Akron visited Kent State tonight in a battle for Northeast Ohio in front of over 6,000 fans, with the Zips standing atop the East Division and the Golden Flashes sitting in third on the final night of the regular season.
Akron scored on their first possession, as Kwan Cheatham, Jr. hit from three. The Zips would score again on their next possession, but Jimmy Hall broke KSU’s deadlock before the two-minute mark. With three minutes gone, Hall accounted for all four of Kent’s points, as the Flashes trailed 7-4. Noah Robotham added three more for Akron as Hall continued to bear his team’s weight, scoring again after Robotham’s strike.
With five gone, Akron led 13-6. Hall added two for the Flashes, continuing his single-handed dominance of his side’s scoresheet. Danny Pippen eventually scored and drew a foul for Kent, but he could not make his free throw, and Akron led 15-10. Kevin Zabo cut a nine-point Akron lead to six from beyond the arc after nine minutes.
Akron could not get any of their three-point attempts to hit, and Hall brought the ball down for a tip-in to put his team down one nearing seven minutes. Akron’s Jimond Ivey later missed a thundering dunk, the ball flying back to nearly half-court, but Emmanuel Olojakpoke brought it back to the hoop for two. Jaylin Walker hit from three to put the Flashes back within one near four minutes, but Akron’s Antino Jackson responded with a three of his own to make the lead four.
Deon Edwin halved the deficit at the minute mark, and the Flashes took a timeout at 42 seconds. After two Isaiah Johnson free throws, Akron led 32-28 at the half.
Johnson put up a layup to open scoring for Akron in the second half, and Deon Edwin answered for the Flashes. Two Edwin free throws tied the game at 34, and a Robotham jumper put the Zips up two once more. Jaylin Walker gave the home team the lead from three, and the Flashes drew a foul on a counter-attack off a Walker steal, but couldn’t do anything on the possession, as Ivey put up two for Akron.
An Akron turnover led to two points for Kent courtesy of Walker, and Jimond Ivey came right back with two and a drawn foul for Akron. The free throw was converted. Kent was called for a backcourt violation, and Akron took the ball down the court up two. Daniel Utomi would later hit a three to put the Zips up five.
Kent pulled within two with nine minutes left in the second, but Utomi pulled away for another three and the lead grew back to five. Johnson made it seven on a rebound and layup after a missed three attempt. Jaylin Walker roused the home crowd with a jumper to cut the deficit to three.
The Flashes were dispossessed on their next possession, and Kent’s Jalen Avery was called for a foul, sending Robotham to the line. He missed his shot, but Akron maintained possession, and Robotham did his team two better by hitting from three. Johnson sent himself to the line on a converted layup, but missed his shot. A Robotham jumper then made the lead ten, and an Ivey steal and shot added three more to ensure Akron ran out 66-56 winners.
Akron will be the top seed in the upcoming MAC tournament, while Kent State will enter as a six-seed and play Central Michigan in their first tournament tilt.