AKRON, OHIO – It wasn’t the prettiest game of the season. However, the Akron Zips found a way to defeat the Marshall Thundering Herd 70-63 Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena.
It was a game that saw a combined 38 turnovers and 34 total personal fouls. Nevertheless, Akron (8-4) picked up its second straight victory and fifth in the last seven games.
“We won.” Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said. “We can’t make any excuses, though we have to play better.”
Four UA players scored in double figures, led by junior Pat Forsythe and freshman Noah Robotham, each with 13 points. Forsythe added 10 rebounds to register his first career double-double, while Robotham added two assists and four steals.
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Marshall (4-9) suffered its third consecutive loss and ninth overall against Division I opposition. Its last victory over a D-I team was on November16th against Savannah State.
“We have been competitive in all those games.” Herd head man Dan D’Antoni said. “We just cannot get over the hump and get that ‘W’.”
Sophomore Austin Loop led all scorers in the game with 16 points, while fellow second-year player Ryan Taylor had 15 before leaving the game midway through the second half with an ankle injury.
Akron scored the first four points of the game before the visitors from Conference USA scored the next 11 points to take their largest lead of the contest on a right wing jumper by junior Justin Edwards, who scored nine points. Taylor was the key to the run with seven points and totaled 13 points in the opening 20 minutes.
UA responded with an 18-2 run to take the lead for good, 22-13, when B.J. Gladden connected on both ends of a one-and-one free throw. The redshirt freshman had six points during the stretch, which was sparked by a pair of threes from McAdams.
The Zips opened their largest lead of the opening half at 11 points on two occasions, the last being the halftime score 35-24 when Robotham connected on a three –pointer from the right arc.
The Zips had the lead in spite of making just 36 percent from the field (13-of-36). Sixteen of those shots came from beyond the arc making six of them. They had a sizeable rebounding edge (24-16) over MU thanks to their height. The 11 offensive rebounds contributed to nine second-chance points. Akron turned the ball over 10 times, costing them eight points.
The Herd proved to be not much better as they were only 8-of-26 from the floor (30.8%) while turning the ball over nine times themselves.
Marshall opened the second half scoring the first six points of the period to close the deficit to 35-30 when Loop scored on a driving layup just 70 seconds in.
Then just as quickly, UA pushed the lead back out to 13 (43-30) on the strength of two three’s. One came from sophomore Kwan Cheatham Jr., who finished the game with five points and five rebounds. The other one came from senior Nyles Evans, who scored six.
The Herd kept chipping away closing the margin to four, 43-39, when Loop hit three consecutive three-pointers all from the left side of the arc.
The Zips then got the lead back to 10 at 55-45 when Forsythe who scored seven points and pulled down seven rebounds in the second half connected on two free throws.
Every time UA looked to put the Herd away, it let Marshall back into the game with turnovers and missed shots. Marshall closed the deficit to 58-55 at the 5:52 mark on a layup by freshman Milan Mijovic.
Late in the second half, UA was called for a pair of clock violations (35-second and 10-second back court). The Herd took advantage, closing to within three points, 66-63, when junior Jay Johnson connected on a three from the left arc with 1:14 remaining.
With the game in the balance, Robotham took the basketball into his own hands. He made four of six free throws, including both ends of a one-and-one with 1:08 remaining to thwart Marshall’s final push.
The win was the Zips sixth straight in the series over the Herd. Akron improved its home record to 5-1 and 1-1 against C-USA opposition. UA had lost to Middle Tennessee back on December 13th.
Marshall got back into the game shooting 55.6 percent from the field in the second half (15-of-27), including 7-of-13 from beyond the arc. It finished the game at 43.4 percent overall (23-of-53) and 10-of-23 from three point range. However, the Herd went just 2-of-7 from the free throw line and 7-of-13 for the game. In addition, MU turned the ball over 10 times (19 for the game).
UA’s shooting did not improve in the second half as it went 10-of-28 from the floor (35.7%) and was only 35.9 percent (23-of-64) over the 40 minutes.
The Zips did dominate the rebound battle, 42-32, garnering 18 offensive boards. That led to 20 second chance points, counter-balanced somewhat with 19 turnovers that led to 17 points for the visitors.
When asked about where his team is heading into Mid-American Conference play next Tuesday when they face Western Michigan at home, Dambrot said “One thing about this program is we have been able to reload every year while not taking a step back. We have to play better.”
Two stats stood out from the game:
First, The Zips connected on 12 three-pointers -- the third time this season they have made 10 or more shots from beyond the arc (13 vs. Western Illinois and 12 in their season opening win over Maryland-Baltimore County.
Second, the two teams combined for 55 shots from beyond the arc (UA 32 and Marshall 23).
The Zips return to action on Saturday night when they close the Non-Conference portion of their schedule against the Eagles of Coppin State out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).