On a night when multiple MAC schools traveled out west, The Akron Zips played in The Sun Bowl Invitational at The Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas against UC Irvine in the tournament’s 1st round.
UC Irvine came into play having lost three games in a row but looking to repeat as the tournaments defending champion. The Zips were able to grab the early lead though, using the three ball to grab a 11-8 lead at the 16 media timeout.
The Anteaters would come right back, riding a 7-0 run to capture the lead at the 11:46 mark in the first. Sophomore guard Josh Williams would end the run with a three to cut Akron’s deficit to two points at 21-19. However, back-to- triples would extend the Irvine lead and at the 6:45 mark, the Zips trailed 32-23.
Akron’s bench would prove to be pivotal for the Zips tonight, as Williams would hit 3 more triples, leading an Akron run that would give them a 42-40 lead at the half. The zips didn’t let the break slow their momentum as they would remain hot from the outside. Junior Guard Noah Robotham and Williams would combine for consecutive threes to push Akron’s lead to 10 and force the Anteaters to call timeout with 14:28 left play.
The Zips would maintain the lead behind terrific play from junior guard Antino Jackson, who would lead the Zips in scoring with 23 big points off the bench on 8-11 from the field. Irvine would rally late to make a game out of it, but a clutch three from Williams, who was 6-9 from distance on the game and two free throws from Jackson fittingly put the game on ice.
UC Irvine was lead by Jaron Martin’s 20 points as they fall to 5-9 on the season and have now lost four in a row. Akron’s 88-80 win moves them the to the final round of the Sun Bowl Invitational where they will face the winner of Maryland-Eastern Shore and tournament host UTEP. Akron moves to 9-3 on the season and picks up their first road win of the 2016-17 campaign. The Championship Game will be played tonight at 7 PM EST.