“The University of Akron men’s basketball team fell to arch-rival Kent State 61-58 Sunday in front of 5,607 fans at Rhodes Arena, as KSU’s junior guard Al Fisher hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation. The Zips trailed 42-55 with 2:07 remaining in the game, but made a furious comeback to tie the game at 51 on a Jeremiah Wood 3-pointer with eight seconds to go in the game.””
The University of Akron men’s basketball team fell to arch-rival Kent State 61-58 Sunday in front of 5,607 fans at Rhodes Arena, as KSU’s junior guard Al Fisher hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation.
The Zips trailed 42-55 with 2:07 remaining in the game, but made a furious comeback to tie the game at 51 on a Jeremiah Wood 3-pointer with eight seconds to go in the game. UA’s 13-0 run was spearheaded by the Zips full-court pressure defense and poor free throw shooting by KSU.
UA (21-9 overall, 11-5 Mid-American Conference) struggled offensively the entire contest, shooting only 32 percent from the field (16-of-50) and converting only 3-of-23 3-pointers. The Zips were held without a field goal for the first five minutes of the game until senior guard Cedrick Middleton hit a 3-pointer, and didn’t score again until Middleton converted a layup to cut the Golden Flashes’ lead to 19-6 with 8:16 remaining in the first half. UA trailed 32-15 at the intermission.
UA head coach Keith Dambrot said that his team’s poor shot selection, coupled with Kent’s defensive intensity, led to UA’s 17-point halftime deficit.
We took bad shots and went 4-for-24 in the first half because of it, he said. You’ve got to have better discipline than that, but they forced us into that somewhat. They pressured us into poor composure and that’s a big part of why they’ve won 25 games.
With both team’s struggling from the field in the second half, the Zips remained in striking distance of the Golden Flashes by converting 81 percent (17-of-21) of their free throws in the final 20 mintes while KSU made 10-of-16 from the charity stripe.
In its failed comeback attempt, UA scored 11 second-chance points and scored 13 points off turnovers in the final period, compared to KSU’s six. The Zips’ bench outscored the Golden Flashes’ reserves 15-6 during that time.
Wood said that the team knew it played poorly in the first half and that the players talked in the locker room at halftime about the effort that was going to be needed to comeback.
The mood wasn’t good, we were kind of down, but we knew we had to come back and climb that mountain, Wood said. We stayed in it, came back, and almost won.
The Zips were led in scoring by Wood’s 23 points, which led all scorers and tied his career-high. Sophomore forward Brett McKnight added a career-high 11. Wood and senior guard Nick Dials each grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Zips.
Kent State was led by Fisher’s 17 points and eight rebounds. Senior Haminn Quaintance added 13 points and four rebounds.
Despite the game’s result, Dambrot said that he was proud of his team for continuing to play hard and for coming back to tie the game after trailing by double digits for most of the game.
This has probably been the most resilient team we’ve ever had, and I’m proud of our team, Dambrot said. It’s all about how you rally yourself and handle adversity. At least we showed enough guts to come roaring back.
The rivalry game served as Senior Night for the Zips’ men’s basketball program. Dambrot elected to start the team’s five seniors: the three usual starters – Dials, Middleton and Wood – and guard Nick Goddard and forward Quade Milum.
It’s not really my style, but I thought it was the right thing to do, Dambrot said. All five of those guys have been a part of our program (and) done a good job. (We) didn’t get out of the box very well, but I’d do it again if I had to.
There are things more important than playing your five best guys all the time.
The Zips will next take the floor in the quarterfinal round of the 2008 MAC tournament Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena as the tournament’s third seed. UA will face the winner of the opening round matchup between Central Michigan and Northern Illinois. Tip off is set for 2:30 p.m.