes.
The Zips decisive run started when Cheatham hit a short jumper off the backboard at the 15:45 mark. He scored five points during the surge, but the key man was McAdams, who scored all of his 11 points in the stretch, including three from beyond the arc.
When asked about the improvement of Cheatham’s play in recent games, Dambrot said just one word, “Opportunity”.
With the indefinite suspension of senior Demetrius Treadwell, Cheatham moved into the starting lineup and had two solid games at the Gildan Charleston Classic. He tallied 15 in the win over Southern California and 13 against South Carolina in another Zips victory. He is a big man with an outside shot, as well as an inside game.
When Ibitayo hit a pair of free throws at the 9:52 mark, UA had blown the game open, taking a 60-42 lead. In fact, it would be the closest the Lions could get for the remainder of the game as the Zips continued to pull away.
One surprise during the game was freshman point guard Noah Robotham. He scored a season-low six points, ending his streak of five consecutive games in double figures. He did manage to chip in four rebounds and six assists.
When asked about Robotham, Dambrot said “Having him, changes the dynamic of our team. Even if he doesn’t make shots, he has that winning mentality and composure that transfers to the remainder of the team.”
The home team opened its largest lead of the contest in the final moments, 81-58, on a free throw by redshirt freshman Ricardo Hill Jr. before winning by 21. That is UA’s largest winning margin so far in this young season, eclipsing the 20-point margin over Southern Cal.
The Zips improved their shooting in the second half hitting 15-of-33 from the field (45.5%), finishing the contest at only 42.9 percent (24-of-56). They won the rebounding battle decisively, 43-25, while turning the ball over just three times.
The Lions never recovered from the run as they shot just 9-of-23 from the floor (39.1%) and finished the game at 40.4 percent (23-of-57). They committed nine turnovers, which UA converted into 12 points, in the second half.
Akron gets back into action on Thursday night as it faces the Leathernecks of Western Illinois out of the Summit League.