OXFORD, Ohio – Four minutes into Saturday’s Akron at Miami tilt, the game appeared to have the makings of a route. The MAC’s top 3-point shooting team was on fire. Akron hit its first six shots – four of them treys – on the way to a 16-4 lead.
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Miami, however, managed to regroup and provided the Zips with a serious test before UA left town with a 74-70 victory.
Akron’s win, coupled with Ohio’s loss Saturday at Eastern Michigan, allowed the Zips (14-3, 4-0 MAC) to grab sole possession of first place in the MAC East. Miami dropped to 8-9 (1-3 MAC) after falling for the third straight game.
After Akron’s initial blitz, Miami . . .
The RedHawks led 63-61 before junior Kwan Cheatham hit a trey to end Miami’s last lead. After a Logan McLane layup tied the contest a final time, 66-all, at 3:19, Isaiah Johnson scored four straight points.
That was half of his total for the day as Miami proved relatively successful in defending the senior. Johnson entered Saturday averaging a team high 16 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He registered eight points and five boards in 31 minutes against the RedHawks.
When McLane came up with a steal, he drove to the rim. Cheatham, however, closed in for a block at the :07 mark. Miami was forced to foul and Jackson made one of two free throws to seal the Akron victory.
Daniel Utomi led all scorers, hitting all five of his 3-point shots in the first half and totaling 15 for the game. Cheatham had 14 points and a team high nine rebounds for UA. Also in double figures were Jimond Ivey (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Jackson (10).
McLane paced Miami, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. It was his second double-double of the year and ninth time in double figures over the last 10 games. Michael Weathers and Abdoulaye Harouna each chipped in 12 points.
Just as Akron’s Johnson was affected by Miami defensive focus, so was Michael Weathers. The freshman point guard connected on 4 of 14 shots and nearly matched his point total (12) with turnovers (11) under some sticky Akron defense. However, UA only had a one-point edge in points off turnovers (14-13).
Both teams shot much better in the first half. Akron hit 65.2 percent overall and was good on 69.2 percent (9 of 13) from beyond the arc before intermission. The Zips dropped to 29.2 percent from the field and 9.1 percent (1 of 11) on treys in the final period.
Miami went from 57.1 percent overall and 50 percent from distance before the break to 28 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent on treys over the final 20 minutes.
The teams were also close in free throw percentage, with Akron hitting 66.7 percent to the RedHawks 65.4 percent. However, UA owned three more made free throws (20-17).
Miami returns to action Tuesday at Northern Illinois (8 p.m. ET). It will be the second meeting between the two programs in two weeks. MU won the first meeting, 69-67 for its only MAC win to date.
Akron will host a battle of MAC East heavyweights Tuesday when Ohio comes to town (7 p.m. ET).