AKRON, OHIO – Since losing their opening game of the season at Youngstown State in the Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, the Akron Zips have now rattled off three consecutive victories after defeating the Eagles of Georgia Southern, 75-67, Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena.
The game, UA’s second game in . . .
Senior Isaiah Johnson led the Zips with 20 points, along with four rebounds and three assists. Junior guard Antino Jackson added 19, with all five of his field goals coming from three-point range, Fellow junior Jimond Ivey came off the bench to score 15 with four boards, three assists and a steal.
Georgia Southern (1-3) was paced by sophomore Ike Smith, who notched a career high 23 points to lead all scorers in the contest. Tookie Brown, another sophomore, scored 15 as the Eagles are 0-2 in the four-school tournament. They lost on Saturday at Mercer.
Unlike their first two home tilts, against American University and Radford, this game would be closer and more competitive for the Zips.
Akron opened an early 10-4 lead before the visitors used a 10-2 run to take a 14-12 lead at the 11:12 mark on a free throw by Shawn O’Connell.
Sophomore Josh Williams connected on a three from the left arc on the following possession to give UA a lead it would not relinquish.
GSU closed to within one, 18-17, when Smith, who scored 13 points in the opening period, hit a three from the right arc.
The Zips then stretched the lead out to nine, their largest of the half, on two occasions. The last was the halftime score 39-30 on a layup inside by Johnson.
One key to the opening half was the Eagles using a 1-3-1 zone defense that looked to deny the Zips getting the ball inside to Johnson, who did have 10 points all coming from deep inside the paint. However, the Zips made seven baskets from beyond the arc to help loosen up the zone.
UA’s lead in the second half grew to 14, its largest of the game, with 14:10 remaining after Ivey twisted and turned inside the lane for a layup.
The Eagles responded by scoring seven quick points in a span of 71 seconds to close their deficit to six 52-46 at the 12:30 mark on a three from the left arc by Jake Allsmiller.
GSU, thanks to shooting 53.4 percent from the field in the second half (14-of-26) stayed in touch. When UA tried to push the lead out, the Eagles came back with a clutch basket.
Their perseverance paid off as they used an 11-2 spurt to close the margin to three 62-59 on a short baseline jumper by Smith.
That, however, would be the closest the Eagles could get for the remainder of the game as the Zips used a three-pointer by Antino Jackson and a reverse layup by Ivey to push the lead back out to 10 at 69-59.
UA then added its last six points from the free throw line, going a perfect six-of-six from the charity stripe to secure victory and complete a three-game homestand.
The Zips shot 46.4 percent from the field (26-of-56) and won the rebound battle 35-31. In addition they had 20 assists from their 26 field goals. GSU shot just a little better (47.2%) from the floor (25-of-53)
The Zips basketball scene now shifts to the Georgia coast as Akron meets the Falcons of the Air Force Academy on Friday afternoon and then finishes Saturday against either East Carolina or Mercer.