Zips escape Toledo upset in final seconds

“CLEVELAND: The University of Akron men’s basketball team’s season was within seconds of ending on two occasions Tuesday night, but the Zips used a 3-pointer by freshman guard Anthony Humpty Hitchens at the end of regulation and a tip-in by sophomore forward Brett McKnight at the end of overtime to edge the Toledo Rockets 93-92 in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.”

CLEVELAND: The University of Akron men’s basketball team’s season was within seconds of ending on two occasions Tuesday night, but the Zips used a 3-pointer by freshman guard Anthony Humpty Hitchens at the end of regulation and a tip-in by sophomore forward Brett McKnight at the end of overtime to edge the Toledo Rockets 93-92 in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

The fifth-seeded Zips will play the fourth-seeded Miami RedHawks in the tournament’s quarterfinal round tonight.

McKnight’s game-winning bucket came with less than a second to go in the game and followed a layup by Toledo’s Clayton Sterling that gave the Rockets a one-point lead with six seconds left.

They threw a perfect pass and he made a perfect shot for a perfect ending for them and a horrible ending for us, UT head coach Gene Cross said.

The highlight play, however, would not have been possible without a strong UA offensive run in the final six minutes of regulation to recover from a 62-50 deficit. The Zips (20-12, 10-6 MAC) completed the comeback when Hitchens hit the 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 78 and send it into overtime.

A pivotal stretch in the UA comeback occurred when senior forward Nate Linhart rebounded a missed Chris McKnight free throw and scored to cut the Zips’ deficit to 76-75 with 49 seconds left in regulation. Linhart also drew a pivotal charging call during the run.

I am known for playing with everything I’ve got, but I feel like I took it up even another notch right there at the end, Linhart said. I did not want to lose that game. I tried to take it upon myself a little bit and do everything I could to help us not lose.

Despite holding only a 38-36 advantage a halftime, it appeared early in the second half that the Zips were on the verge of pulling away. UA scored the first five points of the half, bumping its lead up to 43-36, but then the Zips went on a prolonged shooting drought.

UT (7-25, 5-11 MAC) took advantage of the Zips’ poor shooting by going on a 26-7 run and holding UA without a field goal for over 14 minutes.

UA head coach Keith Dambrot said the team’s up-and-down play in the game epitomized what has happened throughout the season.

We were awful in one stretch, Dambrot said. I could hardly yell at them because I didn’t even know what to tell them. We were just throwing the ball to the wrong team.

It’s amazing you can rally yourself like that.

The Zips’ 26 offensive rebounds and 24 second-chance points helped offset shooting only 37.3 percent (28-of-75) from the field. The Rockets shot 47.3 percent (26-of-55) from the field.

Chris McKnight and Linhart led the team in points and rebounds. McKnight scored 18 points and 10 rebounds while Linhart tallied 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Toledo was led by senior guard Jonathan Amos’ game-high 24 points. His nine rebounds also paced the team.

Tip-off between the Zips and RedHawks is set for approximately 9:30 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena.