Zips top Bulls, clinch first round bye in MAC tournament

“The University of Akron’s men’s basketball team showed poise and confidence in their 77-67 win over MAC East opponent Buffalo on senior night. The Zips (21-8 11-3 MAC) dominated a Bulls team (16-10 8-6 MAC) that gave them fits in their previous matchup. It was one of the biggest regular season games we’ve played, UA head coach Keith Dambrot said.”

The University of Akron’s men’s basketball team showed poise and confidence in their 77-67 win over MAC East opponent Buffalo on senior night.

The Zips (21-8 11-3 MAC) dominated a Bulls team (16-10 8-6 MAC) that gave them fits in their previous matchup.

It was one of the biggest regular season games we’ve played, UA head coach Keith Dambrot said. It allows us to for sure play for the championship the last game of the year. It was a big ball game for us.

In UA’s previous game with Buffalo, the Bulls embarrassed the Zips in a 78-65 rout.

The Zips, however, returned the favor Wednesday night as they compiled a large win of their own.

The Zips dominated the entire first half offensively and defensively.

Akron went 13-of-26 on field goals during the half (50 percent).

Going into the locker rooms the Zips were up 16 points.

Coming out in the second half, there was more of the same from UA.

They shot the ball well and continued their typical dominant play on the defensive side of the ball.

The Zips finished shooting the ball 26-for-50 on field goals (52 percent).

Witherspoon has one of the best systems, Dambrot said. We play against each other so much, we feel like we know them better than we know us.

Five Akron players finished in double-digits.

Guard Steve McNees led the way with 15 points and forward Brett McKnight (14), forward Chris McKnight (12), forward Jimmy Conyers (11) and forward Nikola Cvetinovic rounded out the double-digit scorers.

On the defensive side of the ball Conyers led in the rebound department with 10 on his way to a double-double. It was his seventh of the season.

I took this game to heart, Conyers said. This game was releasing my negative energy. I worked hard because I had that (70-53 loss at VCU) on my mind.

Dambrot could not put into words how the Zips were able to beat a very good Buffalo team.

We had a horrendous walk-through today, Dambrot said. We had a couple pretty good days of practice. I thought they had trouble shooting the ball. It’s so hard to judge how people play. We shot the ball in and they didn’t.

During the game, Akron’s three seniors were recognized – Conyers, Tim Carroll and Chris McKnight. They each received a framed jersey honor their time at UA.

The win keeps The Zips in a two-way tie for first in the MAC East with rival Kent State.

The only way UA or KSU can clinch the No. 1 seed in the MAC tournament is by beating one another.

We’ve won 21 games already and people say we’re having an erratic year, Dambrot said. We have had very few games we haven’t competed. We play together every day. Those guys won 20 games in five years. If you take that for granted, you’re out of your mind.

UA will play their last regular season away game versus the Bowling Green Falcons.

Tip off for the Bowling Green game is set for 2:30 p.m. at Anderson Arena.