This wasn't your typical Akron-Ohio game. The contest didn't have that much meaning on the overall standings - Akron came in at a surprising 8-7 in conference play while Ohio sat at an even more surprising 4-11. It was senior night for Nyles Evans and Deji Ibitayo, who were both honored before the game.
At the start of the game it looked like Akron's four game losing streak may become five quickly. The Bobcats went on a 7-0 run in the opening four minutes until a Pat Forsythe throw-down let the Akron fans finally take their seats.
That dunk propelled Akron to a 6-2 run to get back into the game. A Jake Kretzer three tied it, and the lead wouldn't go any higher than four points for the rest of the half. Ohio was up 19-15 with 7:51 remaining after a Javarez Willis three, but the Zips stormed back.
Three turnovers combined with some putrid shooting by Ohio left the door open for Akron. The Zips went on a 10-2 run to push their lead to four at 25-21, which was keyed by two threes from Reggie McAdams and Ibitayo. A Stevie Taylor layup stopped the bleeding for Ohio but Akron's Isaiah Johnson answered with a layup as time expired.
Antonio Campbell led all scorers at the half with eight points for Ohio, followed by Johnson's seven. Campbell scored six of those eight right at the beginning of the game, but for some reason Ohio went away from establishing a low post which had worked so well for them before.
Akron came out strong in the second half, building the halftime lead to 34-27 behind five straight from McAdams. Ohio wasn't about to lie down though, going on an 8-1 run of their own to tie the game at 35. That was the closest the Bobcats would get, as the rest of the second half the Zips controlled momentum.
After the Bobcats tied the game up it truly became the Antino Jackson show. Jackson hit three straight three-pointers and made two free throws as a part of a 16-4 run that basically put the game out of reach. Jackson couldn't miss from deep, and when those shots were open his high basketball IQ took over.
Jackson slashed and dashed through the Ohio defense, and when three Bobcats collapsed on him in the lane, he was smart enough to find the open guy to nail the shot. Jackson found senior Nyles Evans open for a three, which swished through and put the Zips up 14 at 58-44.
The next possession he did the same thing, this time finding an open Forsythe who calmly nailed a seventeen-footer. Ibitayo's three with 4:18 left pushed the lead to 15 and the game was all but over.
Both coaches had good things to say about the jet-quick point guard. Saul Phillips praised Jackson, saying "give him a ton of credit for really running the show tonight."
Keith Dambrot agreed, saying "Antino drove our car. He popped the game open for us. I think he's a tremendous talent. He's a road-runner like player. He's going to make some mistakes, but he'll also make some plays. The opportunity to start plus the trust factor we have has allowed him to play better."
Ohio started pressing with 2:30 left - and really should have done it earlier. Akron has a weakness for turning over the ball and they did just that, which allowed Ohio to get the lead down to ten with 1:51 left. The Zips finished out the game going 7-10 from the free throw line - another weakness - to seal another non-losing MAC season. The final was 70-58, but it really wasn't that close.
Ohio was led by Campbell, who tied a career high with 17 points on 7-10 shooting and eleven rebounds. Willis and Ndour both ended up with 13 points but no other players really made much of an impact. Ohio's depth continues to be an issue, as Ndour played all 40 minutes and only seven players were on the court for a meaningful amount of time.
Antino Jackson led a well-balanced scoring effort for the Zips with 13 points and five assists. Johnson nipped at his heels with 12 with McAdams next in line at 11. Ibitayo, Forsythe and Kretzer all had eight.
Ohio falls to 4-12, and their dismal season has almost drawn to a close. Give them credit - they haven't given up - but the last two games at Buffalo and at home against Miami could show a sign of whether this team has any life or not.
The win puts the Zips at 9-7 in conference play with two road games left - at Miami and at Kent State to finish off the regular season. It's worth mentioning that Keith Dambrot's worst season at Akron was in 2011, when Akron went 9-7 in MAC play but still won the MAC Tournament.