AKRON, OHIO – The second half of the 2015-16 Mid-American Conference men’s basketball season began as the leaders in their respective divisions battled Friday night at Rhodes Arena.
When the dust settled, it was the home-standing Akron Zips who emerged victorious, 92-87, over the Central Michigan Chippewas before 3,829 fans and a national television audience.
The victory was the sixth straight for Akron ( 19-4, 8-2 MAC) as it remained undefeated at home (11-0) and gained half a game on their lead in the Eastern Division over Kent State and Buffalo, who play on Saturday.
Freshman guard Josh Wiliams . . .
Central Michigan (13-10, 6-4) saw its four-game winning streak come to an end and had its lead in the Western Division sliced to a half game over Northern Illinois and Ball State, who also play on Saturday.
Six CMU players reached double figures in the high-scoring contest. Junior guard Brayson Rayson, who had 18 points, led the way, while Luke Meyer added 15 with eight rebounds.
The visitors from Mount Pleasant gained the upper hand early. They hit six of their first eight shots, holding a lead for the first 10 minutes and opening as much as a 10-point advantage, 12-2, on a slam by Meyer at the 16:51 mark.
CMU weathered that storm, the first of many on the night, and closed the deficit to four points on two occasions -- the last being 37-33 on a par of free throws by John Simons.
The Zips finished the opening 20 minutes with a 10-2 run to post their largest lead, 47-35, at intermission.
CMU came out strong at the start of the second half, using an 18-2 spurt to regain the lead when Simons, who scored 13 and pulled down 10 rebound.s was fouled attempting a three-pointer. He made all three free tosses for a 53-52 lead. It was the Chippewas final lead of the game.
On the next possession, junior center Isiah Johnson converted a three-point play to give UA the lead for good. It started a phenominal 21-1 run over a five minute span to give the Zips a 74-54 lead at the 8:24 mark. The key to the run was Williams as he hit a trifecta of triples, while senior Reggie McAdams contributed five points.
To their credit, CMU persevered and methodically narrowed the Zips lead, closing to within four, 89-85, when Josh Kozinski connected on a three from the left arc with 24.4 seconds remaining. Time soon ran out on the Chippewas, however, and the Zips picked up the victory, avenging a 92-81 loss to the Chippewas on January 12th in Mount Pleasant.
Both teams return to action on Tuesday. Akron heads to Bowling Green to face the Falcons, while CMU gets another road test -- this one in Ypsilanti for a matchup against Eastern Michigan.
-- The game was well played, with only 12 total turnovers.
-- UA won the rebound battle, 39-36.
-- UA went 16-of-32 from beyond the arc.