The Zips needed the entire 40 minutes to extend their winning streak to nine games, improving to 12-2 overall and 1-0 in MAC play. The Bulls fell to 7-7 on the season and 0-1 in league play. Akron's 12-2 overall record marks the best start in Akron's Division I era.
"I thought it was a . . .
. . . typical Akron-Buffalo game," Dambrot said. "Buffalo is a tough, hard-nosed team. They did a good job of fronting the post and we didn't do well with our hi-low offense, but we stuck with it and grinded out the win."
The hard fought battle between the Zips and the Bulls featured nine tied scores and seven lead changes, as three Zips tallied double digits in scoring. Sophomore guard Antino Jackson led the way with 16 points and a team-high seven assists with no turnovers in 33 minutes of play. Junior center Isaiah Johnson and senior wing Reggie McAdams followed 14 points each. Johnson pulled down a team-best nine rebounds and McAdams led the team from beyond the arc, connecting with 4-of-7 from deep.
Conner paced the Bulls with 16 points, while Hamilton followed with 15 and Bearden chipped in 12.
The Bulls led in nearly every category on the stat sheet except for made 3-pointers, assists and turnovers, while rebounds were tied at 39 apiece. Akron shot just 40.6 percent from the floor (26-of-64) with a season-high 37 attempts from beyond the arc. The Zips connected with 12 triples for a 32.4 percentage and shot 11-of-17 (.647) from the charity stripe. Akron dished out 17 helpers while committing eight turnovers.
Buffalo made 25-of-55 shots from the field for a 45.5 percent effort, but were limited to just 16 attempts from the outside, connecting with only five 3-pointers (.313). The Bulls added 16 points from the free throw line, shooting 72.7 percent on 22 chances.
Buffalo started the game with a dunk by Ikenna Smart and followed with layup from Blake Hamilton for a 4-0 advantage. The Zips missed the mark on the first two shot attempts, however McAdams stopped the early run with a three-ball from the corner.
The Bulls surged again to push the lead to 8-3, but a lay-in by Johnson and back-to-back triples from junior forward Kwan Cheatham, Jr. and McAdams, mixed with a second post move from Johnson, gave the Zips their first lead at 13-10.
The Zips extended their advantge to eight points, 19-11, after a floater in the middle of the key from sophomore guard Jimond Ivey , but the Bulls came charging back. Buffalo tied the game, 22-22, and proceeded with an 8-3 run to take its largest lead of the game at five points, 30-25, with 2:39 remaining in the half.
Akron closed out the half with a 10-5 advantage. Jackson started the scoring burst with a pair 3-pointers and a layup, while McAdams finished it off with a triple and a close range field goal to tie the game at the break, 35-35.
In the second half, Buffalo jumped out to a 10-7 start by the first media timeout to make the score 45-42 at the 15:13 mark. The Zips missed the mark on their first two shots, while the Bulls went 1-for-2 to take a two-point lead, 37-35. Jackson responded with a triple to give the advantage back to the Zips, and Johnson added an easy lay-in for a 40-37 lead. The Bulls fired back with two deep shots from Willie Conner and Jarryn Skeete to regain the lead, 43-40, and the see-saw battle began.
With 3:27 remaining in the game, the contest was at a 65-65 stalemate until the Bulls' Lamonte Bearden cashed in with two free throws. Shortly after, Akron regained the lead after Johnson split a pair of freebies and Jackson connected in the paint for the game's seventh lead change.
The Bulls had a chance to take control of the scoreboard when Rodell Wigginton split a two-shot foul. On the ensuing possession, however, Akron fed Johnson in the post to break the ninth and final stalemate with 1:27 remaining.
A traveling violation gave the Zips the ball back with a minute left to play, and Akron took full advantage. With six seconds left on the shot clock, the Bulls fouled Jackson, and he buried the pair for a four-point advantage, 72-68.
Conner hit a triple for the Bulls to pull within one point, 72-71, but with 14-seconds remaining sophomore guard Noah Robotham buried two free throws for Akron and followed with another one to seal the victory.
NEXT: Akron hosts Western Michigan Friday (7 p.m. ET). Buffalo is at Kent State (7 p.m. ET)
(Courtesy of UA Athletics)