Akron Slides By Ohio Again In OT, 88-81

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The Akron Zips earned their first win in the Convocation Center since 2008, outlasting the Ohio Bobcats 88-81 in overtime. Akron (23-4, 13-0) is now two games clear of Ohio (20-8, 11-2) atop the Mid-American Conference.

The Zips won the game by taking control of the second half at its onset and holding Ohio down in the overtime period. In the final 25 minutes, Akron outscored the Bobcats by 18 en route to the seven-point victory. Wednesday was, in its essence, the story of two halves.

Ohio head coach Jim Christian praised his team’s all-around effort shown in the first half. He said his team seemed like it played with two separate mentalities in the first and second halves. “I thought in the second half,” he said, “we got so caught up in the emotion of the game that we came out of character.”

Alex Abreu sank Akron’s first shot of the game 10 seconds in, a three that silenced a rowdy Ohio crowd. The Zips scored the first seven points of the game in 1:19, supplemented by a missed layup from T.J. Hall and a blocked shot by Zeke Marshall.

After Akron increased its lead to 9-0, Ohio got its sea legs. Reggie Keely dropped a hook shot in the paint and Hall broke free for a layup after he and D.J. Cooper ripped the ball from Abreu.

In what has become a heated rivalry, it’s no surprise things got chippy early. After Nick Harney was called for a personal foul with 15:50 to play in the half, he and Cooper went chest-to-chest exchanging words, resulting in a double-technical.

Cooper came back, however, a few possessions later to hit a three from the Bobcat’s ear near center-court to tie the game at nine, which sent the Ohio crowd into a frenzy.

A pair of well-executed plays after two Travis Wilkins free throws gave Ohio a six-point lead. Stevie Taylor wrapped a pass around Pat Forsythe to Hall for a layup. Then Hall found Jon Smith slipping to the bucket for a monstrous jam. Hall hit a three the following possession to put the ‘Cats ahead by nine as a part of a 34-7 Ohio run.

With 4:41 remaining in the first half, Cooper and Wilkins drained back-to-back treys to put Ohio up by 16. Keely posterized Demetrius Treadwell the following possession with a YouTube-worthy dunk to give Ohio its largest lead of the game.

Walter Offutt hit a three on Ohio’s final possession of the half to put the Bobcats up 13. Abreu struck back with a fadeaway jumper the following trip down the floor to cut the Ohio lead to 11 at the half, 41-30.

“We’ve just got to stick together in times like that [when we’re down],” said Treadwell, “and that’s what we do. And the end result is us winning games. We’re never out of a game.”

Akron opened up the half on the attack, dropping the lead to single digits. By 16:38 the Zips had cut the lead to five. Jake Kretzer hit a corner three with 16:18 remaining to put Akron down 45-43. He followed out of a timeout with another three to give the Zips their first lead since 11-9. Kretzer finished the night with five three-pointers, going 6-6 from the field.

“I had a lot of family and friends from home here to watch the game,” said Kretzer, a Waverly, Ohio native. “And I just tried to get my mind focused.”

Ohio fell victim to fouls in the second half, committing six in less than five minutes after the Zips took the lead. The Bobcats did manage, despite the fouls, to work the game back to a tie in the same time frame before the Zips took off.

Marshall picked up his fourth foul with 6:29 to play. Cooper sandwiched the big man’s fourth offense with a pair of threes to tie the game at 63. Cooper finished with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Back and forth, went Akron and Ohio, Offutt hitting a triple with 3:01 remaining to bring the game to its sixth tie. The Zips pulled ahead by four with a minute to play on a pair of free throws from Treadwell.

Marshall, however, fouled out of the game with 47 seconds on the clock when he fouled Keely on a hook shot attempt. Keely made the basket, but missed the free throw to put Ohio down two. Marshall’s presence turned out to be sorely missed as the final seconds played out.

Harney missed a necessary shot with 12 seconds to go, giving Ohio one last chance with the shot clock off. Offutt chucked up a three that rattled out, but Smith tipped in the miss with 0.7 seconds remaining. Abreu gave a final heave that went wide right to send the game to overtime at 72-72.

Kretzer hit two free throws, which were followed by a Walsh tip-in the next possession, giving the Zips an early four-point lead to start the overtime period. Ohio failed to make shots down the stretch and Akron pulled ahead by as many as nine in the final five minutes, which was enough to carry the Zips to victory. This is the second time this season Ohio has given up a double-digit lead to Akron to lose in the end.

“We’ve just got to stick together in times like that [when we’re down],” said Treadwell, “and that’s what we do. And the end result is us winning games. We’re never out of a game.”

“When we get them down like that,” said Offutt, “we’ve just got to continue to get stops. I don’t think it falls too much on our offense. Sometimes shots are going to go in, you’ve just got to tough it out on defense.”

Ohio now faces two road games and a visit from rival Miami in the two weeks leading up to the MAC Tournament. The Bobcats travel to Bowling Green Saturday.

Photo Credit: Kate Hiller