AKRON, OHIO – Junior Tyler Cheese scored a career high 27 points as the Akron Zips ended a three-game losing streak Saturday afternoon, defeating the Miami Redhawks 70-58 at Rhodes Arena.
With the victory, Akron (15-12, 7-7 MAC) avenged a loss to Miami (14-13, 6-8) back on January 19 in Oxford (68-61) while improving its home record to 12-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play.
'THAT IS WHAT WE ARE...'
“Our shot selection was good today, and we made a few of them.” Zips head coach John Groce said. “However, make no mistake about it. We are the number one defensive team in the MAC and 21st overall in the nation, and that is what we are and we have to play that way game in and game out.”
The 58 points allowed marked the fifth time this season, the Zips have held their opposition to 60 points or less in a game. Saturday was MU's second lowest point total of the season. Only 55 points in a loss at Xavier on November 28 was fewer.
TOP UA TOTAL
Along with his game-high 27 points, Cheese registered five rebounds, two assists, a blocked shot and three steals. The 27 points were the most by a Zip so far this season. It was also the fifth time in his last six games that cheese has reached double figures.
Fellow junior Daniel Utomi added 10, going 5-of-8 from three point range, while sophomore Loren Cristen Jackson had 11 with three rebounds and four assists.
HAROUNA LEADS MU
The RedHawks, who lost for the second time in the last three games overall and second in the last three games on the road, were led by senior Abdoulaye Harouna. He scored 13 points, while fellow senior Darrian Ringo added 12 with four rebounds and four assists.
Both teams owned leads in the early going before UA broke the contest open. Leading 27-15 at the 11:05 mark, the Zips went on a 14-2 run in a span of 2:57 to establish a lead they would never relinquish.
UTOMI OPENS FLOOR
Asked about the decisive run, Cheese said “When he (Utomi) started hitting those threes, it opened the floor up for everyone. Myself, Cristen (Jackson), Jimond (Ivey) -- all of us.”
UA had a 37-27 lead at halftime. By then, Cheese, a transfer from Florida Southwestern State Junior College, had 15 points, going 6-of-8 from the floor. Utomi managed 14, hitting 4-of-5 from the arc.
REDHAWKS CLOSE GAP
At the start of the second half, MU scored the first seven points of the period en route to a 10-3 spurt to close the deficit to three, 40-37, with 17:24 remaining on a three from the left arc by Harouna.
Three points would be the closest the Redhawks would get for the remainder of the game as Akron weathered the storm. The Zips started building their lead reaching double digits at 53-42 with 10;20 remaining on a three from the left arc by Utomi.
The lead reached as high as 14 (68-54) in the closing moments when Cristen Jackson hit a pair of free throws with1:31 remaining to end a three-game Akron losing streak to Miami.
UA AND MU LEADERS STRUGGLE
The Zips were able to win despite an off-day from Ivey, who came into the game third on the team in scoring (12.8 ppg). He finished Saturday's contest with a season low two points, going 1-of-7 from the field and missing all four shots from the distance. He did have seven rebounds and seven assists but also registered six turnovers in 31 minutes.
Similarly, Miami's leading scorer, sophomore Nike Sibande, struggled with only three points in 31 minutes. He was 1-of-8 from the floor and had eight rebounds with an assist and three steals. It was just the third time this season he failed to score in double digits.
UA made 27-of-51 from the floor for 47.1 percent and hit 11-of-25 from beyond the arc. Miami shot poorly the entire game, finishing at 32.8 percent from the floor (20-of-61) and going just 4-of-22 from beyond the arc.
The 'Hawks won the battle of the boards, 42-37, thanks to a 15-5 edge on the offensive glass. Both teams turned the ball over 13 times, with Miami scoring 16 points while Akron had 14.
When asked about the disparity on the offensive glass, Groce said “That is the one thing we have addressed all season. Give (senior Alex) Abrams credit; he had six offensive boards all on his own.”
Both teams return to action on Tuesday with Akron traveling to Buffalo while Miami heads to Bowling Green..