Zips fall to rival Kent State, 85-76
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The University of Akron men’s basketball team lost to the Kent State Golden Flashes on Friday by a final score of 85-76.
The loss dropped the Zips’ record to 21-6 overall and 10-4 in the conference, while Kent State improved to 18-9 and 9-5 in the MAC. Akron has a one game lead at the top of the Mid-American Conference over Kent State, Ohio, and Ball State, with four games remaining before the MAC Tournament.
The Zips fell despite another excellent effort from big man Isaiah Johnson. Johnson scored 24 points on 10-14 shooting, while he made four of his six free throws and grabbed 9 rebounds. Forward Kwan Cheatham finished with 17 points and five rebounds, and Antino Jackson added 14 points and six boards.
Without center Pat Forsythe again, senior Jake Kretzer was forced into the starting lineup again, and he played well. Kretzer scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in 25 minutes of play, making three 3-pointers. Josh Williams came off the bench to score seven points to continue his strong second half of the season.
It was a rough game for two of the Zips best players, Reggie McAdams and Noah Robotham. McAdams, who leads the MAC in 3-point shots made, missed all four of his shots from deep. McAdams would finish with just two points, but he did grab four rebounds and finish with two steals. Robotham, who is fourth in the MAC in 3-point percentage, made just one of his nine deep balls. Robotham finished with three points and three assists.
Khaliq Spicer and Kellon Thomas led the way for the Golden Flashes. Spicer was dominant down low, scoring 22 points and collecting eight rebounds. Spicer missed only two of his shots from the field in the game. Thomas also scored 22 points and missed only two of his shots from the floor. Jimmy Hall added 17 points and eight rebounds for Kent State.
The game was very back-and-forth for much of the first half. The first half featured six lead changes and three ties, until Kent State went on a 20-9 run in the last seven minutes of the first half. The Golden Flashes led 42-32 going into halftime.
Kent State started the second half on a 6-1 run, and the lead was all the way up to 15 points. However, the Zips would fight back. Jackson started the comeback with a layup and a 3-pointer on the following possession. After a Thomas free throw, Zips’ big man Isaiah Johnson showed his range a made a jumper to get the Zips back to single digits. Johnson would pound his way to back-to-back layups after a pair of Spicer free throws. A Jackson free throw would cut the lead to six, and the teams would trade baskets for a few minutes before Akron would go on another run to tie the game.
With the Zips down seven, Johnson scored from down low once again. Two possessions later Jackson would add a layup, and Kwan Cheatham Jr. would bury a 3-pointer to tie the game at 61 with 7:06 remaining in the game. The comeback was short lived, however, as the Golden Flashes would rattle off the next eight points over the following three minutes.
The Zips’ 3-point game offered hope of another comeback late in the game. A Cheatham Jr. deep ball would cut the Kent State lead to eight with 2:23 to play. After a Thomas free throw Kretzer made a 3-pointer. Kent State’s Hall would add a basket on the next possession before Kretzer connected from beyond the arc again to cut the lead to five with 1:13 left in regulation. Akron coach Keith Dambrot decided not to foul immediately, but Thomas would be fouled after 22 seconds came off the clock, and he made both free throws. A Cheatham Jr. layup would cut the lead to five, but Kent State made seven of their last eight free throws while the Zips only got a 3-pointer from Robotham, and Kent State went on to win 85-76.
The Golden Flashes shot a wonderful 51.7 percent from the floor to secure their victory. Also, they shot made 22 of their 32 free throw attempts, while Akron made just 6-11. Additionally, Kent State scored 48 points in the paint compared to just 34 for Akron. Akron took an unbelievable 33 3-pointers in the game, making ten. Also, the Zips’ bench outscored Kent State’s bench 31-12. The rebounds, assists, and turnovers were nearly identical for each team.
The Zips will host the Golden Flashes on March 4th in a game that could decide the regular season MAC champion. But first, the Zips will get back to the court on Tuesday in Oxford, Ohio, as they play the Miami RedHawks at 7 p.m. Kent State will travel to Buffalo to play the Bulls on Tuesday at 6 p.m.