AKRON, OHIO – In the most recent games of the rivalry between the Akron Zips and the Kent State Golden Flashes, the first team to score 60 points won the game. Form held true Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena as the Zips reached the 60-point plateau and went on to 61-52 victory before a near sellout crowd of 4,836.
Akron (17-7, 8-3 MAC) collected its fifth win in the last six games and remained tied for first place in the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division with Bowling Green, who defeated Western Michigan at home, 65-49.
“The first one to 60,” Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said. “It was a great atmosphere, a great crowd.”
Junior Pat Forsythe led UA with 12 points while pulling down five rebounds with two assists, two blocked shots, and a steal. Senior Deji Ibitayo came off the bench, adding 11 points and five boards.
Kent State (16-8, 7-4 MAC) played without their leading scorer and rebounder sophomore Jimmy Hall (mononucleosis) for the third consecutive game.
“It was a really competitive game before they (UA) blew it open,” KSU head man Rob Senderoff said. “Give them credit as they made the plays when they needed to.”
Senior Devereaux Manley had a game high 20 points while junior Chris Ortiz had 11, along with seven rebounds.
(CLICK READ MORE TO CONTINUE . . . )
UA moved in front at the 15:29 mark on a driving layup by freshman guard Noah Robotham as it outscored the Flashes 17-4 to take their largest lead of the opening period, 19-9, at the 8:03 mark when Ibitayo made one of two free throws.
KSU responded with a 12-2 run to tie the game 21-21 when Ortiz scored in a layup off a fast break at the 3:04 mark. However, it would be the home team that went into halftime with the lead, 25-23, thanks to a pair of free throws by Forsythe and a running layup by Robotham, who finished the evening with nine points along with four assists and a steal.
When asked about his freshman running the offense, Dambrot said, “It is amazing to think that this guy is playing in front of 5,000 people and he is calm as a cucumber. I have never seen a guy calmer (in the heat of the game) than him.”
In the opening 20 minutes, Akron hovered around the 50 percent mark from the field, finishing at 45.8 percent (11-of-24). KSU, meanwhile, was totally brutal, hitting just 8-of-25 from the floor (32%). What kept the Flashes in the game was a 17-11 rebounding edge that included five offensive rebounds, leading to 10 second chance points to just one for UA.
The Zips, who failed to hit a three pointer in the opening half, got an early second half trey from sophomore Kwan Cheatham Jr. from the right arc to give the home team a seven point lead, 30-23.
The lead then fluctuated between three and six points before the Flashes used a quick 6-0 spurt to tie the game 37-37 at the 14:10 mark when Manley was credited with a basket on a goaltending violation.
Just as quickly, the Zips pushed the lead back out to eight on two occasions. The last was 48-40 at the 11:25 mark on a three from the left corner by junior Reggie McAdams, who finished the game with eight points.
The made three came off a key play in the game. With KSU trailing by five, junior Khaliq Spicer went up for a slam dunk. The ball then hit the back of the rim, bouncing high in the air where the Zips grabbed the rebound and scored on a McAdams three.
“We were right there, and that play took the wind out of our sails.” Senderoff said.
The home team finished the game off with a 13-1 run, opening as much as a 17-point lead (58-41) on a layup by senior guard Nyles Evans before winning by nine as UA improved to 13-1 overall at home and a perfect 6-0 in MAC play on the home hardwood.
Even with the victory, Dambrot said “We still have a lot of room to develop as a team. We can be more consistent.”
Both teams had their troubles shooting in the second half, UA was 11-of-31 from the floor (35.5%), finishing the game at an even 40 percent (22-of-55). KSU was 9-of-21 (39.1%) and just 35.4 percent over the 40 minutes (17-of-48).
The Flashes won the battle of the boards, 38-30, with 11 of them coming on the offensive glass. That led to 18 second chance points. On the other side, however, they turned the ball over 13 times, which led to 15 points for the Zips.
“We were down two at halftime but in the second half we gave up too many offensive rebounds. We turned the ball over too many times in the second half and gave up too many threes.” Senderoff said.
Both teams go back to action over the weekend, UA heads to Eastern Michigan on Saturday, while KSU heads to Toledo on Friday night.