CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Akron Zips advanced to the championship game of the 2017 Mid-American Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 74-70 victory over Ball State Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.
“It was a good ball game. It was an entertaining game and a good game for the fans,” UA head coach Keith Dambrot said after his team moved to 26-7 on the season.
It will be the second consecutive – and ninth overall – appearance by Akron in a MAC tourney title game. All have come under Dambrot, who recently again won MAC Coach of the Year honors.
Junior Antino Jackson and . . .
For Ball State (20-12), the loss ended a three-game winning streak. The Cardinals had put together a stretch of six wins in the previous seven outings, enabling them to share the Western Division Championship with Western Michigan.
Akron got off to a fast start, scoring rhe game’s first seven points and had as much as a 12-point lead in the early going.
The lead stayed in double digits until late in the first half when BSU went on an 8-0 run to close to 32-27 at the :47 mark. The Zips went into halftime with a 38-30 lead.
“We gave them four knockout punches and we staggered them, but we could not put them out. They just shot the ball well.” Dambrot said.
Led by Kiapway, who had nine points in the second period, Ball State reduced its deficit to three with 2:11 remaining on a trey from the right arc by Kiapway.
The Zips called a time out and got the ball into Johnson when play resumed. The MAC Player of the Year scored on an and-one layup to push the lead back out to six. The cushion proved enough as Akron held off the Cardinals for the 74-70 final margin.
The Zips will meet a very familiar for in the championship game as Kent State pulled out a win over Ohio. Akron and Kent split the season series, which each winning on the opponent’s floor. KSU’s win broke a 30-game Akron home court winning streak, but the Zips prevailed in the regular season finale in Kent.