AKRON, OHIO – The Akron Zips registered their 21st win of the 2015-16 season as they came back from a 13-point first half deficit to defeat the Buffalo Bulls, 80-70, Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena.
With the victory, Akron (21-5, 10-3 MAC) maintained its two-game lead in the Mid-American conference Eastern Division. Kent State defeated Western Michigan at home in overtime and Ohio topped Eastern Michigan (also at home) in other Tuesday night action. In addition, UA has a two-game advantage over Ball State in the race for the number one seed in the upcoming 2016 MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“We survived a . . .
Sophomore guard Antino Jackson led four Zips players in double figures, tallying 20 points with two assists and two steals. Fellow soph Noah Robotham added 16 points with six helpers. Junior Isiah Johnson had 14 with 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. Senior Reggie McAdams added 13 -- all coming in the second half.
Buffalo (14-12, 7-5) suffered its third consecutive defeat after winning three straight and has tumbled into fourth place in the Eastern Division.
“I thought our guys played hard tonight.” UB head man Nate Oats said. “We had some mental mistakes. We stayed in it, but they (Akron) are good. You just can’t make a mental mistake against them. They will punish you.”
Freshman guard CJ Massinburg led all scorers in the contest with 21 points, along with seven rebounds, two assists and four steals. Junior David Kadiri was the only other Bulls player in double figures, coming off the bench with 10 points.
Both teams came into the game shorthanded, UA was without senior center Pat Forsythe, who was out with an undisclosed injury. Buffalo guard Lamonte Bearden had been indefinitely suspended.
The loss of Forsythe allowed UB to get inside the lane, and a majority of its field goals on the evening came from that area.
UB broke open a close game in the first half, going on a 17-3 run to open its largest lead of the game, 36-23, at the 4:01 mark on a driving layup by Massinburg, who scored 12 points in the opening half.
From that point on, UA started to get back into the game. Akron scored the last 10 points of the opening period, allowing UA to only trail by three at halftime, 36-33. Along with the penetration to the goal, a key for UB’s lead came on shooting 53.6 percent from the field, having a 16-15 rebounding edge, and converting six UA turnovers into 11 points.
Buffalo hit a quick bump early in the second half when Oats was called for a technical foul. Antino Jackson made both of the technical foul shots to close the deficit to one 36-35. The contest then see-sawed back and forth. With the game tied 42-42 at the 17:04 mark, the Zips went on an 11-1 run to open a 53-43 lead at the 15:02 mark when McAdams connected on a three from the left arc.
To the Bulls credit, they weathered a barrage of triples by McAdams to tie the game 64-64 on a layup by freshman Nick Perkins at 7:53.
Perkins would then be involved in the game’s most pivotal moment. At the 6:48 mark, he fouled Johnson at the baseline. He then said something to Johnson and incurred with a technical foul.
The Zips made three of four free throws to take the lead for good. They added a three from the right corner by McAdams and a conventional three-point play by Johnson. When the dust settled, UA had a nine-point lead, 73-64, which proved to be insurmountable.
The home team’s largest lead was 12 points in the final moments. Robotham hit a three from the right arc to make the score 80-68 at the 1:44 mark, and Akron eventually prevailed by nine to sweep the two-game regular season series against a team that ended their season last March in the 2015 MAC Tournament Semifinals.
When asked about the Bulls, Dambrot said “They are tough, hardnosed and strong. They have championship quality toughness.”
The two major stats from the game:
-- UB owned a dominating 40-29 rebounding edge.
-- However the Bulls committed 17 turnovers, which UA converted into 19 points.
“When you out rebound a team by 11 and outshoot them on the floor by three percent, typically you can get a win. But we turned the ball over 17 times and did not guard them at the three point line. That was our undoing tonight.” Oats said.
Both teams will return to action this weekend, UA makes the short trip to Kent State while Buffalo returns home to face Bowling Green.