Sometimes you gotta let the Big Dog eat, and in their first game in Cleveland, the Akron Zips did as they rode their big man to a 79-62 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
The first half was the James Thompson show. The sophomore big man came out on fire, scoring the Eagles’ first 11 points, while grabbing 7 rebounds before the first media timeout. He would finish the double-double before the “under-eight” timeout, as Eastern Michigan jumped out to the early lead.
However, the Zips would shake off the early rust to take the lead late. After focusing on shutting down Thompson, Akron forced multiple Eagle turnovers and turned them into gold. The three pointers started to fall, and the newly crowned MAC Player of the Year started to go to work down low. The in-out game between Isaiah Johnson and his guards feasted in a 15-2 run that saw the Zips take a 30-21 lead. Eastern Michigan would respond with a 6-0 run to close out the half, but the eight first half turnovers were likely to blame for their deficit at the break.
The second half saw the Zips come out gunning. The three-point barrage continued, with spotty success. However, with Johnson down load, the offensive chances were aplenty with “Big Dog” offering up 2nd chances. When he would get the ball, he went to work, putting up bucket after bucket down low. On the other end, he continued to keep Thompson quiet, as the Eagle big man continued a long dry spell after that hot start.
The Eagles would chip away, and eventually get it down to a four point deficit, but a string of events with about 4:30 to go would put Eastern Michigan away for good. Following a pair of free throws by Johnson, Ray Lee would try a pass that would get read by Jimond Ivey. The sophomore guard easily turned it into a fast break lay-up. Immediately afterwards, in an attempt to catch the Zips off-guard, Tim Bond threw an errant pass right to Josh Williams, who drilled a three to all but nail home the final result. A couple more threes down the stretch by the Zips would be the finishing touches to the victory.
In the end, Johnson finished with 24 points (including 15 in the 2nd half), 10 rebounds, and three blocks. Noah Robotham added another 19 points by going 11-for-12 from the line and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. Josh Williams added another 11 with a 3-for-6 mark from three-point land.
For the Eagles, Thompson’s early double-double only resulted in a final mark of 18 points and 16 rebounds. He fouled out with a 2nd technical resulting in his 5th foul with just seconds to go. He joined fellow teammate Lee (who had fouled out a few minutes earlier) as the main contributors. Lee finished with 17 points, but the two leading scorers also combined for 8 turnovers. Tim Bond and Ty Toney added 11 and 10 points respectively.
The Zips await the result of the Western Michigan/Ball State game to find out their next opponent. Game time is scheduled for 5:30 pm tomorrow night.