Zips clinch top spot in MAC Tournament with win over Ohio
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The University of Akron men’s basketball team beat the Ohio Bobcats on Tuesday night, 91-76, in front of over 4,000 fans at Rhodes Arena.
The win gave the Zips the number one seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, which starts March 7th. The top spot will give the Zips a bye in the first round of the tournament, so they won’t play until March 10th, when the tournament moves to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The win improved the Zips to 23-7 on the season while the Bobcats fell to 19-10. Akron is now 12-5 against MAC teams while Ohio is just 10-7 in such games. The Zips are now 14-0 this season in games at Rhodes Arena, and they will finish the season at home on Friday versus Kent State.
The key to the game once again for the Zips was their success from beyond the arc. Akron made a season-high 20 3-pointers on 43 attempts, after they made 19 3’s last game against Bowling Green. Also, they held Ohio to just 32 percent shooting from outside.
Senior Reggie McAdams and junior forward Kwan Cheatham Jr. were phenomenal for the home team yet again. McAdams went 7-14 from deep for a total of 21 points, while also recording two steals defensively. Cheatham Jr. came through with a double-double, also scoring 21 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. He made five 3-pointers himself on 12 attempts.
Antino Jackson had an all-around game as well for the Zips. Jackson scored 12 points, made two 3-pointers, grabbed five rebounds, dished out four assists, and had two steals. Fellow guard Noah Robotham totaled ten points and also collected five rebounds, while making two 3-point field goals. Rounding out the starting five was Aaron Jackson, who grabbed five rebounds.
The Akron bench was also a huge factor, outscoring Ohio’s bench 27-3. Jake Kretzer led the way with 11 points and six rebounds. Kretzer added to the 3-point barrage with three treys of his own. Big man Isaiah Johnson finished with nine points and four rebounds, Jimond Ivey scored five points in only six minutes, and freshman Josh Williams added two points, six rebounds, and five assists.
Ohio was led by guard Jaaron Simmons, who had game-highs 25 points and seven assists, while never leaving the ball game. Also, three players recorded exactly 13 points: Treg Setty, Kenny Kaminski, and Jordan Dartis. Antonio Campbell added nine points and 11 rebounds, and Gavin Block scored the only bench points for Ohio, a 3-pointer late in the second half.
The Zips got off to an excellent start, as they led 30-13 halfway through the first half. Amazingly, all the Zips points came off ten 3-pointers, six of which came from McAdams. A Cheatham Jr. layup finally ended the streak, and Akron led 32-15 with just over nine minutes left.
Ohio stormed right back, scoring the next eight points. After a Johnson free throw, the Bobcats scored the next seven points to cut the lead to two. The Zips fought hard in the last two minutes, and got a Robotham 3-pointer with six seconds left to take a 42-37 lead into halftime.
Kaminski would connect from deep on Ohio’s first possession of the second half, but Akron came back with a 7-0 run, highlighted by back-to-back Jackson layups.
Later in the half the lead was extended to 14 after Robotham found Ivey for a 3-pointer, just the fifth trey of the season for Ivey.
Halfway through the quarter Akron led by ten, 66-56. But the ZIps went on another run to put the game out of reach. Kretzer and Cheatham Jr. made back-to-back 3-pointers, and on the next possession Johnson pounded his way to a basket to give Akron a 74-56 lead.
The lead would grow as high as 17, and Ohio would never get back within ten points. A Robotham layup with 14 seconds left the scoreboard at 91-76 in favor of the home team.
The Zips dominated the game on the glass. Akron outrebounded Ohio 47-28, and they grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. This led to the Zips taking 12 more shots than the Bobcats. While the Zips were dominant from the outside, Ohio led the way in the paint. They outscored Akron 36-22 in the paint, but it was not enough.
The Zips showed their passing ability and selflessness, totaling 18 assists, while the Bobcats only had 11. The Bobcats went 10-11 from the foul line, while the Zips made just seven of their 11. Finally, Akron lost the turnover battle, turning it over eight times compared to Ohio’s six.
Akron will look for revenge when Kent State comes to town on Friday night. The Golden Flashes won the previous meeting, 85-76, in Kent on February 19th. The Zips will look to stop guard Kellon Thomas and center Khaliq Spicer, who each scored 22 points in the last meeting. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. at Rhodes Arena.