Let's go with the age-old cliche of "third time's a charm."
After losing twice to South Carolina last season, the Zips finally conquered their demons against the Gamecocks on Sunday in the third-place game of the Charleston Classic. The 68-63 win gave Akron third place in the tournament behind Charlotte and Miami.
Freshman Noah Robotham led the way for Akron, scoring a career-high eighteen points and nabbing six rebounds. Robotham was clutch at the free throw line down the stretch, finishing 6-8 from the line. He also made a key steal with Akron clinging to a three-point lead, and smartly pulled the ball out into the backcourt instead of going to the rim for a bucket.
The Zips, who struggled all year last year with free throws, hit 22-27 at the line against South Carolina, an 82% clip. Akron shot seven more free throws than the Gamecocks did, and make eleven more. The free throw line is where teams win close games, and that's what Akron did tonight.
The free throw disparity made up for the face that Akron got absolutely hammered on the glass. South Carolina outrebounded the Zips 44-33, but it was worse in the first half. The Gamecocks had fifteen offensive rebounds at halftime and ended up with twenty total.
Those rebounds came from South Carolina's inability to make anything. They only made 29% of their shots in the first half and ended up shooting just a little under 40% for the game. From beyond the three-point arc, South Carolina finished just 2-11.
South Carolina tied the game up at 55 with seven minutes left in the game. The Zips were teetering, but went 8-12 from the free throw line to close out the game and give them their second win over a Power 5 team in three days.
Robotham was the main scorer, but Deji Ibitayo and Kwan Cheatham were right behind him at fifteen and thirteen points respectively. Nyles Evans also played well, scoring eight points and picking up five rebounds.
Sindarius Thornwell led the way for the Gamecocks, scoring thirteen points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Akron moves on to face Penn State in Happy Valley on Tuesday. That game will tip at 7:30 on ESPN3.