It was the second half that killed the Akron Zips in the semifinal game against Iowa State, and those second half demons haunted the Zips again against South Carolina.
Akron played a great first half taking a six point lead into halftime. The second half, though, was another story. The Zips started off well getting the lead up to 35-27 but it was all downhill from there. South Carolina went on a quick 10-1 run to take the lead, and after some back and forth took the lead for good. The Gamecocks got the lead up to eleven and held on for the ten point win.
Turnovers were the main problem for Akron. The Zips had sixteen turnovers, with ten of them coming in the second half. Nyles Evans counted for five of them alone, including two five-second calls in the last couple minutes that derailed the comeback.
Free throws were also a major problem, as the Zips only hit 53% (10-19). Free throws have always been a problem with this team for some odd reason. Demetrius Treadwell, suddenly the Zips' most accurate free throw shooter, only got to the line five times. In the win over Oregon State Tree got to the line thirteen times and hit ten of them. Once again, the Zips failed to get him the ball in the second half and didn't attack the basket when necessary.
It's also clear that when Akron isn't hitting threes, they're probably not going to win. The Zips went just 5-17 (29%) from deep and just couldn't find the rhythm they had against Oregon State. Reggie McAdams and Jake Kretzer, usually the Zips' best options from deep, only hit two threes between the both of them (both from Kretzer).
Not to make excuses, but this second half collapse really can be blamed on the players being plain worn out. This was their sixth game in eleven days, and when you add on a cross-country flight it really takes a toll. South Carolina pressured the Zips on defense, and that really contributed to many of the turnovers. Iowa State also ran up and down the court in the last game the Zips played, so that didn't help.
All in all the Zips probably got what they wanted out of this tournament. I would think that Keith Dambrot probably went in with the hope of getting at least one win, and it was just a bonus that it came over Pac-12 Oregon State. The loss to Iowa State was expected, and this game probably should have been a win. But, when you consider where Akron (and the MAC) is in the NCAA Tournament picture, no win would really mean all that much. The Zips aren't getting an at-large bid, so any chance they get to play against good competition is beneficial. It's also a good team-building experience that will pay off in February and March.
These two teams will play again on Saturday at 4:00 on ESPNU. I would assume that after a few days of rest, the Zips will be a little more ready to play in Columbia.