CLEVELAND -- The University of Akron men’s basketball team needed just one quick run to create an insurmountable advantage against the Eastern Michigan Eagles in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday.
And with the athletes Akron has on the roster, the Zips (25-7) are capable of duplicating the 7-0 run that led to a 79-62 win over the Eagles by ratcheting up defensive pressure and turning miscues into quick-trigger shots from the interior or perimeter.
“If you know a lot about this game, it usually comes down to the teams that get the most spurts and the biggest spurt,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. “We were hanging around, they were hanging around and we couldn't quite shake them.
“We had chances we missed. If you notice, we missed some open shots that could have busted it open early, which now becomes a dangerous situation because they're still hanging around. But then, we went, boom, boom, boom, and that's the game. That's really what happens in sports. You have to make sure that you get more spurts than the others.”
Akron beats Eastern Michigan in MAC Tournament
With a pair of free throws from guard Ray Lee, the Eagles trimmed the Zips’ lead down to four points, 57-53, with 5:10 to play in regulation. However, Akron jumpstarted a rally and never looked back.
After pulling down an offensive rebound followed a missed layup, Akron senior center Isaiah Johnson went back up toward the rim and drew a foul. The 2017 MAC Player of the Year knocked down both free throws, and then, guard Jimond Ivey stole a pass and converted the ensuing layup.
Akron guard Josh Williams followed with a steal, and then, buried a three-pointer from the left wing that ballooned the Zips’ advantage up to 11 points in a span of just 54 seconds.
“I wouldn't say that that's the biggest difference, but it sure was a momentum change for us,” Williams said. “In the timeouts, we were talking to each other and keeping Isaiah's spirits is the biggest difference. Everybody can't see the inside, but the inside is what makes the outside so much prettier, and so, I think us in the timeouts made it a lot better, and then, it corresponded to the court.”
Including the two steals over a 19-second span, Akron had seven takeaways and forced 13 total turnovers from Eastern Michigan.
“Anytime you allow a team to go on a 7 to 9 0 run off of your mistakes, self-inflicted, that's painful,” Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said. “A made layup, an extra pass, errant inbound pass, and you give them eight points, so that's tough, and that did kill the momentum.
“I thought we were in great shape. We were down as much as I believe 11, and to cut it to four with the ball to have a point blank layup to cut it to 2, if you make that layup, the game is a lot different. But when you miss that layup, it deflates you. Then, if you allow a team to score, it double deflates you, and that's what happened to us. They made the plays that we didn't, and that's why they're the winners, and I give them all the credit for that.”