The Akron Zips defeated the Bowling Green Falcons in one of the most gut-wrenching fashions imaginable on Sunday evening at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. The Falcons were seeking to end a nine-game losing streak against the Zips and had fought back from a 14-point deficit to tie the game on a banked-in 3-pointer by Jehvon Clarke with 9.9 seconds remaining.
And what happened after Bowling Green finally reached the peak of that mountain? Quincy Diggs calmly sank a jumper with 2.4 seconds left on the clock to give Akron a 65-63 win. The victory is their 10th straight over the Falcons, and they've now won 18 of the last 19 in the series. It is also the 1,500th victory in Akron program history. The Zips are just the 55th team in NCAA Division I history to accomplish the feat.
The game was tense and often sloppy in the first half. The teams combined for 22 turnovers, but Akron made fewer mistakes and was able to control the action.
The Zips scored the game's first six points and led 9-2 after a Jake Kretzer 3-pointer at the 4:56 mark. Akron was never able to string together a big run, but they did steadily increase their lead throughout the half. Eventually, it reached 35-21 on a Diggs jumper with 2:12 left in the period. However, they missed their final two shots and turned the ball over four times in the final two minutes, and that allowed Bowling Green to score the half's final five points. Akron led 35-26 at halftime.
Both teams shot better than 45 percent in the first half, but Akron was slightly better (51.7-45.5). They also took seven more shots (and made five more) thanks to an 18-11 edge in rebounds and two fewer turnovers. BGSU was only called for one foul, compared to eight by Akron, but they failed to take advantage of that, as they made only four of eight free throws.
In a harbinger of things to come, Diggs led all scorers with eight points at the half. Richaun Holmes scored five points for BGSU and had perhaps the best play of the half when he threw down a thunderous dunk over the Zips' Pat Forsythe.
Bowling Green wasted little time cutting into Akron's lead in the second half, as they whittled it to single digits within the first four minutes. An "and-1" layup by Jehvon Clarke capped a 7-0 run by the Falcons, and that made the score 41-34. Four minutes later, the Zips' lead was just four (46-42), but they responded with a 6-0 burst to push the lead back to 10 (52-42) with just 9:42 remaining.
Just like against Toledo, the Falcons would not go away. Cameron Black get a put-back layup off a miss by Craig Sealey, who was seeing his first action in two months, to start an 8-1 run that got the Falcons within one possession (53-50) and 6:38 remaining on the clock. The following six minutes saw Akron desperately hold onto their lead while BGSU remained within one or two possessions.
Finally, with 30 seconds left, Demetrius Treadwell went to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity. Two conversions would have given Akron a five-point lead, but he missed the first try. Holmes grabbed the rebound, and the Falcons ran their offense. With time running short, Clarke sent off a triple from the top of the key and banked it home to tie the game at 63, as just 9.9 seconds remained.
The crowd went nuts, but without calling a timeout, Akron calmly got the ball up the floor. The Falcon defense prevented Diggs from taking the ball inside, so he pulled up and drilled the game-winner for a 65-63 final score.
Treadwell scored eight points and Diggs added six in the second half for Akron. Holmes, Clarke and Spencer Parker combined to pour in 31 of BGSU's 37 second-half points.
Both teams ended the game with very similar shooting numbers, and there was only a one-turnover difference between the two teams. However, Akron won the rebounding battle 33-29, and 14-11 on the offensive end. That's where they likely won the game. Akron was able to convert their 14 offensive rebounds into 18 points, while BGSU's scored just 12 second-chance points. This was particularly a problem in the second half. The Falcons pulled down eight offensive rebounds in the second half but converted them into only eight points. Meanwhile, Akron totaled only 15 second-half rebounds -- but more than half (8) were on offense.
BGSU's Clarke led all players with 19 points and four assists. Black and Parker also scored in double figures, while Holmes added a huge night with 14 points, 13 rebounds, an assist, three blocks and four steals.
Diggs led all Akron players with 14 points and made seven of his 11 shot attempts. He also had four assists and four steals. Treadwell contributed much like Holmes, as he scored 12, pulled down 10 rebounds, dished out three assists, and added a block and three steals.
Akron improves their record to 16-7 overall and 8-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Their next game is on Wednesday night at Western Michigan. Bowling Green drops to 4-6 in the MAC and 10-13 overall. They'll try to recover with a road trip to Kent State on Wednesday night.
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