AKRON, OHIO – The Akron Zips rebounded from a loss at Toledo on Saturday as they used a 27-2 first half run to beat Eastern Division leading Bowling Green, 67-50, Wednesday night at Rhodes Arena.
Akron (11-5, 2-1 MAC) improved to 9-1 overall at home while handing BGSU (10-4, 2-1 MAC) its first conference loss of the campaign.
“This league is all about matchups.” Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said. “How big it was having Kwan Cheatham and not having Kwan Cheatham.”
The sophomore finished with just five points but had five rebounds three assists and two blocked shots despite suffering an injury Saturday in their loss at Toledo
Senior Deji Ibitayo came off the bench to lead UA with 15 points, adding two blocked shots and three steals. Freshman Noah Robotham had 14, with four assists, while junior Pat Forsythe added 10 with six rebounds and pair of rejected shots.
Bowling Green (10-4,2-1 MAC) saw its four-game winning streak come to an end as the Falcons absorbed their worst loss so far this season.
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Fifth year senior Anthony Henderson led the Falcons with 11 points, with three rebounds and two steals. Senior Richaun Holmes added 10 with four rebounds before fouling out in the second half.
Both teams had the lead in the early moments, which also saw a pair of ties at 7-7 and 9-9. When junior David Joseph scored on a reverse layup at the 13:25 mark to give BGSU an 11-9 lead, it would be the Falcons’ last lead of the contest.
From that point on, it was all Zips as they put together a 27-2 run over an eight minute span to take control of the game. Akron had a 36-13 lead at the 5:17 mark on a three-pointer from the right arc by senior Nyles Evans.
Ibitayo scored the first nine points of the run and 11 overall en route to scoring 13 points in the first half as UA went into halftime with a 38-22 lead.
When asked about his contributions to the decisive run, Ibitayo said “I like to bring as much energy as I can when I get onto the court. I like to give the team an extra boost when I got into the game.”
The Zips shot 53.6 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes (14-of-26), including 5-of-14 from three-point range, and had a 22-16 rebounding edge. BGSU only shot 9-of-31 from the floor (29 percent) and 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.
When asked about the play in the opening half, Dambrot said “We doubled Holmes every time he touched the ball. I thought that was key.”
A bigger problem for the Falcons was that Holmes, who was among the league leaders in five offensive categories coming into the game, picked up two fouls-- the latter at the 11:39 mark. Until halftime, the coaching staff shuttled Holmes in-and-out of the game so he would not pick up his third foul.
The Zips lead would not fall below double digits in the second half. The closest BGSU could get for the remainder of the game was 16 points on two occasions -- the last being 51-35 on a steal and a layup by Holmes. It would be his last points of the game as he fouled out with 5:17 remaining.
UA’s largest lead was 24 points, when Ibitayo came down the baseline and scored on a layup, before winning by 17 their 12th straight and 20th in the last 21 against the Falcons.
The Zips went 10-of-18 from the field in the second half (55.6%) and went 54.5 percent for the game (24-of-44). It was just the second time this season they have shot over 50 percent from the floor. They connected on 56 percent of their attempts on December 20th in a win over Bluffton.
UA also won the rebound battle, 36-33, while their only real blemish on the evening was shooting just 11-of-21 from the free throw line.
BGSU shot marginally better in the second period (11-of-30) and finished the game at just 32.8 percent (20-of-61) -- their worst shooting game of the season -- while allowing 50 percent from floor for the second time in 2014-15.
“We have a lot to learn” Jans said. “We will learn from our mistakes. We can get better and move forward as we continue in the season.”
Both teams are home on Saturday: UA hosts Central Michigan, while BGSU faces Ball State at the Stroh Center.