By EVAN MEYER
AKRON, OHIO – The Akron Zips used a 15-5 run midway through the second half to break open a close game, defeating the Ohio Bobcats 70-58 Friday night in their final regular season home game at Rhodes Arena.
The victory ended a four-game losing streak for Akron (18-11, 9-7 MAC) -- their longest such skid since January, 2003 -- and yet the Zips have hope in garnering one of the four byes in the upcoming 2015 MAC Tournament.
“The win took pressure off our guys.” Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said. “When you hold the opposition to 33 percent shooting and also have 16 assists, on most nights you are going to win.”
Freshman Antino Jackson led UA with 13 points including a trio of three-pointers, along with five assists, three rebounds and a steal. Sophomore Isiah Johnson added 12 with three boards, three helpers and two blocked shots, while junior Reggie McAdams had 11
Ohio (9-18, 4-12 MAC) absorbed its sixth consecutive loss and has not tasted victory since it defeated Eastern Michigan on February 7. The ‘Cats last victory away from the Convocation Center was January 21st at Ball State.
“They had a stretch where they scored on nine of ten possessions in the second half, and that caused separation.” Bobcats head man Saul Phillips said.
Sophomore Antonio Campbell led all scorers in the contest with 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Seniors Maurice Ndour and Javarez ‘Bean’ Willis each added 11.
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Slowly but steadily, UA got back into the game, using a 7-0 run to tie the contest 9-9 on a three-pointer from the right arc by junior Jake Kretzer. After Ohio pushed the lead back out to five, 19-15, on a three by Willis from the right arc at the 7:52 mark, the Zips scored five straight to take their first lead 20-19 on a driving layup by Antino Jackson.
Campbell scored on a slam dunk to give the ‘Cats their last lead of the contest. UA then closed the stanza with a 7-2 run and went into halftime with a 27-23 lead.
UA was 11-of-28 from the floor (39.3%) over the first 20 minutes, while Ohio hit just 9-of-29 (31%).
A key stat to the opening half was the Zips holding a 12-8 advantage on points in the paint. Seven of them came from Johnson, who has improved his game at both ends of the court during MAC play. “Johnson was a problem for us to handle.” Phillips said. “Especially when Campbell got into foul trouble.”
At the start of the second half, the Zips lead fluctuated between two and seven points before the Cats tied the score 35-35 on a three by Willis from the right arc with 14:08 remaining.
When Johnson finessed around Ndour for a layup to make the score 37-35, the Zips would owned the lead for good.
The home team put the game away midway through the second half. After Ohio closed to within two, 42-40, on a three ball by Ndour at the 10:34 mark, it was the closest Ohio would get for the remainder of the game, UA went on a 13-2 run to open a 55-42 lead with 7:04 remaining.
The spark of the run was Antino Jackson who scored 11 of the 13 points thanks to three three-pointers. The freshman was making his second start for fellow freshman point guard Noah Robotham who is lost for the remainder of the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament late in the Zips home loss to Miami last Saturday.
“(The run) was big. We had been losing at the end of games, so I took it upon myself to make a play and help us win games the rest of the way.” Antino Jackson said.
When asked about Jackson’s play, Dambrot said “I was proud of Antino tonight, he recovered quickly … (after) he makes a mistake. He drove our car (the team).”
Ohio’s inability to score field goals kept it from getting back in the game. After Treg Setty scored at the 6:02 mark, OU would not get a basket from the field until Campbell scored on a layup with 43 seconds remaining. All seven of their points in that span came from the charity stripe.
After the decisive run, Akron’s lead did not fall below double digit. It built a 15-point lead, 63-48, on a three from the top of the key from Ibitayo, who was playing in his final home game for the Akron Blue and Gold, as well as Nyles Evans, who had five points three rebounds and a steal in the game.
With the victory UA ended its home schedule at 14-3 overall and 7-2 in MAC play. The home team improved its shooting in the second half, going 12-of-26 from the field, including seven from three-point range. However, the Zips finished at 42.6 percent (23-of-54), while Ohio was 8-of-24 (33.3%) after intermission and just 32.1 percent (17-of-53) over the 40 minutes.
The Zips won the battle of the boards 36-31, although the Cats had 11 offensive boards, turning them into 13 points. UA forced nine turnovers, converting them into 13 points
In the final week of the regular season, UA travels to Miami on Tuesday and then to Kent State on Friday. Ohio heads to Buffalo and finishes at home against Miami.