Men’s Basketball Narrow Win Over Akron

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When a team shoots 50 percent from 3-point range and collects 16 offensive rebounds, the chances are they grab a win on any normal night. But when the Zips and Bobcats match up, nothing is normal, and even though Akron was able to do just that on Wednesday, Ohio escaped with an 83-82 home win.

A flurry of 3-pointers from Akron helped the Zips build a double-digit lead at halftime, as the Bobcats trailed 47-37 after the first 20 minutes. A quick 10-point outburst from Antonio Campbell in the opening minutes of the second half drew Ohio to within two at 51-49.

Campbell finished the game with 11 points and four rebounds.

Pat Forsythe responded to Campbell’s surge by draining a 3-pointer from the wing. Then Akron sank two more 3-pointers to extend its lead to 63-52 with 12:30 left in the game.

The Zips held onto a commanding lead, but the Bobcats outscored the Zips 31-19 to conclude the game thanks to a big effort from Javarez “Bean” Willis. The senior point guard erupted for 17 points in a 3:41 stretch.  Willis finished the game with a game-high 31 points.

“I don’t think I’ve seen an explosion quite like that,” Ohio head coach Saul Phillips said. “To see that amount in that short [an amount] of time – and they weren’t all easy. It wasn’t like Akron was giving him shots.”

Willis began his run by sinking a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers. On the following possession he drove past several defenders and finished a right-handed layup on the left side of the basket, causing Akron to call a timeout.

“I remember at one point I was looking up at the score, and I think we were down 10, and I said to myself ‘I’ve got to hit every shot’,” Willis said.

Coming out of the timeout, Akron’s Deji Ibitayo sank one from long distance, making it 69-63 in favor of the Zips.

Willis was far from done. The Louisiana native responded to Ibitayo’s 3-pointer with a three of his own off a back tap from Maurice Ndour. Then after a stop at the defensive end, Willis pulled the trigger on a pull-up 3-pointer in transition and drilled it to give Ohio the 72-69 lead.

“Every shot that I shot, it felt like it was going to go in,” Willis said.

Willis finished his offensive onslaught by making an and-one in transition off of a Stevie Taylor feed.

Several possessions later, Willis lost the ball but managed to save it from going over the half court line by jumping and throwing it in Ndour’s direction. Ndour collected the ball several feet behind the line and nailed a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired to send the Convo into a frenzy and give the Bobcats a 79-71 lead.

Ndour had 16 points and four rebounds on the night.

In addition to Ndour and Willis, Ohio’s third senior, Stevie Taylor, was a major contributor, adding 14 points, five rebounds and two assists off the bench.

Though the Bobcats came away with the win, they came dangerously close to giving it away in the final minute, as they turned the ball over on inbounds plays on two different occasions with just an 83-82 lead and less than 30 seconds left on the clock.

With 5.1 left on the clock, Akron inbounded it to Ibitayo, who spun towards the hoop and put up a contested layup over Ryan Taylor that went begging. Stevie Taylor saved the ball from going out of bounds and threw it towards half court, allowing the clock to run out.

“It came down to a glorified one-on-one contest from the wing,” Phillips said. “Ryan did a really good job of staying in front. He got his hands up and really altered the shot.

Ibitayo finished the night with 21 points.

Ohio held the lead for the first 5:30 of the game, but with 14:11 left in the first half, Reggie McAdams drained a 3-pointer to open up the floodgates for Akron and tie the game at 13-13. Following McAdams’ 3-pointer and a layup from Willis, Ibitayo and Jake Kretzer also sank attempts from beyond the arc to put the Zips up 19-17.

The 3-point marksmanship didn’t end there. Three of Akron’s next five possessions resulted in 3-pointers. Ohio’s perimeter defense was fairly lax in the first half, as the Bobcats failed to contest several long distance looks, allowing Akron to shoot 53 percent from 3-point range in the first half.

Akron finished the game with 18 makes from 3-point range.

“They were throwing them in there from everywhere,” Phillips noted.

Early in the half, Ohio’s guards had plenty of success penetrating and getting easy finishes at the rim, but after Akron’s 3-point barrage, they stopped attacking the rim.

The Bobcats will welcome Eastern Michigan to The Convocation Center on Saturday, as they look to put together two straight wins for the second time this season.