AKRON, OHIO – One of the five Mid-American Conference losses the Akron Zips had this season was at the hands of their arch-rival Kent State Golden Flashes two weeks ago in Kent.
Friday night at Rhodes Arena, the Zips got a measure of revenge for that 85-76 loss as they used a 12-2 run midway through the second half to break open a close game and pick up a 74-60 victory before a near sellout crowd of 5,301 and a national television audience.
With the win, Akron (24-7, 13-5) completed an undefeated season (15-0) at home -- just the third perfect slate since Rhodes Arena was opened in 1982. Akron also ran an entire home schedule undefeated in 1986-87 and 2005-06.
UA will go into the 2016 MAC Tournament presented by VisitMyrtleBeach.com as the number one seed and . . .
“It was a good win for us. Kent is a good team.” Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said. “We missed a lot of open looks (at the basket), especially early.”
Sophomore guard Noah Robotham and junior Isiah Johnson led the Akron attack with 12 points each. Robotham added five rebounds, three assists and two steals while Johnson pulled down 12 boards with two helpers and a steal.
Kent State (19-12, 10-8) heads into the tournament as the number five seed as the loss, coupled with Buffalo’s win over Bowling Green, gave the Bulls a fourth seed. KSU opens the tournament at home Monday night against BGSU. The winner faces UB late Thursday afternoon at The Q.
“We didn’t play quite good enough tonight.” KSU head man Rob Senderoff said. “There were too many turnovers, and we missed too many shots around the rim. When you do those things, its tough to win”
The first half was a frustrating episode of missed opportunities, especially for the visiting Flashes, with both teams missing shots from close range.
The Zips opened a 9-2 lead early, KSU closed to within one, 12-11, on a three-pointer from the left arc by Deon Edwin. It was the first of four opportunities that the visitors had to tie or take the lead. All went awry.
Every time UA would push the lead out to get breathing space, the Flashes came back. When the dust settled after 20 minutes, the home team held a 33-30 lead.
Both teams shot around 35 percent in the opening period (12-of-37 for UA and 11-of-32 for KSU). The Flashes held a 28-22 rebounding edge but turned the ball over eight times.
UA responded with a 9-2 run of its own to grab the lead for good (47-41) at the 13:37 mark on a three from the left arc by freshman Josh Williams.
In their last two games, victories over BGSU and Ohio, the Zips hit 39 shots from beyond the arc, setting single-game school records in both games. On this night however, they managed just 7-of-33.
The game’s crucial point came at the 10:24 mark after two free throws by Ortiz got KSU back to 51-49. UA then went on a12-2 run to open a 63-51 lead with 6:29 remaining, Robotham was key to the run as he scored seven points, capping it with a three from the right corner.
Among the key stats:
-- UA going 15-of-19 from the free throw line.
-- KSU won the rebound battle 45-41, although UA had 14 offensive rebounds which turned into 21 points.
-- The Flashes turned the ball 15 times, whch resulted in 12 Zips points.
-- Individually, Khaliq Spicer had 22 points in the first meeting at the MAC Center. In this game, he had just one point, three rebounds and did not attempt a shot from the field.