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The University of Akron men’s basketball game Saturday, Dec. 10, that was moved from 2 pm to 7 pm didn’t affect the Zips from grinding out another second-half victory over Appalachian State.
Both teams shot for over 50 percent, Akron with .567 and Appalachian State .5, but the Zips outshot the Mountaineers from behind the arc with 58 percent compare Appalachian’s 44 percent.
Malcolm Duvivier lead the Zips with 24 points and Daniel Utomi had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jimond Ivey and Emmanu Olojakpoke both had 15 points apiece.
Mountaineers center Griffin Kinney led all scorers with a career-high 28 points and added six rebounds.The senior made 9 of 13 shots from the floor and 9 of 11 free throws.
The game was a back and forth affair to the end as both teams pressured one another. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 12-4 lead out of the gate, hitting open jumpers early, including two 3s by Ronshad Shabazz and going inside to big man Kinney to build their lead.
The Zips quickly recovered and reeled off an 8-0 run to tie the game en route to a 47-38 halftime lead.
After the Mountaineers took a 78-76 lead in the second half, Akron went on a 12-2 run. Duvivier made a jumper and Utomi hit back-to-back 3s to give the Zips an 86-79 lead the Zips and allow them to hold on to the lead till the final buzzer.
The past few games have seen the Zips taken an early lead in the first half but struggle defensive in the second half, fighting to keep their heads above water. Appalachian State Kinney dominated the paint due to the Zips able to shut him down.
“Watching them on tape, I knew they were going to be the most difficult team to defend that we have played home or away,” Groce said of the Mountaineers. “I liked our defense in the first half. I thought we forced them into some tough 2s and defended the 3-point line fairly well.”
The Zips will look to strengthen their defense when they welcome Mississippi River State to the James A. Rhodes Arena on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. Their last game before the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
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The University of Akron men’s soccer team had the chance to deny Stanford a second opportunity to be the second soccer program in NCAA history to win three consecutive national titles. However, the Zips would suffer a familiar fate, losing to Stanford in the Final Four of the College Cup tournament 2-0 in Philadelphia, Penn. at Talen Energy Stadium.
The Cardinal’s first half was a dominant display of defensive pressure. Stanford took nine shots, four on goal, to Akron’s two shots, one on goal.
Stanford keeper Nico Corti made five saves to ensure the clean sheet for Stanford, who has not surrendered a goal in NCAA Tournament play this season. Akron keeper Ben Lundt pulled in four saves for the Zips but gave up two goals due to Akron’s sloppy mid-field play.
Stanford had a seven-minute stretch in the first half where the Cardinal kept Zips on their defensive third, having five near opportunities to put the ball into the net at the Major League Soccer venue.
Stanford’s skipper, Drew Skundrich, forced a turnover from Akron’s Pau Belana, allowing the Cardinals to set up Foster Langsdorf for a diving header for the first goal of the game.
“I think every player was handful tonight. If you turn the ball over in the right spots, Langford will prey on it and we didn’t make him play the game he didn’t want to play. For that reason, we let him do what he wanted to do tonight,” said Embick on Langford’s performance on the night.
The best chance for Akron came in the 61st minute when David Egbo’s shot was saved by Corti. Corti’s save deflected to Niko De Vera, had a strike on goal, which again was saved by Corti.
“That was the moment that we had the momentum and a chance to get back in the game and I do think it’s a key one,” Embick said on the two saves. “If we really rose to the occasion at that moment, who knows what would have happened. When it didn’t go through we kind of had a lull and they started to get back into the game. That’s what happens.”
The final blow for Stanford came in the 79th minute when Werner took a deflection and drove the ball down the left side of the box. He hooked a left-footed shot over Lundt, and the ball deflected on the bottom side of the crossbar and in, giving Stanford the victory and ticket to the final.
“It’s hard to say it, but they were the better team out on the field tonight. They came out aggressive, and I think they got us early and we couldn’t respond,” said head coach Jared Embick after the game.