Zips beat Falcons, advance to MAC Championship

The University of Akron men’s basketball team defeated cross-state foe Bowling Green on Friday night, 80-66, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The win advanced the Zips to the Mid-American Conference Championship Game, where they will play either the Ohio Bobcats or the Buffalo Bulls.

The Zips had five players score double-digit points, led by Isaiah “Big Dog” Johnson. Johnson led the way for both teams, scoring 23 points on 9-11 shooting. Johnson also grabbed a team-high six rebounds and blocked one shot. Senior Jake Kretzer also came off the bench to score 15 points and collect five rebounds. Kretzer made three out of four 3-pointers and made both of his free throws.

The starters also played a strong game. Senior Reggie McAdams made two 3-pointers and six free throws to total 14 points. McAdams also pulled in three rebounds, dished out two assists, blocked two shots, and had two steals. Houston native Antino Jackson made two shots from deep and finished with 12 points and four assists. Sophomore point guard Noah Robotham finished with 11 points, while Kwan Cheatham Jr. added five points.

Bowling Green was led by freshman guard Antwon Lillard, who scored 12 points and pulled in four rebounds. Spencer Parker and David Joseph each scored 11 points for the Falcons, while Zach Denny scored nine points off the bench. Rasheed Worrell came off the bench and led Bowling Green with 11points while adding five points.

The Zips found themselves down early, 6-5. However, a 10-3 run fueled them to a 15-9 lead just over five minutes into the first half. After back-to-back Falcons baskets, the Zips went on another run. This time it was a 9-0 run that put them ahead 24-13. The two teams traded baskets for most of the remainder of the half, and the Zips went into the half with a 41-35 lead.

Isaiah Johnson led the way for Akron at the half with 12 points. Johnson went 4-6 from the foul line in the half. McAdams scored ten points in the half, going 2-5 from beyond the arc and 4-4 from the foul line. Finally, Jackson had seven first half points while Kretzer added six points off two 3-pointers. Bowling Green was led by Parker, who had seven points in the first half, while Lillard scored six and Joseph added five.

The Zips outscored the Falcons 39-31 in the second half, and the lively crowd played a major role. The crowd at Quicken Loans Arena was mostly Akron fans, and they showed that late in the second half especially. They nearly sent the roof off The Q when Jackson found McAdams for an alley-oop dunk. Then, after a failed Bowling Green possession, Jackson stuck the dagger into Bowling Green with a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock, and the crowd went into a frenzy as the Falcons called a timeout. The shot gave Akron a 72-59 lead with just 4:06 left to play. The Zips rolled on to an 80-66 victory.

For the Zips, they will play a team that they already beat twice this season in either scenario. If the win the MAC Championship, then they will go to March Madness and play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. The season is over for Bowling Green, but they made a strong run after upsetting Kent State and Central Michigan in the first two rounds of the MAC Tournament.