The Akron Zips fended off Eastern Michigan in what would have been another in a long string of upsets of 1-seeds in the last two weeks, defeating the Eagles 65-63 thanks to clutch play in the game's waning moments.
The teams traded leads 13 times, but it was Johnson's tough bucket from close range with 26 seconds left that was the decider. Just 14 seconds before in game time Raven Lee had hit two free throws to give EMU a one-point lead. And THAT came 11 seconds after a Noah Robotham 3-pointer that made the Zips fans in attendance make Quicken Loans Arena sound like a Cavs game after a 4th quarter 3-pointer to take the lead. Catching my drift here? It was exhilarating.
EMU had a shot.
Here's that last sequence. pic.twitter.com/vvngMscaZg— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) March 10, 2016
Isaiah Johnson and a cadre of Akron shooters came up huge late despite a poor shooting performance from everyone other than Johnson and McAdams.
Raven Lee and James Thompson kicked into overdrive with 23 and 15 points respectively, but it wasn't enoughTreys from Antino Jackson and Reggie McAdams changed the complexion of the game to make the score 56-53 when it was 56-44 just minutes before. Raven Lee responded with a deuce at the rim through contact to make it 58-53 with 5:30 to go.
Akron struggled from the floor more so than it had much of the season. EMU's zone kept the Zips from getting open looks around the perimeter as they settled early for jump shots. Isaiah Johnson forcing the issue in the paint was really the only way that Akron was able to get going inside at all. He finished with 19 points on 8-16 shooting. McAdams was fire from beyond the arc to start and ended the night with 20 points and 7 boards.
It was exhilarating in the first. EMU sprinted out to an early lead highlighted by a Tim Bond right-handed jam on the break. That hoop put the Eagles quickly up 9-3. Akron started slower than slow from the floor but responded and the two went back and forth for the remainder of the first half. A Reggie McAdams corner three by the Akron bench (through contact) ended in a 4-point play and the 1-seed Zips up 35-32. The Eagles led for 14+ minutes in the game's first 20 minutes but ultimately found itself behind.
Both teams competed with intensity in the first half with several players going down hard and with bumps and scratches. A collision at the rim between Antino Jackson and Thompson resulted in both players getting up slow. Another play ended in Jake Kretzer seeking attention from trainers and being walked off the court.
It was scrappy. It was loud. It was fun.
Akron shot just 33.9 percent from the floor. Shooters other than Johnson and McAdams went 7-35 from the floor. But it was enough. The Zips turned the ball over just 5 times and hit a few more 3-pointers.
No. 1 lives on.