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Akron Zips vs. Kent State Golden Flashes men's basketball recap: Flashes halt Zips rally, hold off Zips 85-76

Kent State had a 15-point second-half lead washed away, but had enough in the end to pull it out.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

It's the 100th year of the Akron-Kent State rivalry, and this year is already proving to be much like the others. A high stakes contest on national T.V. awaited both teams on Friday night, and the fight between the two for MAC East dominance didn't disappoint.

With the rest of the MAC cheering for the Flashes to bring the Zips back to Earth, Kent State did just that, weathering a lost 15-point second half lead to ultimately close out their rivals 85-76. The win moves Kent State to just a game behind Akron at 9-5, while the Zips fall back closer to the pack at 10-4.

Kent State put on a clinic in the first half both offensively and defensively, shooting 55 percent from the field and holding Akron to just a 3-15 mark from behind the arc. The Flashes outscored Akron 24-16 in the paint and forced seven Akron turnovers, slowing the high-powered Akron offense down.

Kellon Thomas played a huge role in the first half, scoring 16 points on a near perfect 7-8 mark from the field. He was all over the place in a good way, making life tough defensively for the Zips. Khaliq Spicer also played well scoring 10 points and collecting 5 boards in the half. Jimmy Hall was in foul trouble late in the half, but made his mark during a 13-4 scoring run which saw the Flashes go from a 21-20 deficit to a 33-25 lead. The Flashes took a ten point lead into halftime at 42-32.

Kent State was up 48-33 before you could even blink at the start of the second half, but Akron fought back. It wasn't a quick run that happened though - Akron chipped away at the lead point-by-point over a ten minute stretch. The run mainly came from three players - Isaiah Johnson, Antino Jackson and Josh Williams. Johnson had been playing great the entire game, but picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes to go.

At the 9:18 mark, there was some history made for Jimmy Hall as well, as he scored his 1,000th point in a college uniform between his Kent State and Hofstra years.

A Kwan Cheatham three tied the game up at 61, and this was suddenly just a regular Akron-Kent State game. The Flashes didn't die though, as they answered with a 12-1 spurt of their own, holding the Zips without a basket for over five minutes. Spicer scored 8 of the 12 as Johnson sat with foul trouble and that pretty much put the game away.

The closest Akron could get was at 78-73 but they couldn't regain that magic that led them to erase that 15-point deficit. Thomas was 5-6 on free throws during the last three minutes of the game, and Kent State as a team was 10-12 in that span. This was impressive, as the Flashes aren't known as a team that can regularly knock down free throws.

Spicer and Thomas led the way with 22 each for the Flashes, while Hall ended up with 17. Galal Cancer didn't have a great game scoring-wise, but picked up ten rebounds, four assists and four steals.

The Zips were led by Johnson, who scored 24 off of the bench. Cheatham had 17 and Jackson had 14, but Akron ended up shooting just 30 percent from beyond the arc.

Akron heads to Miami on Tuesday while Kent State also hits the road up I-90 to Buffalo. Both games tip at 7 Eastern.

Game Leaders

Player Kent State Akron
Points Two tied (22) I. Johnson (24)
Rebounds G. Cancer (10) I. Johnson (9)
Assists G. Cancer (4) Two tied (3)
Blocks K. Spicer (1) Aaron Jackson (1)
Steals G. Cancer (4) R. McAdams (2)