By Published: 3/3/2018 8:48:24 AM Custom Tag

Courtesy: Akron Athletics

AKRON, Ohio – In round two of the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center Wagon Wheel Challenge, freshman guard Eric Parrish (Cypress, Texas) sank two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining to lift Akron to a thrilling 67-65 win over archrival Kent State at James A. Rhodes Arena on Friday night.

Parrish had 11 points on the night, but none bigger than his two charity tosses with less than four seconds remaining after being fouled by Kent State's Jalen Avery. Following Parrish's second shot and a Kent State timeout, the Flashes were unable to get a shot off before the buzzer, touching off a wild celebration for the Zips.

With the win, Akron (13-17, 6-11 MAC) picked up a half point for the Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge, lifting the Zips to a two-point advantage, 5.5-3.5, over Kent State (15-16, 9-9 MAC).

Sophomore guard Daniel Utomi (Houston, Texas) led all scorers with 20 points for Akron, while Parrish and junior guard Jimond Ivey (Cleveland, Ohio) each had 11.

The back-and-forth contest featured the two arch rivals trading big shots but marred by a deluge of fouls called against both sides as the officials whistled the two teams for 46 total fouls. Three Kent State players and two Akron players fouled out, which led to 53 free throw attempts in the game, 41 in the second half.

The game reached a decisive point with just under six minutes remaining, as a breakaway layup by Parrish knotted the score at 56-all, which was Akron's last field goal of the game. A technical foul on Akron freshman center Mark Kostelac (Cleveland, Ohio) counted as his fifth foul, sending him to the bench and giving Kent State two foul shots and the ball. A made free throw and a 3-pointer by B.J. Duling gave the visitors a 60-56 lead and left Akron without its top post player for the remainder of the game.

Still, the Zips rallied down the stretch thanks to solid defense and held Kent State to 40.8-percent shooting (20-of-49) for the game. The Zips scored 11 points to finish the game all from the free throw line.

It was a contest with plenty of swings in momentum as Akron surged ahead early, only to see Kent State rally back. A 10-2 push by the Zips to begin the game featured four points by Parrish, but baskets by six different Flashes helped the visitors push ahead at 19-18 midway through the opening half.

The contest was played at a deliberate pace, with the two sides combining for just four fast break points in the opening half. Kent State was able to edge back into the contest thanks in part to a 5-1 scoring edge at the foul line as Akron garnered a mere three free-throw attempts in the opening 20 minutes.

Despite giving up a significant size advantage to Kent State, Akron outrebounded its rival 20-18 before the half as Utomi snagged a team-best six boards for the half. Neither side was sloppy with the ball, with Kent State committing just five turnovers to Akron's four before the break.

With the two sides nearly even in most statistical categories, the 31-31 score at the half was fitting. With eight ties and 15 lead changes, the contest was exciting throughout and with the win, Akron denied Kent State any chance at a first-round bye in the MAC tournament.

Senior guard Kevin Zabo led Kent State with 16 points in the game.

Prior to the game, the Akron basketball program recognized two of its seniors as Malcolm Duvivier (Toronto, Ohio) and Lucas Smith (Omaha, Neb.) played their final home game at Rhodes Arena.

Akron is back in action Monday night in a first-round MAC tournament game at either Miami or Western Michigan depending on the outcome of Saturday's Western Michigan and Central Michigan.
Published: 3/3/2018 8:48:24 AM Custom Tag