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Akron Zips vs. Toledo Rockets Final: Rockets use aggressiveness to upend Zips

Toledo used their athleticism and Akron's inability to get a stop in the second half to pull away and secure a home win.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Akron had gotten used to beating Toledo. The Zips had topped the Rockets six straight times before last year's home loss to the upstart program from the MAC's once inferior Western Division. The tide has now shifted, and now it's the Rockets who have a mini-winning streak over one of the most established programs in the entire conference.

Toledo used a 32-15 advantage at the free throw line to get back to their winning ways in a 84-67 triumph over the Zips. The Rockets scored nearly 50 points in the second half and held Akron steady over both halves, evening their record at 1-1 after a surprising home loss to Central Michigan just a few days ago.

The first half started with a flurry, as Akron jumped out to an 8-3 lead courtesy of two Nyles Evans threes. Toledo stormed back with an 10-3 run to take the lead at 13-11. After a few back and forth baskets, the Zips went on yet another run, this time by an 8-2 margin to take a 28-23 lead. The Rockets were looking a little shaky and were playing not to lose like they did against Central Michigan.

Toledo responded though, and came back to take the lead at 34-32 on a couple Julius Brown free throws. Akron's Noah Robotham made a bucket to tie the game, then J.D. Weatherspoon did this:

Akron used their three point barrage-style offense mostly in the first half and it worked for them. Half of the Zips' field goal attempts were from beyond the arc and they ended up making six of them. Toledo showed to be the more aggressive team in the first half, as they outrebounded the Zips by two and shot eleven more free throws than their Akron counterparts.

The foul disparity continued in the second half, as at one point Akron had 20 fouls and the Rockets had just eight. It seemed that on every possession Akron was being whistled for a foul. When you're playing against the team with the highest percentage from the free throw line in the conference, that poses a problem. Yes, some of the calls were pretty questionable. But, if Akron would have been more aggressive instead of jacking up a bunch of threes, they may have made more trips to the free throw line.

It what probably gave the game to Toledo, Evans was called for his fifth foul on a technical with 7:31 left in the game. He was Akron's leading scorer at that point (13 points) and was one of the few who were hitting threes on a consistent basis. Evans picked up his technical after making a layup to cut the Toledo lead to nine. The Rockets then went on a 7-1 run to take a 15-point lead and wouldn't look back from there.

Toledo were the aggressors in the second half as well. They outrebounded Akron 35-27 and shot just 11 threes. The Rockets made nine of those 11, and picked the right time to shoot threes instead of chucking up prayers. Thirty-seven of their field goal attempts came from within the three-point line, a stat that shows how much they either got shots at the rim or around the rim. That lead to high-percentage looks which explains the Rockets' 56% shooting mark from the field.

Only one other Zip crested double digits - Pat Forsythe. He had ten points but was in foul trouble. You got the feeling that Akron didn't utilize him enough and could have picked up a few more free throw attempts had the guards gotten the ball down to Forsythe in the post.

If Nathan Boothe would have scored one more point, all five starters would have been in double figures for the Rockets. Weatherspoon led the way with 17 points and six rebounds. Jonathan Williams followed "Spoon" up with 15 and six, while Juice Brown and Justin Drummond had 14 and 13, respectively.

Akron travel back to the Rubber City to take on a thriving Bowling Green team that could be 2-0 if they beat Ohio tomorrow. Toledo heads to Athens next week to take on those same Bobcats. This is going to be such a fun season, and we're just getting started.

Game Leaders

Player Toledo Akron
Points J.D. Weatherspoon (17) Nyles Evans (13)
Rebounds Nathan Boothe (7) Isaiah Johnson (7)
Assists Justin Drummond (4) Pat Forsythe (3)
Blocks Nathan Boothe (1) Pat Forsythe (1)
Steals Noah Robotham (2) Nathan Boothe (3)