Zips fall in second half

“By Vincent Dorsey vdorsey@buchtelite.com The University of Akron men’s basketball team played like the team that had won eight of its last nine games throughout much of the first half in its game at Valparaiso on Saturday night. For the rest of the contest, the Zips looked like a team with little interest in winning their final nonconference game of the season.”

By Vincent Dorsey

vdorsey@buchtelite.com

The University of Akron men’s basketball team played like the team that had won eight of its last nine games throughout much of the first half in its game at Valparaiso on Saturday night.

For the rest of the contest, the Zips looked like a team with little interest in winning their final nonconference game of the season.

The result: UA fell to VU 74-66 at the ARC in the ESPNU BrasketBusters event.

While UA’s chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament was busted long ago, head coach Keith Dambrot said during his postgame interview on 1350 WARF that the loss will negatively affect the team’s chances of getting an at-large bid into any of the other postseason tournaments.

That game cost us, Dambrot said. It hurt us badly. We didn’t learn our lessons from Northern Illinois.

A 3-pointer by senior forward Nate Linhart with 6:29 remaining in the first half gave the Zips (17-10) their largest lead of the game at 37-19. A slew of turnovers and poor defense throughout the rest of the half allowed the Crusaders (8-20) to cut their halftime deficit to 45-40.

UA built its big lead by shooting 68.2 percent (15-of-22) from the field, 60 percent (6-of-10) from behind the 3-point line and 90 percent (9-of-10) from the charity stripe in the first half.

In the final period, the Zips went cold, shooting only 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from the field, 0-8 from behind the 3-point arc and 60 percent (9-of-15) from the free throw line.

UA’s cold shooting and sloppy execution on offense and defense, allowed the Crusaders to outscore the Zips 34-21 in the second half.

Despite coming into the game with the Mid-American Conference’s best turnover margin at +5.2, the Zips turned the ball over 18 times, compared to the Crusaders’ 15. UA was also outrebounded 32-to-25.

They played harder than us, and when they play harder than us, they deserve to win, Dambrot said. I’ve never been as disappointed in a team as this.

We played well for 10 minutes and then just quit.

VU got to the free throw line 37 times, converting 24. UA shot 25 free throws, hitting 18.

We showed absolutely no toughness, Dambrot said. We just died on the vine. We didn’t handle prosperity and we didn’t handle adversity either.

VU was led offensively by freshman guard De’Andre Haskins. Senior forward Urule Igbavboa and freshman forward Cameron Witt each added 11.

I thought this was probably De’Andre’s best all-around game here, VU head coach Homer Drew was quoted as saying in a news release distributed by the team. He really did a magnificent job rebounding, especially on the defensive end, holding Akron to only one shot.

Linhart scored 13 points to lead the Zips. The senior’s one blocked shot in the game was the 50th of his career and moved him into the top 10 on UA’s career list in that category.

The Zips resume MAC East play on Thursday when they travel to Alumni Arena to play division-leader Buffalo. UA enters the contest in a four-way tie with Bowling Green, Kent State and Miami for second-place in the division. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

Call senior sports writer Vincent Dorsey:

330-972-7395

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