If there is an arena where the Akron Zips and head coach Keith Dambrot don't really like going to, it's the Convocation Center in DeKalb, Illinois. Dambrot owned a 2-3 record in the building coming into tonight's game during his ten-year stint as head coach of the Zips and had some losses to the Huskies a few years ago when they were struggling mightily.
The hex of the Convo was put on the Zips tonight, as they were lulled to sleep by a quiet crowd and a game NIU team. While the final score of 62-59 shows a close game, Akron really didn't play their best and the Huskies were up to the challenge to try and end a three-game losing streak.
The game didn't start off well for those working the scoreboard on ESPN3, however:
The first half was a half of runs. The Huskies jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the first ten minutes of the game, until Akron responded with an 11-1 run of their own to tie the game up at 18. NIU then went on a 9-2 run of their own to push the lead to seven at 27-20. Both teams traded baskets for the last five minutes of the first half, and NIU went into the locked room up seven, 33-26.
The first four minutes of the second half are usually the most important in the game, and Akron won that short stretch of time with a 8-2 run to pull within one. The Zips took their first lead of the game at 39-37 and this game was finally looking too close to call. Unfortunately for Akron, they didn't do anything to compound on their lead. Instead, the Huskies embarked on a 9-0 run and pushed their lead to seven. Another run, this time 8-2, propelled the Huskies to a ten point lead with six minutes to go. The Zips looked disheveled and needed to score some baskets or else this game was going to get out of hand.
Akron got within three with a 7-0 run, but again couldn't get over the hump. After a few NIU buckets, an Aaron Jackson three with 2:51 on the clock put the Zips right on the doorstep down just 56-59. But, it wasn't to be, as NIU made their free throws while the Zips bricked five threes and two front-ends of one-and-ones to seal the loss.
The Zips had a very balanced scoring effort, with six players scoring five points or more. Kwan Cheatham Jr. paced Akron with 13 points and four rebounds and two steals. Ibitayo put up eight and went 6-9 from the free throw line, with most of them late to keep Akron in the game. Noah Robotham struggled against Baker's defense, going 3-11 from the floor and 1-6 from the 3-point line.
Travon Baker ended up with 20 points on 6-7 shooting from the floor and 7-9 from the charity stripe. Aaric Armstead had a nice game with 11 points and three steals. The Huskies had to be pleasantly surprised with Marin Maric, who gave them solid minutes off the bench. Maric nearly had a double-double at eight points and eight boards.
Akron will have to regroup quickly, as they head to Kalamazoo on Saturday to take on the 4-1 Western Michigan Broncos. WMU is coming off of two straight road wins and looks to be favorite in the West Division. The Broncos will have revenge on their mind after Akron trounced them by 20 on the opening night of MAC play.
Northern Illinois gets another game in the friendly confines of the Convocation Center, this time against the struggling Miami RedHawks. After losing three in a row, two straight wins would do wonders for these Huskies as possibly propel them into a top six seed. With both Toledo and Eastern Michigan struggling, the time is now for NIU to make their mark.
|T. Baker (20)
|K. Cheatham (13)
|M. Maric (8)
|P. Forsythe (7)
|T. Baker (5)
|N. Robotham (4)
|Two tied (1)
|P. Forsythe (2)
|Aaric Armstead (3)
|N. Evans (5)