Akron rolls on

D.J. Johnson

On Dec. 15, 2012, an 80-73 upset loss to the Detroit Titans left the Akron Zips with a 4-4 record to start the season.

More than two months later, that loss remains the most current, as a 67-50 win over Bowling Green Saturday night extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games.

Four players reached double figures for the Zips (21-4, 12-0), who clinched a bye into the semifinals of the MAC tournament. Still, bigger aspirations exist for head coach Keith Dambrot.

“We have to work even harder now because we have an opportunity to do some things that have never been done here,” said Dambrot.

Akron remains one of seven teams in the country still undefeated in league play.

The Zips got it done Saturday night on the defensive end, holding the Falcons (10-15, 5-7 MAC) to 33 percent shooting and forcing 15 turnovers.

“Other than a four-minute stretch, we were really good defensively, which allows you to be in every single game,” said Dambrot.

Senior Zeke Marshall led the Zips offensively with 15 points and nine rebounds. Junior Nick Harney chipped in 13 points and six rebounds. Junior Alex Abreu (13 points) and senior Brian Walsh (10 points) joined the pair in
double figures.

Despite Akron never trailing in the game, Bowling Green cut their lead to 55-49 with five minutes to play.

The Zips’ defensive pressure would swell the six-point lead to a 17-point win. The Falcons did not make a field goal inside the five-minute mark, scoring a total of one point.

Akron would rely on clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch, hitting 10-of-10 on their way to the win.

As much as shots were not falling for the Falcons, the Zips had their fair share of struggles putting the ball in the hoop. They would finish the night shooting 37 percent from the field (23-of-63) and 14 percent from the three-point range (2-of-14).

“We just haven’t quite been able to put it together offensively,” said Dambrot. “We just have to take that ugly duckling and polish it up a bit.”

The Zips will now head into a critical stretch of their schedule, starting with an ESPN BracketBuster matchup on Friday when they host North Dakota State (20-7, 11-4 Summit) at 7 p.m. After starting the year 16-3, the Bisons have dropped four of their last eight games.

Akron’s 12-0 start in the MAC is tied with the 1957-58 Miami (OH) RedHawks
for the best start in league play in conference history.