Zips avoid slow start, beat Chippewas, 92-87

Freshman guard Josh Williams led the Zips with a career-high of 22 points  Friday night.

Freshman guard Josh Williams led the Zips with a career-high of 22 points Friday night.

By Jacob Allen, Writer

Freshman guard Josh Williams led the Zips in scoring for the second straight game as the University of Akron Zips men’s basketball team beat Central Michigan on Friday night, 92-87, at Rhodes Arena in Akron.

The win improved the Zips to 19-4 overall and 8-2 in the MAC. Central Michigan fell to 13-10 overall and 6-4 in the conference.

Williams, who averages just over six points per game this season off the bench, put up 22 points on Friday after scoring 20 points on Tuesday in Athens. Williams made six out of his seven 3-point attempts while also making all four of his free throws.

The Zips scored 92 points on the day, helped out by a very balanced attack that featured five players score double-digit points. Fellow guard Antino Jackson followed up with 19 points, while making four 3-pointers and grabbing a team-high six rebounds. Senior Reggie McAdams made two 3-pointers of his own for a total of 14 points. Las Vegas native noah Robotham dished out a career-high eight assists, and made three shots from deep to finish with 13 points. Finally, the team’s leading scorer Isaiah Johnson finished with 12 points and five rebounds.

However, Central Michigan showed great balance of their own by having six players score in double figures. Dallas native Braylon Rayson led the Chippewas with 18 points.  Luke Meyer had 15 points with eight rebounds, Rayshawn Simmons added 14 points and seven assists, John Simons scored 13 points off of three 3-pointers while grabbing a game-high ten rebounds, and Chris Fowler finished finished with 11 points and eight assists. Finally, sophomore Josh Kozinski came off the bench and made four 3-pointers to total 12 points.

The Zips made a season-high 16 3-pointers on the day. They shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, despite a career worst game from sharpshooting senior Jake Kretzer. Kretzer missed all six 3’s he attempted, but did make his presence felt by grabbing five rebounds and adding five assists to go with three points. The 3-point line was the key in this one, as they held Central Michigan to a 10-32 shooting day from outside.

After Central Michigan beat the Zips earlier in the year, it seemed that Akron would come out firing as they looked for revenge. However, it was the Chippewas that started hot. After Braylon Rayson made an opening 3-pointer and the Zips Kwan Cheatham Jr. followed up with a layup, the Chippewas reeled off nine straight points to come out to a 12-2 lead. The Zips would come right back and answer with back-to-back 3’s from Williams and Robotham, and the shootout was underway.

After Luke Meyer converted on a 3-point play, the Zips went on another small run to get the game to within one point. Isaiah Johnson started the run by making a bucket underneath while being fouled by DaRohn Smith, but Johnson could not convert on the subsequent free throw. On the Zips next possession, Kretzer missed a 3-pointer, but a hustling Josh Williams found the offensive rebound. Seconds later Kretzer found Cheatham Jr. for his only 3-pointer of the night. Following a Chris Fowler layup, Cheatham Jr. found Robotham for another long ball to make the score 17-16 Chippewas with 13:12 remaining in the first half.

After a Rayson 3-pointer and a Johnson layup, Antino Jackson took over the game for a stretch of about four minutes. First, his layup made the score 20-20 at the halfway point of the half, and then he grabbed a defensive rebound and followed it up by receiving a Robotham pass and draining a 3-pointer to give the Zips their first lead of the game. The Chippewas came back with a Meyer layup, but once again Robotham found Jackson, who made his second straight 3-pointer. Again Central Michigan responded with a couple of free throws, but Jackson made yet another 3-pointer after a Jimond Ivey offensive rebound. Jackson then stole the ball from Simmons, and Kretzer grabbed McAdams’ miss and put it in. Finally, after the TV timeout Jackson came out and made another 3-pointer off of a Johnson assist. Jackson scored 14 of his 19 points in the four minute stretch to give the Zips 34-24 lead with 6:31 remaining in the half, ending a 32-12 Zips run.

Akron would miss their next five shots before Johnson made a free throw with 3:58 to go, and the Chippewas cut the Akron lead to four on the next possession after a Kozinski 3-pointer.

The Zips would close out the half strong, however. After a Robotham layup and two Central Michigan free throws, Williams took advantage of getting back on the court by making back-to-back 3-pointers. DaRohn Scott added a bucket on the next Chippewa possession, but Johnson scored the last four points of the half as the Zips defense stood tall in the last 1:19 to take a 47-35 lead into halftime.

The 47 points were the most all year for the Zips in the first half of any ball game.

The Zips offense cooled off significantly to start the second half, and the Chippewas made a run. A Rayson 3-pointer was followed by a Jackson layup. A minute later the teams exchange 3-point possessions, as Simons drained a deep ball and Zips’ big man Pat Forsythe made a basket underneath while being fouled and converted from the stripe. But Central Michigan would come roaring back, going on a 12-0 run to take a 53-52 lead. The Chippewas got six free throws and three field goals to fuel the run.

However, Akron came right back to score the next 13 points to retake a 12 point lead. Johnson converted on a 3-point play after he was fouled by Scott. On the next Chippewa possession, Cheatham Jr. blocked a Fowler shot, which lead to a Robotham layup. Williams made another 3-pointer on the next trip up the court, which lead to a Central Michigan timeout. Reggie McAdams finished the run by making a jumper and converting a 3-pointer off of another Robotham assist.

After a Meyer free throw, the Zips did not let the Chippewas come back once again. Akron made three straight 3’s, two from Williams and one from Robotham, to push the lead to 74-54 with over eight minutes to play. It was the Zips’ biggest run of the day, as they outscored Central Michigan 22-1 in less than five minutes.

The Chippewas never quit, as they came right back to score the next nine points. After each team made a layup, McAdams stuck the dagger in them with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 14 with 3:28 left. Williams and McAdams each would make four free throws the rest of the way as the Chippewas went into desperation mode. They even got back to within four points following 3-pointer from Simons and Kozinski with 24 seconds left. After a Johnson free throw, Kozinski missed a big 3-pointer and it was too little, too late for Central Michigan.

The Chippewas could not overcome the Zips’ 3-ball, despite making 82.6 percent of free throws and only turning it over four times all game.

The Zips now have a one game lead over Buffalo atop the Mid-American Conference. Akron will host Buffalo on Tuesday the 16th. Akron beat Buffalo earlier in the year after the Bulls knocked out the Zips in the MAC tournament last year. Before their battle with Buffalo the Zips will travel to Bowling Green on Tuesday to play the Falcons, and to Dekalb, Illinois on Saturday for a rematch with the Northern Illinois Huskies.