AKRON, OHIO – The Akron Zips extended their home winning streak to 23 games Saturday at Rhodes Arena as they outlasted the Marshall Thundering Herd, 99-88.
Akron (8-3) rebounded from its loss last Saturday at nationally ranked Gonzaga. In addition, the victory also extended the Zips winning streak against non-conference opposition to 13 straight games as UA has not lost outside Mid-American Conference play on their home floor since last December against Middle Tennessee.
“That really wasn’t . . .
Junior point guard Noah Robotham led the Zips with a career high 27 points. going 8-of-9 from the field 6-of-7 from 3-point range). He also registered five assists, four rebounds and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line.
Marshall (6-4) suffered its third loss in the last four games, although it is 2-1 against the MAC so far this season (with wins over Ohio and Toledo in overtime).
Senior guard Steve Browning led all scorers in the game with 31 points as he was 10-of-20 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe, along with six assists. Fellow senior Austin Loop had 24 while Jon Elmore added 10 points along with 10 ‘dimes’.
Although the Zips led from the opening the basket, the visitors from Conference USA stayed with them virtually every step of the 40 minutes of action.
Both teams started the game red hot from the floor. That was especially so for the home team. Akron made seven of its first eight shots and was a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond the arc, building a 19-9 lead at the 15:29 mark on a pair of three’s by Williams.
The UA lead stayed in double-digits through most of the first period, rising as high as 14 points, 32-18, at the 11:06 mark on an Ivey free throw.
The Herd then started to chip away, getting it down to seven 39-32 at the 5:32 mark on a slam dunk by Ajdin Penava. Much of the credit for MU staying in the game has to go to Browning, who had 16 points in the opening half.
The Zips pushed the lead back out to 13 (50-37) when Robotham, who had 19 points in the opening 20 minutes, hit a three from the right arc. That allowed Akron to take an 11-point advantage (53-42) into halftime.
UA shot a sizzling 65.5 percent (19-of-29) from the floor and was 11-of-15 from beyond the arc. Marshall stayed with them, connnecting on 16-of-30 (53.35) and 7-of-11 from three-point range. With not many rebounds available, the Zips had a 16-10 advantage in that department.
Right before halftime, junior Milan Mijovic converted on a slam dunk for the Herd’s final points of the half. It was the start of a 17-6 run to get the men from Huntington back into the game. They trailed by just two points, 59-57, with 15:37 remaining after Browning again hit a three from the left arc.
When asked about the visitors run, Dambrot said “I would argue that all that happened in the beginning of the second half was self-inflicted, due to bad emphasis, It was a bad understanding of what’s important.”
The Zips lead then fluctuated between three and eight points. Every time UA looked to make a run, Marshall would counter with a basket to blunt any momentum.
However, the closest the Thundering Herd could get the rest of the game was three points, 81-78, on a pair of free throws by Browning at the 7:50 mark.
UA finally showed some defense in the closing moments before putting the game away on a conventional three-point play by Cheatham. That made it 97-84 with 1:53 remaining, and the hosts finished up by 11, the fourth consecutive win over Marshall in the all-time series.
The Zips finished the contest shooting 58.6 percent from the floor (34-of-58) and were 15-of-28 from beyond the arc, while Marshall finished at 47.6% (30-of-53) and 12-of-27 from the arc.
Akron decisively won the rebound battle 36-23. However, one glaring statistic was the Zips turning the ball over 16 times, which resulted into 26 Marshall points.
The 99-points scored was UA’s largest point production of the season and the most against a Division I opponent since December, 2006 when they scored 96 against North Carolina Central -- also at home.
The Zips will head for West Texas and the city of El Paso to take part in the Sun Bowl-Don Haskins Classic, where they will face UC-Irvine from the Big West Conference in the first game. The second contest will be against either host Texas-El Paso (Conference USA) or Maryland-Eastern Shore (MEAC)
UA opens MAC play on January 2nd when the Bowling Green Falcons come to the JAR.