Tuesday night was the opening night of MAC conference play for the Akron Zips and Bowling Green Falcons. The Zips hosted the Falcons at James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron, Ohio. Akron came into conference play with a stellar 10-3 record and high expectations for 2017 conference play. Bowling Green entered the MAC schedule at 5-8, fresh off of a home win over the MEAC’s Norfolk State on Saturday.
The Falcons jumped on Akron right away running out to an 8-0 lead with an Antwon Lillard triple. Akron would answer quickly though, rattling off 7 straight points themselves, capped by a Jimond Ivey trey to make the score 8-7 at the under 16 media timeout.
After the timeout, Akron would continue to put pressure on the interior of the Falcons and 6-10 senior Isiah Johnson’s put back would extend the Zips lead to 15-10. The Falcons would get two free throws from their big man, 6-10 sophomore Demajeo Wiggins and Akron would lead 17-12 with 11:32 in the first half. Wiggins and Johnson would prove to be productive throughout the game, exerting their size and strength in the low-post to initiate their respective offenses. Bowling Green played a very strong first half. Their length provided by Wiggins, the 6-5 Lillard and 6-5 senior Wes Alcegaire along with the shooting of Ismail Ali kept the Falcons right in the game as they went to half down only a bucket, 37-35.
Akron would come out of the break looking to run away with things as an alley-oop dunk by 6-10 senior, Kwan Cheatham pushed their lead to ten at 56-46 with 13 minutes to play. The Falcons would rally though, cutting the Zips lead to 59-54 on a Wiggins put-back with 10 minutes to play. Akron was continuously going inside to Johnson early in the half but as the Falcons adjusted and began to double him in the post, he proceeded in picking the defense apart with superb decision making out of the pressure. A dazzling behind the back dime to Ivey as he flashed in from the opposite baseline drew a huge ovation from the home crowd. Akron took a six point lead at 65-59. Chatham was terrific in the second half as the big man stepped outside to knock down triples on back-to-back trips and push Akron’s lead 77-69. Akron would hold a five point advantage at the under 4 media break, appearing to have momentum and control of the game. Bowling Green would foul in hopes to extend the game down the stretch and with just 16 seconds remaining, Ali would drill a three to bring them to within three at 87-84. After an Akron timeout, Ivey would calmly knock down a pair of free throws to ice the game and Akron’s win 89-84
Bowling Green put up a good fight to stay with the Zips in their building, but just didn’t have enough to take down an extremely talented Akron club. Wiggins lead the Falcons with 21 points and 8 rebounds. Alcegaire pitched in 10 points but was in foul trouble most of the game. Bowling Green shot the ball well overall hitting at 54% clip but struggled from distance knocking down just 4 of 16 on the game.
Akron’s Cheatham went for 18 points while oddly sporting kicks that didn’t match. It remains unclear whether this was an attempt at a fashion statement or if there was some other reason for the mismatched shoes. Ivey lead the way with 23 points for the Zips while Johnson had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in a terrific night of action. Akron was 56% from the field on the game and a very nice 10 of 22 from three point range, good for 45.5%.
Akron moves to 11-3 on the season and 1-0 in the conference. The Zips will host Western Michigan on Friday night at 6:30 PM EST(CBSSN). Bowling Green falls to 6-8 overall and 0-1 in MAC play. They will go to Ball State on Saturday at 1 PM EST(ESPN 3).