Zips men's basketball falls to rival Kent

On Friday night, The University of Akron men’s basketball team (19-12, 9-7 Mid-American Conference) took on the Kent State University Golden Flashes (21-10, 12-4 MAC), before a crowd of 6, 237 at the M.A.C. Center in Kent, Ohio.


On Friday night, The University of Akron men’s basketball team (19-12, 9-7 Mid-American Conference) took on the Kent State University Golden Flashes (21-10, 12-4 MAC), before a crowd of 6, 237 at the M.A.C. Center in Kent, Ohio.

KSU defeated the Zips 79-68, splitting the season series 1-1 and clinching back-to-back outright MAC titles.

The Zips, on the other hand, finished the game shooting 50 percent from the floor (28-for-56) and 33.3 percent (7-for-21) from behind the three-point line.

Leading the offensive attack for UA were forward Quincy Diggs with 12 points and Brett McKnight and Darryl Roberts with 11 apiece.

With a win, the Zips could have clinched the fourth seed in the tournament, giving them a bye in the first round of the MAC tournament, but they will instead host a first round game at James A.

This was a typical Akron and Kent game, said Zips Head Coach Keith Dambrot. We had trouble rebounding the ball all night. You also have to make big plays in crunch time, and we couldn’t do that.

Going into halftime, the Zips led 31-27 and kept it close throughout the game, never trailing by more than six points down the stretch.

Akron was able to cut KSU’s lead to59-58 with 6:06 and 68-66 with 3:51 to go in the game, but Kent State caught fire in the final minute, extending their lead 77-68 with 52 seconds to go.

Kent forward Justin Greene led all players with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Kent as a team shot 50.8 percent (33-for-65) from the floor and 26.7 percent from the three-point range (4-for-15).

They played their game and we didn’t defend one-on-one. That was the key point, said junior forward Nikola Cvetinovic. They made some tough shots. They made some easy shots.

Kent and Akron sat tied at 39-39 before swapping leads over the next three minutes, but the Flashes opened a 54-45 advantage at the 10:42 mark.

Both teams exchanged baskets in the first four minutes of the first half before Akron spawned an early 14-8 lead with 13:00 minutes left to go.

Kent answered back and grabbed a brief 17-16 lead with 8:17 minutes left, but Roberts responded with a three-pointer to put Akron back up 19-17, and a few seconds later extended that lead to six with 5:35 left in the first half.

With Akron’s defeat, Kent has now clinched the No. 1 seed while securing a bye in the first round of the MAC Tournament, which will be taking place at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Thursday.

Emotions ran high for the Zips in the closing seconds of the game when Diggs was ejected and escorted out of the arena for arguing with the officials.

”Quincy. I don’t know what happened to Quincy,” Dambrot said. ”He’s a good kid. He just talked.”

Center Zeke Marshall had three blocks, marking his 22nd multi-block game of the season (37th career). McKnight also passed Larry Jenkins (1970-74, 1086) and Nick Dials (2006-08, 1,087) for 31st place all-time on Akron’s scoring list with 1,090 points.

The Zips, like last year, have lost their last two games of the season, but this season is different, as they will have to play four straight games to get back to the MAC Championship.

It’s not good we lost like this, but we still haven’t played a MAC Tournament game, said Cvetinovic. We are still the team that won seven in a row. We were going against two teams that are very good at home.

UA will hit the court this Tuesday for the first round of the MAC Tournament, when they take on the No. 11 seeded Eastern Michigan Eagles (8-21, 4-11 MAC). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and the  winner of this game will face No. 3 seed Miami (Ohio) (16-15, 11-5 MAC) at Quicken Loans Arena