It wasn't easy, but the Akron Zips hung on to beat Bryant 72-66 in front of 2,500 at the James A. Rhodes Arena. The Zips got a great game from freshman Noah Robotham, who scored fourteen points on 6-7 shooting and also grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. Senior Deji Ibitayo had twelve points off of the bench and six rebounds, another solid game for the guard who is having somewhat of a breakout season this year.
Akron jumped out to a 13-5 lead behind Nyles Evans' personal 6-0 run. It looked like the game could be a blowout, but Bryant had other plans. The Bulldogs used a 7-0 run to pull within one but Akron struck back with a 16-6 run keyed by two Reggie McAdams' threes. Bryant came back with three triples of their own and got the lead down to just three at halftime, 32-29.
Bryant came out of halftime to take the lead at 44-40, but went cold from there. The Bulldogs didn't make a field goal for nearly nine minutes in the middle of the second half and found themselves down eleven with six and a half minutes to go. The lead stayed around ten for the next few minutes until Dyami Starks hit a three to cut the lead to seven. Starks ended up with 25 points and all came from beyond the arc.
Things got interesting when Kwan Cheatham couldn't hit the front end of a one-and-one free throw and Bosko Kostur nailed a three to cut the lead to four. Cheatham was fouled again and he made both, but again Bryant hit another three, this time from Zach Chionuma.
The lead was three and Akron was getting a little nervous. So much so that the Zips turned the ball over on the inbounds play and Starks ended up with a look at an open three, which he couldn't hit. Ibitayo grabbed the defensive rebound, was fouled and hit both free throws with six seconds left, effectively ending the game.
This game was going to be the return of Tim O'Shea to the MAC, as the Bryant head coach spent seven years at Ohio and amassed a 120-95 record in Athens. Unfortunately he had a family matter and could not make it to the game, meaning former Boston College head coach Al Skinner led the Bulldogs during the game.
Akron had a myriad of solid performances from role players. Pat Forsythe had yet another good game with nine points and five rebounds. Cheatham and Jake Kretzer both finished with eight and combined to go 4-5 from beyond the arc. Three players finished with six points: Antino Jackson, Reggie McAdams and Evans. If Akron can get eight players to score six or more points per game, they can be very good.
Outside of Starks and Curtis Oakley, not many other Bulldogs were effective. Chionuma had nine points on 4-6 shooting from the floor and Kostur had seven points and three rebounds.
The Zips get one day off before Arkansas-Pine Bluff comes to the JAR Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tip. The Golden Lions, a stalwart on the Akron non-conference schedule, are 1-5 and are coming off of two straight losses to MAC teams. Central Michigan beat UAPB 75-43 and Ohio snuck by them 69-60.