Zips Upset Broncos in Sunday Showdown 14-13

By: Benjamin Verbel

The Akron Zips went on the road this week to face the Western Michigan Broncos. The Zips looked to slow down a Broncos offense that had a high scoring 71-68 win against Buffalo last week.

The game was delayed and then rescheduled due to lightning and flooding concerns. The first quarter started off with a Zips drive that lead to a 13 yard touchdown by Thomas Woodson to his Tight End Kobie Booker.
Akron brought more points to the board in the second quarter with a one yard run into the end-zone by Senior back Manny Morgan to cap off their drive. Morgan earned every touch with a 4.4 yard average on the ground.
Western Michigan matched Akron with a run-heavy game plan. They averaged 4.6 yards with five featured players. They totaled at 244 yards on 53 carries.
Bronco’s Josh Grant booted a 49 yard field goal to give them a 14-3 score before the second half.
Western Michigan receiver D’Wayne Eskridge was a big contributor for their offense. By the end of this match up he had a total of 100 all purpose yards and a 50 yard TD from Jon Wassink. At this point WMU was getting involved in the flow of the game and Josh Grant gave his team another three points with a 35 yard field goal.
Akron came out with a win after holding onto the lead they built in the first half. The Zips brought defense that didn’t break to this game with the likes of Defensive back Alvin Davis and Junior Linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III.
Both teams came out of this week with a 4-3 record. The Zips are currently on a 3 game winning streak. Akron will be the away team in a match up against the Toledo Rockets on Saturday, October 21st at 12:00 p.m.

John Groce Welcomed to UA, Excited to Continue Excellence with Basketball Program

Akron, Ohio – New University of Akron head coach John Groce certainly has big shoes to fill following Keith Dambrot’s departure from the program, and today’s press conference at the Starbuck’s Lounge in the Student Union showed Groce is ready for the challenge.

After leading his Ohio University Bobcats to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Groce went on to take over as head coach at Illinois for the next 5 seasons. After making the NCAA Tournament his first year there, Groce’s squads dealt with all sorts of injuries to key players, causing him to miss the big dance the next 4 years. Groce was let go by Illinois earlier this year following a loss to Michigan in the B10 Tournament.

Groce’s resume remains solid overall, however, posting a career coaching record of 180-131 with two MAC Tournament Championships and that Sweet 16 run mentioned earlier. Groce has also coached under current Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta at Butler, Xavier, and Ohio State. Groce will look to bring that experience from higher level play with him in his return to the MAC.

Groce seemed confident in his ability to continue the tradition of excellence and commitment to winning that comes with Akron Zips basketball. Sure, the whole “21 win” streak is nice to have, but at the end of the day it’s all about getting that MAC Championship and getting to the NCAA Tournament. Now, that’s not a knock on Dambrot whatsoever. Making it to 9 title games and winning 3 of them is pretty darn good. However, KD is gone now and the focus on winning must continue. Groce plans to “attack” this year offensively and really push the pace. His defense will remain your standard man-to-man package with some zone looks “sprinkled” in to quote Groce. The Zips have played at a slower pace the past few years with big man Isaiah Johnson being the focus of the offense, so it will be interesting to see if Akron can get out in transition more and run. This would help them take on those P5 (power 5) schools in the non-conference schedule. Speaking of non-conference scheduling, Groce plans to challenge the players a bit while also being very meticulous about who he schedules. Groce says he does not want the team in a big-time matchup coming straight off a mid-term or finals week or something of that nature.

Coach acknowledged the difficulties and transition that will come with recruiting players to come to Akron now. Groce says it’s “a challenging transition, but we’ll hit the ground running” in regards to getting those big-name recruits to continue to see Akron as a great future home.

Time will tell if John Groce can keep this program headed in the right direction. The Ohio-Akron rivalry is nothing to scoff at in the MAC, and Groce acknowledged this at the presser. He understands there’s maybe a few fans that still have some light distaste for him from his coaching days in Athens, but he seems confident he will be able to win everyone over and really get everyone on board for what he hopes to be a great stretch of Akron Zips basketball.

Check out the sound from today’s press conference out below!

 

Kent State Wins 2017 Mens MAC Championship


The Kent State Golden Flashes defeated the Akron Zips to win the MAC Men’s Basketball Championship, 70-65. Kent State led for most of the game, but Akron came within striking distance on multiple occasions.

The Flashes got out to a quick 9-3 lead thanks to a quick 5 points from Jaylin Walker (#23), and another 4 from Jimmy Hall (#35). Kent state got into early foul trouble, with 5 fouls overall just 9 minutes into the game. De La Rosa (#1) accounted for 2 of those fouls. Akron played from behind for most of the first half, and it wasn’t until 3:30 remaining that the Zips took the lead. Josh Williams hit a clutch 3 bringing the fans back into the game with a score of 23-21. Kent state quickly answered with back to back field goals to retake the lead. Both teams traded shots in the last minute of the first half, heading into the locker rooms with a score of 27-24 Kent state.

Both teams shot under 45% from the field during the 1st half. Kent State lead Akron in points in the paint and 2nd chance opportunities. Akron’s bench made an impact, scoring 8 of the Zips 24 points. Neither team had much luck from the 3 point line, with both teams combining for 2 3-pointers in 13 attempts. MAC Player of the Year Isaiah Johnson led the Zips in the 1st half with 10 points, while Jaylin Walker and Jimmy Hall lead the Golden Flashes with 11 and 10 points respectively.

Kent State came out hot in the 2nd half, taking a 36-28 lead. Less than 2 minutes later, Akron narrowed the lead to 34-36. Jaylin Walker responded with only the 3rd 3 pointer of the game, with Kent State leading 39-34. Akron finally tied up the game again with 11:15 remaining in the second half. For the next few minutes, the lead changed 3 times, with neither team ever more than 2 points ahead of the other. With 4:24 remaining, Kent State had an 8 point lead thanks to an 10-0 run. The Flashes held unto their lead despite the Zips best efforts, who could only get within 3. Kent State won a hard-fought victory, 70-65. Isaiah Johnson and Jimond Ivey both finished with 24 points for the Zips.

A huge part of Kent State’s upset victory can be attributed to their 63.9% field goal completion percentage in the second half. Jaylin Walker finished with 30 points, 6 rebounds, and was voted MAC Tournament MVP. Jimmy Hall finished with 18 points and led both teams with 10 rebounds. They will move onto the NCAA Tournament, and the bracket will be released tomorrow.

Akron Head Coach Keith Dambrot gave Kent State credit for making so many big plays in the last 8 minutes, and congratulated Kent State Head Coach Rob Senderoff for turning their team into championship quality. Rob Senderoff accredited the win to their shooting percentage and also their low number of turnovers, only committing 6.

Here’s what Coach Dambrot had to say:

 

Kent Flashes Past Defending Champion Buffalo, Advance to Semi-Finals

Cleveland, OH- The last quarterfinal game of the day featured the third seeded Buffalo Bulls against the sixth seeded Kent State Golden Flashes. The team had split the season series; however Kent had won the previous matchup with dominating performances from Jimmy Hall and Jaylin Walker. Today would play out similarly.

The first half started much quicker than the previous quarterfinal game with the two offenses clicking, both shooting over 40%.

The ballgame was tied at 23-23 before a quick 6-0 run from the Flashes put Kent ahead the rest of the first half.

With star senior and All-MAC 1st Team selection Jimmy Hall Jr. put on the bench early with 2 fouls, Jaylin Walker and Deon Edwin (All-MAC Defensive Team) led the Flashes scoring pace with 11 points each. For Buffalo, the Bulls received some much-needed help from their top playmakers. Nick Perkins (MAC 6th Man of the Year) and Blake Hamilton (All-MAC 2nd Team) led the attack with 9 points each, as well as All-MAC Honorable Mention C.J. Massinburg who added 6 points and 3 rebounds in the first half.

The second half saw a bit more of a sluggish start, however Hall was finally able to get things going as he recorded a block, 2 rebounds, and a layup all within the first 4 minutes to add some swagger to his step. He would continue that dominance throughout the night.

Blake Hamilton was electric all night long; however he would pick up his 5th foul on a careless loose ball foul after he missed the previous layup. Hamilton finished with 17 points on 7-12 shooting for the night.

One of the bigger stories of the game was Buffalo senior Willie Conner, who was the MVP of last year’s tournament and averaged 13 points per game during the regular season. However, he would struggle big time tonight. Conner hit his first shot from the field with just over 7 minutes to play in the second half and that would be it. He did knock down 5 out of his 6 free throw to finish with 7 points on the night.

The real drama began to unfold late in the second half, as at the 2:30 mark, Jaylin Walker fouled Conner and picked up a quick technical for arguing the call. 4 free throws for Buffalo pulled them within 3, 65-62.

Nick Perkins also fouled out of the game with just under 2 minutes to go. Perkins shot poorly from the field but managed to be effective, putting in 11 points on 4-13 shooting.

With 12 seconds to go, Jimmy Hall, on a nice interior drop step, drew a foul and would head to the line. He would sink both from the line to give Kent a 68-65 lead.

Massinburg, despite a tremendous night, could not get his final three point heave at the buzzer to fall, as the Bulls would see their season end to the Flashes. 68-65.

On the night overall, both teams shot well below their normal average, with Kent and Buffalo shooting 35% (42% and 44% normally, respectively). Jimmy Hall finished with 24 points on 6-13 shooting, adding in 8 rebounds as well. Deon Edwin also had a big night for KSU, putting in 14 points on 5-12 shooting and grabbing 11 boards to give him a double-double. Jaylin Walker also added in 12 points for the Flashes.

The Flashes will be back in action tomorrow night in the semi-finals where they will take on Ohio. Check out the post-game press conference with Kent State below!

 

 

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Bobcats Scratch Their Way to Win, Defeat Rockets in Quarterfinals

Cleveland, OH: The third game from Quicken Loans Arena of the 2017 MAC Tournament Men’s Quarterfinal pitted second seeded Ohio University against the Rockets of Toledo, who claimed the seven seed in this year’s tournament.

Toledo won the earlier matchup in the year by a final of 79-76, led by senior forward Steve Taylor’s 25 point performance. The Bobcats came into the matchup with the top defense in the MAC, giving up 70 points a game but holding opponents to 41% shooting from the field.

The first half would be nothing but Toledo. Within the first 5 minutes, the Rockets were running like a well-oiled machine, going 4-5 from the field and 2-2 from deep to start. They would finish the half shooting 52% overall and 54% from downtown. Ohio, on the other hand, looked all out of sorts on the offensive end. Some poor shots mixed in with some atrocious fast break decisions left Ohio facing a 37-29 deficit at the half, shooting just 36% and a measly 15.4% from deep.

One bright spot for Ohio was Freshman big man Jason Carter’s put-back at the buzzer to make it a single digit game, giving the Bobcats some momentum heading into the second half.

Jonathon Williams, a senior, paced the Rockets offense with 11 points. For the Bobcats, it was none other than Jaaron Simmons, as the First Team All-MAC recipient had 12 first half points.

A quick 12-0 run out of the gate got the Ohio crowd back into it in a hurry, as the Bobcats defense locked in and finally looked formidable in their transition offense. At the first media timeout, the Bobcats would hold a 41-37 lead.

Toledo would struggle mightily to start the second half as the Rockets would go 0-for beyond the arc until sophomore guard Jaelen Sanford connected on a corner triple, making it 50-45 Bobcats at the 10-minute mark.

The most exciting part of the game (per usual) was the final minute. Nate Navigato, a sophomore for Toledo, nailed his second triple of the night to tie the game at 64 a piece with 40 seconds left.

Jonathan Williams would knock the ball away and finish a fast break layup following his steal to put the Rockets up two.

Jason Carter, who was electric for Ohio all second half, split a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left. Steve Taylor of Toledo would then get fouled and miss the front end of his one-and-one.

It would be Kenny Kaminski of Ohio who would claim hero of the night, as he connected on a 15-footer from the right wing to put Ohio up 67-66. “It was big time for sure”, Kaminski said about the shot. Jonathan Williams would race down the court and put up a floater in traffic that would fall short. Jordan Lauf grabbed the rebound but his put-back attempt was rushed and well off the mark, as the Rockets would run out of the time in this game and in their season.

Jaaron Simmons would be the high-scoring man for Ohio, pouring in a 24 point performance. For Toledo, Jonathan Williams managed to put in 18 and got an unexpected 12-point performance from senior Jordan Lauf, however their efforts would not be enough.

Catch the Bobcats in action tomorrow night at The Q in the semi-finals!

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