AKRON, OHIO – When arch-rivals meet on the field of battle, you can throw the record and all the statistics out the window.
That was the case Friday night inside a sold-out Rhodes Arena as the Kent State Golden Flashes upended the Akron Zips, 70-67,
The Kent State (15-12, 7-7 MAC) victory was its big on several levels. Not only was it a win over the Flashes arch rival, it was the first KSU victory at Akron since March of 2013. Perhaps most notable of all, it broke a 30-game UA home court win streak.
"Great game, as it . . .
For Akron (22-5, 12-2) the loss ended a three-game winning streak. Kent State posted its second consecutive win. .
“We just didn’t shoot the ball well from the three (-point) line.” Zips head man Keith Dambrot said. “It turned the game into a grinding type of contest. They made more plays when it mattered.”
Senior Isaiah Johnson led the Zips with 18 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Daniel Utomi came off the bench to score 16 going a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point range. Junior Antino Jackson added 10.
A rivalry game, a full house, fans from both schools in attendance – all made for an electric atmosphere.
Both teams had the lead in the early going, with UA opening a pair of seven point leads. The last was 23-16 at the 8:21 mark on a fast break basket by Antino Jackson.
After KSU closed the margin fo three, 25-22, on a layup by junior Kevin Zabo, the Zips opened their largest lead of the opening frame, 35-27, when Utomi hit both ends of a one-and-one free throw opportunity. The home team went into halftime with a five point advantage, 36-31.
In the first half the Zips shot 13-of-27 from the field (48.1%), while KSU was 12-of-34 from the floor (35.3%). Akron held a 21-17 rebound edge. However, the Zips shot just 3-of-9 from beyond the arc -- something that would haunt them in the second half.
As the second period began, UA just could not find the basket. Akron opened the period going just 1-of-11 from the field, missing all seven of their attempts from the arc.
The Flashes took advantage of the cold shooting and went on a 15-2 run to take an eight-point lead, 46-38, with 12:57 remaining on a driving layup by Edwin. He had 15 points in the second half.
Just like their game on Tuesday night when the Zips withstood a cold shooting spell and bounced back to beat Toledo, they eventually found their shooting touch and regained the lead, 47-46, on a layup by Johnson at the 7:37 mark.
The game remained close the rest of the way and KSU opened a pair of five-point leads, the last being 61-56 at the 4:30 mark on a slam dunk by Hall, who had 12 in the second stanza.
The game was then tied twice at 61-61 and 63-63, with Hall and Johnson hitting a pair of free throws, before the Flashes took the lead for good. Edwin went down the baseline and scored with 45.6 seconds remaining 65-63. Free throws by sophomore Jalen Avery and Peterson extended the lead to 67-63 with 23.8 seconds remaining
UA had two opportunities to score, but were stopped on a layup attempt by Antino Jackson, and a game-tying 3-point shot by junior Jimmond ivey. Edwin pulled down the precious rebound and scored his final two points at the foul line.
The Zips added three free throws in the final seconds. By that point, however, the game was decided.
“We played with confidence tonight.” Edwin said. “We didn’t come out and play scared. We knew it was a big game. Everyone took it to heart, and we came out and played real hard.”
In the second half, KSU shot 13-of-24 from the field (54.2%), finishing the game at 43.1% (25-of-58). Akron was 22-of-53 over the 40 minutes. However, going 5-of-22 from beyond the arc (22.7%) was part of the Zips undoing, When asked about those struggles, Dambrot said, “If they outshoot us from the three line, they have a good chance to beat us.”
The home team won the battle of the boards 36-33. It was a well-played game with a total of 15 turnovers committed between the two teams. The visiting Flashes committed just five.
“The biggest thing for us is taking care of the basketball," Senderoff noted. "For us, you can cancel everything else out. Whenever we do that, we have a chance. When we don't, we shoot ourselves in the foot."
Among the keys to the game were pace and KSU’s defense of Johnson.
Kent state managed to slow down the pace of the game, making the Zips play in the half court. “They played surprisingly slow.” Dambrot said. “They played disciplined.
As for defending Johnson, the Flashed used Hall and sophomore Adonis De La Rosa. KSU focused on keeping Johnson away from the basket and then getting help from players like Peterson and Avery on drives by the Akron big man.
When asked about his battle with the Zips big man, Hall said “I just tried my best to be physical with him, tried to stay in front of him and not let him catch the ball. It was a great battle, and we are happy with the win.”
Another factor was an off-night shooting by UA’s Kwan Cheatham. Coming into the game, the senior was averaging 12 points and eight rebounds per game. Against KSU, he scored seven points, going 3-of-12 from the floor and struggling from distance.
“I will never turn my back on him.” Dambrot said of the game by Cheatham. “Guys have to know; you have to believe in them.”
Both teams hit the road on Tuesday night. The Flashes travel to Buffalo to face the Bulls, while UA travels west to Bowling Green to battle the Falcons.