AKRON, OHIO – The Akron Zips extended their 2016-17 winning streak to nine games and collected their 27th straight at Rhodes Arena as they defeated the Eastern Michigan Eagles 70-63 Friday night.
The victory kept Akron (16-3, 6-0) undefeated in conference play, a mark that looks even more impressive given that this week's two wins came against teams with two of the the MAC's better records -- Ohio and Eastern Michigan.
“It was kind of . . .
Senior Isaiah Johnson led all scorers in the contest with 21 points, along with eight rebounds, three assists and a steal. Senior Kwan Cheatham and junior Antino Jackson each had 11 points, with Cheatham collecting seven caroms and Jackson dishing out six helpers.
After EMU closed to within six, 19-13, on a layup by sophomore Quaran Jones, UA then pushed the lead out to 14, its largest of the half when Johnson scored on a driving layup coming down the baseline. The home team held a 10-point advantage at halftime 38-28.
“We had our opportunities and our chances, especially late when we got the lead to four. Anytime you come into this building, you have to play exceptionally well to win the game.” EMU head man Rob Murphy said.
Senior Ty Toney led the Green and White with 17 points, four rebounds and five assists. Willie Mangum came off the bench to score 13 points, while sophomore Baylee Steele added 10.
It was a game that UA led from the opening basket. As the Zips did in the win over Ohio on Tuesday night
The Zips, meanwhile, were just a shade below 50 percent from the floor (14-of-31). However, they were just 4-of-10 from the free throw line. The battle of the boards was deadlocked 19-19.
Akron's inability to connect from the 15-foot line would come back to haunt them later in the game.
UA’s lead at the start of the second half fluctuated between seven and 10 points before opening its largest margin of the contest 57-42 with 7:31 remaining when junior Noah Robotham connected on a three from the right arc.
From there, the Eagles started to ship away at their deficit. Over the next six minutes they would get within four points, 65-61, on a Toney layup capping a 9-2 spurt.
That, however, would be the closest EMU could get for the rest of the game as the Zips regained their balance. They hit four of six free throws in the closing moments to secure a victory.
The home winning streak is the longest since UA moved into the "JAR" back in 1983-84. It is also the third longest active home win skein in Division I behind Kansas and Oregon.
The Zips were totally ice cold in the second half as they went just 9-of-23 from the field (finishing the game at 42.6% 23-of-54). They were 1-of-10 from beyond the arc (7-of-26) and 12-of-28 from the line (17-of-38). The Eagles were not much better from the floor, going 13-of-31 in the second period (1-of-8 from beyond the arc) and hitting 38.1 percent (24-of-63) over the 40 minutes.
Among the issues for EMU were the contributions of James Thompason IV and Ray Lee.
The latter, a fifth-year senior, has been nagged by aches and pains over the past few games games and tallied five points. He is averaging 14.2 ppg on the season.
Thompson was is similarly averaging 14.9 ppg (10.5 rpg) and was connecting on 58.4 percent from the field. He finished with six points and seven boards against Akron.
With their game Friday night, both teams start a stretch of three interdivisional games over the next four outings. UA returns to action on Tuesday night facing Western Michigan for the second time this season. EMU heads home to face Ball State at the Convocation Center.