Zips men's basketball defeats Kent State 84-75

By: D.J. Johnson

A sold out James A. Rhodes Arena was silenced after the first half of Saturday night’s men’s basketball matchup with Kent State, as the hometown Zips fell back 42-34 after the first 20 minutes of action.

The next 20 minutes of game time proved to be everything but silent, with the crowd of 5,252 erupting alongside the Zips as a 50-point second half led to an 84-75 win.

“At halftime…it was like we got punched in the gut,” said Akron Head Coach Keith Dambrot. “I didn’t know if we were going to recover or not. I think our guys did good hanging in there and staying composed.”

The calm Zips created a storm in the second half, as a 28-6 run midway through the half would turn a nine-point deficit into a 13-point lead. Dambrot’s squad seemingly made everything they threw up in the second half, shooting 61.8 percent from the floor.

Trailing 55-46 with 13:21 remaining, the Zips proceeded to knock down four three-point shots in their next four possessions. Brett McClanahan started the run and a pair of three-balls by Quincy Diggs tied the game at 55. Nik Cvetinonic gave Akron their first lead since 3:55 in the first half.

The rest of the game belonged to a sophomore coming off the bench.

Forward Nick Harney had an almost perfect second half, scoring 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting. In his most impressive game in an Akron uniform, Harney continuously fueled the offensive outburst.

“I felt like every shot was going in,” said the first-year player. “I think we are so deep it’s tough for teams to match up.”

Harney’s 19 points was the highest total in a half for a Zip this season, but more importantly lifted a team that was limited to six points in the final six minutes of the first half.

“I think in a game like this it’s all about momentum,” Harney said. “Once the crowd started getting behind us we took the lead.

Chauncey Gilliam and Brian Walsh joined Harney in double figures, combining for 21 points on the night.

The Flashes’ Randal Holt did everything he could to keep his team in the game, scoring 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting while adding four steals in 38 minutes of play.

“He is a good shooter. You can’t give him shots like that,” Dambrot said.

Despite Holt’s impressive performance, the Zips locked down the rest of the Flashes, holding them to 37.9 percent shooting (11-of-29) in the second half. Justin Greene (11 points) was the only other Kent player to reach double figures.

The win improves Akron’s record to 12-7 and 4-1 in Mid-American Conference play, holding sole possession of first place in the MAC East.

The loss drops Kent to 12-6, 2-3 MAC.

Tuesday, the Zips will travel to Ball State (12-5, 4-1 MAC) in their first MAC West matchup of the season.