Flashes spoil Zips plans for regular season MAC championship

“A game dubbed as possibly one of the biggest regular-season games in Northeast Ohio history turned into a dud as the University of Akron Men’s basketball team failed to show up against a senior led Kent State team. The Zips could not match up with the physical Flashes, as they were downed 74-61 in front of a capacity crowd at Rhodes Arena.”

A game dubbed as possibly one of the biggest regular-season games in Northeast Ohio history turned into a dud as the University of Akron Men’s basketball team failed to show up against a senior led Kent State team.

The Zips could not match up with the physical Flashes, as they were downed 74-61 in front of a capacity crowd at Rhodes Arena.

I feel bad for our players, UA head coach Keith Dambrot said. We have had a terrific season; we just weren’t very good tonight.

Despite losing for the majority of the contest, Akron got out early and jumped on top of Kent State, leading for the first seven minutes of the game.

A jumper by forward Anthony Simpson at the 12:06 mark gave the Flashes the lead, which they held for the remainder of the game.

I don’t know if it was nerves, but when we made our first substitution we just fell apart and never really recovered, but most of all we lost our composure and the way we shot the ball wasn’t very good at all tonight, Dambrot said.

Simpson had a career night in his final regular-season game as a Flash, compiling a game and career high 23 points, adding nine rebounds along the way.

Under the circumstances, this was probably the best game he has played in his career, KSU head coach Geno Ford said. He has had some other big games for us in the past, but none in a game of this magnitude.

Two more of the Flashes six seniors had double-figure point totals on game night.

Guard Rodriguez Sherman contributed 15 and forward Chris Singletary added 11. Sherman also added a team high five assists.

I think Kent State deserves a lot of credit for the way they played against us, Dambrot said. They had a lot of good things going for them. Anthony Simpson played really well, and so did Chris Singletary. He had a good game tonight. They were just a lot better than we were tonight and that’s all there is to it.

On the Zips side, only one player managed to find his way into double-digits: Jimmy Conyers, who dropped 18 on the Flashes, but still played out of his own style to do so.

It seemed as though the physical nature of Kent State commanded Akron all night. The Flashes fought for every rebound and found ways to get good shots on the offensive side of the ball.

Toughness is a culture, Ford said. In all fairness, Akron has the same toughness culture that we do. For us that is what we hang our hat on. We hang our hat on finishing around the rim and loose balls in traffic. When guys don’t make those plays, like every good team, we take the player out.

The difference is that when our guys come out, typically their teammates are on them about not making the play. The guys really hold each other accountable. I think that has been the secret ingredient that has helped us.

That secret ingredient has placed Kent State as the number one seed in the MAC tournament, as well as granting them the MAC regular season championship.

Akron will next travel to Cleveland to take part in the MAC tournament at Quicken Loans Arena.

The first game on the bracket for the Zips will be Thursday at 2 p.m. against MAC West opponent Eastern Michigan.

Akron lost to Eastern Michigan earlier in the season at Rhodes Arena 62-59. Guard Jay Higgins led the way with 17 points and was one of four double-digit scorers for the Eagles.

If the Zips can get past Eastern Michigan, they will be on a collision course for a rematch with the Flashes in the MAC tournament championship game.

Right now Kent State is the best team in the league, and we have to become more disciplined if we want to play with this team in the MAC tournament when it matters the most, Dambrot said.