SAVANNAH, GA -- The Akron Zips captured the inaugural 2016 Savannah Invitational Championship, defeating Mercer 65-63 on Saturday at the Savannah Civic Center. Senior center Isaiah Johnson earned the tournament's Most Valuable Player award, while junior guard Antino Jackson was named to the all-tournament team.
Akron led by as many as 12 points throughout Saturday evening's Savannah Invitational finale, but the Mercer Bears found their way to claw back into a game that was to be decided in the final minutes.
The Zips seemed to . . .
On the other end of the floor, Johnson returned the favor with a strong post move to put the Zips back on top, with 1:20 left to play. Mercer attempted to tie the game again, but it missed the field goal attempt Jackson came up with the defensive rebound.
Akron's attempt to make it a two-possession game fell short, but Johnson was there to secure the offensive rebound. The Zips reset the offense at the top of the key and began using the final 38 seconds of play.
When the clock got to nine seconds, Mercer was forced to send Akron to the charity stripe. When the one-and-one opportunity fell off the front of the rim, Mercer secured the ball and frantically moved up the floor. As the Bears crossed half court a timeout was called, leaving them 1.9 seconds to either tie the game or win it.
The Zips denied the inbounds play effectively, forcing the Bears to make two passes to put the ball in the shooter's hand. On the second pass, junior guard Noah Robotham jumped the passing lane and knocked the ball away to secure the win and tourney title.
In the first half the Zips climbed to a 12 point lead after three consecutive 3-pointers from senior forward Kwan Cheatham.
For most of the half, Akron shot 60-percent or better from the floor, including 66.7 percent effort from beyond the 3-point arc with less than eight minutes to play. Akron led by 12 points until the final 45 seconds when Mercer cut the lead to eight points on back-to-back shots in the painted area, 35-27.
Akron finished the game shooting 20-of-43 from the floor for a 46.5 percentage, including a 50-percent effort from downtown on 10-of-20 triples. In addition, the Zips made 19 trips to the charity stripe, knocking down 15 shots for a 78.9 percentage.
Mercer won the battle of the boards, 36-24, and the Zips held a slight 10-11 advantage in the turnover battle.
For the second-straight night, Johnson led the Zips' scoring efforts with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor, including a 5-of-7 effort from the free throw line. For his efforts, Johnson was selected as the Savannah Invitational MVP.
Overall, Johnson registered 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting and 10-of-15 from the free throw line in action at the savannah Civic Center. He added 11 rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks.
Also scoring in double figures in back-to-back games was Antino Jackson. Jackson poured in 15 points on Friday against Air Force and returned with a 14 point showing in the finale on 5-of-8 shooting from the field, including a 2-of-5 showing from deep. Jackson added two rebounds, two assists, and a block.
Cheatham finished with nine points, draining 3-of-4 3-pointers, while Robotham collected six points in a 50-percent (2-of-4) shooting effort.
Akron will return to James A. Rhodes Arena for a battle with Adrian on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. Akron will look to increase its home winning streak to 21 games.
(Courtesy of UA Athletics)