Kent, Ohio – The Akron Zips defeated rival Kent State 66-56 at the M.A.C. Center in a Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge showdown on ESPN2 on Friday evening. The Zips earned a valuable half point for the Wagon Wheel Challenge to increase Akron’s lead to 6-3 against Kent State.
With the win, the Zips snapped the Golden Flashes five game winning streak as Akron finished regular season play with a 24-7 overall record and 14-4 in Mid-American Conference play. Kent State finished 18-13 overall and 10-8 in league play, earning a No. 6 seed in next week’s MAC Tournament. The Zips secured the No. 1 seed and MAC Regular-Season Championship on Feb. 25.
Akron used a balanced scoring attack for the season finale win as Jimond Ivey (Cleveland, Ohio) and Isaiah Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) posted double-double performances. Ivey led the squad with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Johnson had 10 points and 10 boards. Noah Robotham (Las Vegas, Nev.) followed as the Zips’ second leading scorer with 12 points, and Daniel Utomi (Houston, Texas) also notched double figures, scoring 10 points. Kwan Cheatham, Jr. (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Antino Jackson (Houston, Texas) added seven points apiece.
Jimmy Hall led the Golden Flashes with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Jaylin Walker and Deon Edwin chipped in 13 points and 12 points, respectively.
Akron used an 11-0 run with 3:48 remaining in the game to take its largest lead of the night, 66-53, sparked by a 3-pointer on the left wing from Robotham. Johnson followed with a layup and Robotham knocked down a baseline jumper for a 63-53 advantage with 2:27 left in regulation. Moments later, Ivey delivered the dagger from long distance, extending Akron’s lead to 66-53 with 1:45 left to play. The Golden Flashes added two free throws before the final buzzer sounded.
Akron shot 41 percent from the field (25-of-61), including a 34.8 percent effort from behind the 3-point arc (8-of-12). The Zips added a 66.7 percent effort from the charity stripe (8-of-23) along with nine assists, six steals, and four blocked shots. Ivey secured a team-high three steals.
The battle of the boards was deadlocked at 40 rebounds apiece, while both teams committed nine turnovers each.
Kent State shot 33.3 percent from the floor (20-of-60), and Akron’s defense limited the Golden Flashes to shoot just 13.6 percent from deep (3-of-22).
Cheatham started the scoring with a trifecta, and Robotham found Johnson for the game’s second bucket. After a KSU layin by Hall, Akron knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers as Jackson and Robotham lifted the Zips to a 13-6 advantage by the initial media timeout.
Hall answered with a fourth layup, but Williams and Ivey combined for consecutive points in the paint. Williams hit a floater off the glass while streaking down the lane, and he Ivey cutting to the rim for a 19-13 advantage after a steal.
Kent State scored six straight points, while holding the Zips without a field goal for just over four minutes. Emmanuel Olojakpoke (Houston, Texas) ended the scoring silence with dunk and followed with another rim-rocker to put the Zips ahead, 23-19 with 5:53 left in the first half. The two teams traded blows as Akron went into the locker room clinging to a 32-28 halftime lead.
In the second half, Johnson started the scoring, but Kent State rattled-off nine consecutive points to establish its first lead of the game, 37-36. The KSU advantage didn’t last long as Ivey finished at the rim, and followed with a 3-point play opportunity. Ivey knocked down the free shot after the under-16 media timeout.
The Zips pushed the lead to five points after a Utomi 3-ball, 44-39, but Kent State’s Jimmy Hall answreed with a jump hook in the lane. Jackson split a pair of free throws, and a Robotham steal setup a finish at the rim for Ivey. The Zips led 47-41 with 10:49 left to play.
After a Johnson layup gave the Zips a seven point advantage, 52-45, Johnson picked up his fourth foul and became a spectator at 6:48 for the next two minutes. During that time, Kent State used back-to-back layins to cut the Zips’ lead to three points, 56-53 with 4:55 left to play.
When Johnson returned to the floor, Akron capitalized on two Kent State missed free throws. Johnson followed with a strong post move, and Ivey delivered the final bucket for the win.
Akron will be back in action at the MAC Tournament on Thursday, March 9 at 12 p.m., at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio against the winner of Monday’s opening round games. The Zips await the winner of the No. 8 Eastern Michigan and No. 9 Northern Illinois game.
2017 MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament Presented by VisitMyrtleBeach.com
Monday, March 6th, 2017 — First Round (High Seed Campus Sites)
Game 1: No. 9 Northern Illinois at No. 8 Eastern Michigan, Time TBA
Game 2: No. 12 Miami at No. 5 Western Michigan, Time TBA
Game 3: No. 10 Bowling Green at No. 7 Toledo, Time TBA
Game 4: No. 11 Central Michigan at No. 6 Kent State, Time TBA
Thursday, March 9th, 2017 — Quarterfinals
Game 5: Game 1 Winner vs. No. 1 Akron, Noon ET ^
Game 6: Game 2 Winner vs. No. 4 Ball State, Time TBA ^*
Game 7: Game 3 Winner vs. No. 2 Ohio, 6:30 p.m. ET ^
Game 8: Game 4 Winner vs. No. 3 Buffalo, Time TBA ^*
Friday, March 10th, 2017 — Semifinals
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, 5:30 p.m. ET #
Game 10: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 8:00 p.m. ET #
Saturday, March 11th, 2017 — MAC Championship
Game 11: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2/WatchESPN)
^ Game will be televised on BCSN/Spectrum Sports/ESPN3
# Game will be televised on CBS Sports Network
*30 minutes following the completion of the first game of the session.
GAME RECAP WRITTEN BY Brian Dennison; COURTESY AKRON ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS