No. 7 Akron Zips (27-8, 14-4 Mid-American) at No. 6 UT Arlington (26-8, 14-4 Sun Belt)
Monday, March 20 • College Park Center
Arlington, Texas • 8 p.m. ET
TV/Video: ESPNU – Rich Hollenberg (PxP) and Reid Gettys (Analyst)
Live Stats: GoZips.com/Schedule - Live Stats
Radio: Akron-IMG Sports Network - Steve French (PxP) and Joe Dunn (Analyst) WARF 1350 AM (flagship), iHeart Radio, TuneIn.com/Akron Zips
UTA - Scott Cross (UT Arlington '98)
Overall Record: 203-147 (11th season)
Record at UTA: 203-147 (11th season)
Sun Belt Record: 46-30 (4th season)
NIT Record: 1-1 (2nd Appearance)
UA - Keith Dambrot (Akron '82)
Overall Record: 413-208 (19th season)
Record at Akron: 305-138 (13th season)
MAC Record at Akron: 154-65 (13th Season)
Career MAC Record: 164-89 (15th Season)
NIT Record: 3-4 (5th Appearance)
First Meeting: 0-0 - Dambrot vs.Cross: First Meeting
Second Round: 2017 (0-0)
First round: 2017, 2012, 1981 (1-2)
Second Round: 2017, 2008, 2006 (0-2)
First Round: 2017, 2016, 2012, 2008, 2006, 1989, 1987 (3-4)
• Akron has won at least 21 games in 12-straight seasons under 13th-year head coach Keith Dambrot, something only a handful of Division I programs have accomplished. In fact, Akron, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Ohio State are the only programs to post 11-straight 21-win seasons, and of those five teams, Akron (27-8), Gonzaga (34-1), Kansas (29-4), and Duke (28-8) are the only programs to accomplish that feat this year - Ohio State (17-15).
• The Akron Zips secured its fourth all-time Regular-Season MAC Championship after defeating Buffalo, 89-83, on the road at Alumni Arena. In addition, Akron earned the No. 1 Seed for the 2017 MAC Tournament in back-to-back seasons. The Zips have a 58 NCAA RPI and 95 KenPom RPI.
• Head coach Keith Dambrot became Akron's All-Time Wins Leader on Jan. 3, with an 89-84 win over Bowling Green. At UA, Dambrot collected 289 wins in 422 games, replacing Russell Beichly's mark of 288 wins in 432 games (1941-59). Dambrot earned his 300th career win at Akron on Feb. 14 against Toledo.
• Akron set the all-time longest home winning streak record at James. A. Rhodes Arena with 30 consecutive wins, replacing the 26-game run the Zips made during the 1985-87 seasons under head coach Bob Huggins. The streak ranked No. 2 in the NCAA. The Zips own a 175-24 (.879) at Rhodes Arena.
• The Zips rode a 12 game winning streak into Ohio, which ranked fifth in the NCAA. As a result, Akron received five votes in the AP Top 25 poll and one vote in the USA Today Coaches' Poll (Week 13 – Jan. 30).
• As of March 5, UA ranks in the NCAA's Top 100 in 12-of-32 statistical categories (347 teams), ranking No. 7 in the NCAA for 3-point FG's made per game (10.2), No. 5 in 3-point FG's made (347), No. 5 in 3-point FG's attempted (928), and No. 67 in 3-Point FG Percentage (.379). The Zips also rank No. 43 in Field Goal Percentage (.471), and No. 61 in Scoring Margin (+6.9).
The Akron basketball team makes its third appearance in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament on Monday, March 20, at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. The seventh-seeded Zips will lineup against the sixth-seeded UT Arlington Mavericks on ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET. Rich Hollenberg is scheduled to call the action while Reid Gettys provides analysis. The Zips finished the regular season 13-2 at home and 7-2 at the JAR in league play, and 7-5 on the road and 7-2 when traveling to a MAC opponent. Akron is 7-1 in neutral site games this season.
Fans can also follow the action on WatchESPN/ESPN3, GoZips.com via Live Stats or by Zips' radio. The Zips' radio broadcast will air on the Akron-IMG Sports Network SportsRadio 1350 AM (WARF) in Akron (flagship) with Steve French calling the action and Joe Dunn providing analysis. The pregame show starts 30 minutes prior to the contest. The free audio stream is available at SportsRadio1350.com, iHeart Radio, and TuneIn.com/Akron Zips.
The Akron-UT Arlington Series
Monday's game marks the first meeting in series history between Akron and UT Arlington, but the Zip second game against a Sun Belt Conference opponent this season. The Zips hosted Georgia Southern on Nov. 22, as part of the 2016 Savannah Invitational. Akron defeated the Eagles 75-67 at James A. Rhodes Arena. UT Arlington also defeated Georgia Southern 81-71 en route to a 14-4 regular-season Sun Belt Championship and top seed in the Sun Belt tournament.
The Zips NIT History
Akron earned its second consecutive NIT bid, seventh all-time, after a 26-8 overall record and back-to-back Mid-American Conference regular-season championships. The Zips are making their fifth appearance and advanced to the second round for the third time under Dambrot with a 3-4 overall NIT record and 3-6 all-time NIT mark. Akron has made 12 Division I postseason appearances, including the nine of the last 10 seasons.
Akron opened the 2017 NIT with a 78-75 win over No. 2 seed Houston, the third time advancing to the second round in program history.
Akron previously appeared in the NIT in 2016 against Ohio State. The Zips traveled to Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio and forced the Buckeyes into overtime before falling 72-63. In 2012, Akron missed a 3-pointer at the end of regulation for a 76-74 loss to Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill. In 2008, Akron posted a 1-1 record, traveling to Tallahassee, Fla., to defeat Florida State 65-60 in overtime (March 18). Four days later, the Zips fell 68-63 to eventual NIT runner-up Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass., (March 22). In 2006, the Zips made their first postseason appearance under Dambrot, defeating Temple 80-73 in overtime on March 14 in Philadelphia. The victory was the first postseason win in program history in the Division I era (since 1980-81). Akron would fall 71-60 at Creighton on March 16 in Omaha, Neb.
Under head coach Bob Huggins, the Zips played in two NIT events, 1987 and 1989. In 1987, Akron fell to Illinois State, 79-72, at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill, and in 1989 Akron fell to Ohio State 81-70 at St. John Arena.
Scouting the Mavericks
UT Arlington enters the contest with its first NIT win over BYU, 105-89. The Mavericks finished the 2016-17 season as Sun Belt regular season champs and No. 1 seed to the conference tournament. Head coach Scott Cross earned Bun Belt Coach of the Year. In their third NIT appearance and second under coach Cross, UTA is 1-2 all-time in the NIT and 1-1 under Cross. The sixth-seeded Mavericks owns a 26-8 overall record and 14-4 in the Sun Belt Conference. UT Arlington is 13-0 (9-0 Sun Belt) at home, 12-7 (5-4 Sun Belt) on the road, and 1-1 at neutral sites this season.
UT Arlington has two players averaging double figures in scoring and both players are All-Sun Belt selections. Kevin Hervey, Sun Belt Player of the Year, leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points per outing. He is shooting 46.8 percent from the field (198-of-423), including a 35.8 percent effort from deep. He buried a share of the team-high 67 long distance shots on 187 attempts. In addition, Hervey has made 141 trips to the free throw line with 106 made free throws for a 75.2 percent effort. Erick Neal, second-team All-Sun Belt, follows with 10.2 points per night on 39.5 percent shooting from the floor (119-of-301). Neal is a drained a second-best 61 triples on 172 attempts for a 39.0 percent effort from beyond the 3-point arc. He dished out a team-high 223 assists for 6.6 assists per game with a team-best 55 steals. Jorge Bilbao (9.2 ppg), Kaelon Wilson (8.6 ppg), and Drew Charles (8.2 ppg) add to the Mavericks offensive power. Charles sports a team-high 39.0 percent shooting effort from deep on 67-of-172 triples.
Defensively, UTA limits opponents to 69.6 points per game on 41.3 percent shooting from the field and 31.5 percent from downtown with 8.5 made 3-pt FG per game. The Mavericks caused 490 turnovers (14.4 tpg) while collecting 248 steals (7.3 stl/g) and 73 blocked shots (2.1 blk/g). On the glass, the Mavericks have outrebounded their opponents 1,318-1,195 for a +3.6 margin.
Zips Advance to NIT Second Round, Records Most Wins in a Season
For the third time in program history, the Akron Zips opened the National Invitation Tournament with a win as the seventh-seeded Zips defeated the second-seeded Houston Cougars, 78-75, on Wednesday at Texas Southern's Health and Physical Education Arena in Houston, Texas. With the win, the Zips moved to 27-8 overall, becoming the first team in school history to record 27 wins in a season. In addition, 13th-year head coach Keith Dambrot led Akron to all three NIT First Round wins.
The Zips used a balance scoring attack in a game that featured 16 lead changes and 15 tied scores. Senior center Isaiah Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) led the Zips' scoring efforts with 21 points, and sophomore Jimond Ivey (Cleveland, Ohio) added 10 points to complete Akron's double-digit scorers. However, the game hinged on four clutch free throws by junior Noah Robotham (Las Vegas, Nev.) with under 20 seconds left in regulation. Robotham recorded nine points in 26 minutes of action, while senior Kwan Cheatham, Jr. (Cincinnati, Ohio) and sophomore Josh Williams (Akron, Ohio) also chipped in nine points.
Akron finished the contest shooting 43.4 percent from the field (25-of-53) and 40.9 percent from long distance (9-of-22). The Zips added a 76.7 percent effort from the free throw line (23-of-30). The Zips won the turnover battle, 9-10, and tied the Cougars on the glass with 34 rebounds each.
Gray led the Cougars in scoring with 24 points and Dotson followed with 19 points. Houston shot 45.8 percent from the field (27-of-59), 46.7 from deep (7-of-15), and 82.4 percent from the charity stripe (14-of-17).
MAC Championship Game
A 13-2 second-half run proved too much for the University of Akron men's basketball team to overcome as the Zips suffered a 70-65 setback to its arch-rival Kent State in the championship game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Saturday, March 11, at Quicken Loans Arena. Akron finished the game shooting 45.6 percent from the field, including a 48.5 percent mark in the second half. A huge difference in the final outcome was Kent State's defensive efforts which limited the Zips to only six three pointers. Fueled by a 63.6 percent second-half shooting mark, the Golden Flashes connected on 53.1 percent of their attempts from the floor in the contest and was 14-for-18 at the charity stripe to seal the triumph.
Isaiah Johnson directed Akron's offensive efforts registering a 24-point, five-rebound and three-assist performance. Jimond Ivey and Josh Williams added 18 and 12 points, while senior Kwan Cheatham, Jr. pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Jaylin Walker led all scorers with 30 points for Kent State, while Jimmy Hall contributed a 19-point, 10-rebound performance.
The Zips edged the Golden Flashes in rebounding, 31-30, including recording an 11-5 margin on the offensive glass. Points in the paint finished all square at 34 apiece, despite Akron managing a 22-14 difference in the second half. Second-chance points and fast-break tallies went in favor of the Zips, 11-10, and 10-6.
Zips' Semifinals Win
University of Akron men's basketball junior Antino Jackson accounted for 11 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, including seven consecutive points in a key stretch late in the contest to propel the Zips to a wire-to-wire 74-70 triumph over Ball State in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Friday, March 10, at Quicken Loans Arena.
Leading by only four, 58-54, Jackson connected on fade-away three pointer with 5:10 remaining to push Akron's lead to seven, 61-54. Tahjai Teague answered with a triple at the other end to make the score, 61-57, before Antino Jackson delivered a driving lay-up followed by a picturesque up-and-under reverse lay-up to give the Zips a 65-57 advantage at the 3:56 mark.
Antino Jackson's 17th point of the evening allowed him to become the 43rd player in Akron men's basketball history to reach the 1,000-point scoring plateau and 13th under head coach Keith Dambrot. The Cardinals continued to chip away at their deficit whittling the margin to three, 70-67, following a Taylor Persons triple mark with 37.7 seconds remaining. Akron garnered key free throws from Ivey with 31 ticks on the clock, before redshirt freshman Daniel Utomi sealed the victory with a pair of charity tosses with 10 seconds to play.
Antino Jackson shared top scoring honors in the tilt with Johnson as the Zips' duo each registered 19-point scoring efforts, while Cheatham added 11 points. Teague paced Ball State with a career-high 19 points, while Francis Kiapway and Jeremie Tyler contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively. Akron concluded its semifinal triumph connecting on nearly 52 percent (.519) of its shots from the floor, including making eight three pointers, three which came in the second half. Ball State posted a 41.9 percent shooting mark, while dialing long distance for 13 three pointers.
The Cardinals outrebounded the Zips, 34-31, including a 9-5 margin on the offensive end. Ivey crafted an all-around effort for Akron, pulling down a team-high eight rebounds, while scoring seven points and distributing three assists. Franko House narrowly missed a double-double for Ball State notching a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points.
Zips' Quarterfinals Win
The top-seeded Zips used a 14-2 run to defeat the eighth-seeded Eastern Michigan Eagles 79-62 as Akron advanced to its 12th-straight MAC Tournamet semifinals. Senior Isaiah Johnson led the Zips' with his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 24 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Johnson scored 15 second-half points. Rounding out the double-digit performers for Akron were Noah Robotham and Josh Williams with 19 and 11 points, respectively.
Akron Shot 25-of-55 (.455) from the field, including a 14-of-29 (.485) second-half effort. Akron connected on 9-of-28 (.321) from downtown and buried 20 free throws on 28 attempts (.714) from the charity stripe. Akron was slightly outrebounded 36-35, but won the turnover battle 10-13. The Zips blocked five shots led by Johnson's three. Emanuel Olojakpoke had two. James Thompson IV led the Eagles wit 18 points, while Ray Lee followed with 17 points. Tim Bond and Ty Toney added 11 and 10 points, respectively. EMU shot 21-of-57 (.368) from the field, 3-of-16 (.188) from deep, and 17-of-20 (.850) from the charity stripe.
Back-to-Back MAC Champions
The Akron Zips secured the MAC Regular-Season Championship, No. 1 Seed in the MAC Tournament, and East Division Title on Friday with an 89-83 road win over Buffalo. Akron has captured the regular season or tournament title in six of the last seven seasons. In addition, the Zips were back-to-back regular season champs in 2012 (22-12, 13-3 MAC) and 2013 (26-7, 14-2 MAC), as well as 2016 (23-9, 13-5 MAC) and 2017 (23-6, 13-3 MAC). Akron won the MAC Tournament in 2009 (23-13, 10-6 MAC), 2011 (23-13, 9-7 MAC), and 2013 (26-7, 14-2 MAC). The Zips swept the regular season and tournament titles in 2013, and Akron claimed the East Division title in 2007 (26-7, 13-3 MAC).
The Zips in the MAC
The Zips have posted a 45-21 mark (.682) in the last 66 games against the MAC East dating back to the start of the 2012 league schedule. Akron is 5-1 against the MAC East at the conference tournament during that stretch. Akron is 98-42 in the regular season against the West Division (.700), including winners of 41 of the last 49 regular-season contests since divisional play began during the 1997-98 season, and 73-25 overall under head coach Keith Dambrot (.745).
Akron is 27-10 in the MAC Tournament under head coach Keith Dambrot, going 21-6 in its last 27 tournament games. Under head coach Keith Dambrot, the Zips have won at least one game in the MAC Tournament every year and have made nine MAC Tournament title game appearances in the last 11 seasons with an unprecedented 12-straight semifinal appearances. The Zips' runs of consecutive title game and semifinal appearances are the longest streaks in MAC history. The Zips are 24-10 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Akron is 49-9 at home in league play since the start of the 2011 MAC schedule (.845). UA has seen a ton of success in league play since the start of the 2004-05 season, and is 155-65 overall (.705), including a 94-16 mark in MAC play at home (.855). The Zips' 155 wins are the most in the league during that stretch. The Zips have won 75 of their last 102 MAC games (.735).
The Akron Zips finished 14-4 in league play, defeating Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Miami, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, and Northern Illinois before falling to Ohio, and bouncing back with wins over Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and Toledo. The Zips dropped two consecutive games to Kent State and Bowling Green, but went on the road and defeated Buffalo and Kent State before falling at home to Miami.
In league play, Akron averaged 76.8 points per game in the MAC while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 36.7 from long distance with 10.0 made 3-pointers a game. The Zips own a -0.6 margin on the glass, being slightly outrebounded by the competition 604-615. Akron averages 14.8 assists (266), 10.7 turnovers per game (193), 5.8 steals (104), and 3.1 blocked shots (56) in league play.
The Zips won 12 consecutive regular season MAC games, dating back to the 2015-16 season, which was the second longest MAC winning streak in Dambrot's tenure. The 2006-07 Zips won nine straight games in a single season after dropping the MAC opener to Ohio. However, the 2012-13 Zips won 19-straight games and rattled-off 13 consecutive league games during that run. Kent State owns the MAC regular season consecutive win record (21), and single season record (17-1).
The Starting Five
Isaiah Johnson and Antino Jackson are the only two Zips to start all 35 games this season. Kwan Cheatham has 34 starts and 35 games played, while Noah Robotham has played and started in 32 games. Jimond Ivey entered the starting lineup after seven games and never left, posting 28 starts. Josh Williams has nine starts, while Daniel Utomi and Tavian Dunn-Martin each have one.
The starting five have combined for 2028 of the 2703 total points scored for 57.9 points per game. The starters are shooting a combined 48.4 percent from the field (696-of-1437), including 38.9 percent from deep (246-of-632) and 68.8 percent effort from the free throw line (390-of-567). The starting unit has contributed 23.9 rebounds per game (836), including 17.7 defensive (619) and 6.2 offensive (217). The squad is receiving 12.2 assists (428), 4.1 steals (143), and 2.1 blocked shots (75).
Johnson Named MAC Player of the Year
For the second time in program history, an Akron Zips player earned the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year award as senior center Isaiah Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) claimed the league's top honor for 2017, the league office announced on Wednesday.
"It's an honor for Big Dog to win this award with the amount of talent in this league, like Jaaron Simmons, Blake Hamilton, Jimmy Hall, Marcus Keene, and Thomas Wilder just to name a few," head coach Keith Dambrot said. "It's a tribute to how much he means to this team. Isaiah has worked hard to get to this point of his career, and has done whatever it takes to make the team better throughout the years."
The 2017 MAC Player of the Year honor comes two days after Johnson was named first team All-MAC. He became the second player in program history to receive the award since Romeo Travis garnered the award in 2007. For the second-straight season, Johnson was named to the first-team All-MAC, and in 2015-16, Johnson earned the MAC's Sixth Man of the Year award.
Johnson has been the focal point of the Zips' offense all season, leading Akron to back-to-back MAC regular-season championships. He leads the top-seeded Zips in nearly every statistical category. Big Dog started all 31 regular-season games, averaging a team-high 16.2 points per game supported by a 63.0 percent shooting from the floor, which ranks first in the MAC and ninth in the NCAA.
Johnson posted six double-double performances and scored in double digits 28-of-31 games, including 13 of the last 14 games. Johnson scored 20-plus points six times this season, including a career-high 33 points on the road against Central Michigan. On that night, Johnson also became the 42nd member of the Zips' 1,000 Point Club. Johnson has scored 501 points this season, bringing his career total to 1,277.
Johnson also leads the Zips in assists and rebounds. He dishes-out a team-best 2.9 assists per game with 89 total assists. On the glass, Johnson pulls down a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game with 228 total boards, 137 defensive and 91 offensive. In addition, Johnson ranks second in blocked shots with 27, just two shy of the leader Kwan Cheatham, Jr.
Big Dog was named MAC East Player of the Week three times (Nov. 28, Jan. 16, and Feb. 13) and earned collegesportsmadness.com Madness Mid-American Men's Basketball Player of the Week twice (Nov. 28). His first player of the week honor came after two stellar performances at the 2016 Savannah Invitational where Johnson earned the tournament's most valuable player award. In addition, Johnson was named to the 2016 Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational all-tournament team.
Dambrot Earns Second-Straight Coach of the Year Award
The 2016-17 Akron Zips men's basketball program swept the Mid-American Conference's top honors, as Zips' 13th year head coach Keith Dambrot was named the 2017 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year award. In addition, senior center Isaiah Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) was named 2017 Player of the Year. For the second straight season, Dambrot earned the league's highest coaching honor. He is one of two coaches from Akron to receive the MAC recognition and is the only Zips' leader to win the award three times (2013, 2016, 2017) – Former Zips' head coach Dan Hipsher garnered the award in 1998.
Dambrot, who became Akron's all-time wins leader this season, surpassed his 400th career win and 300th win at Akron en route to guiding the Zips to back-to-back MAC regular-season championships. He led Akron to its fourth title in program history after winning the MAC by three games with a 14-4 league record and 24-7 overall mark. On Jan.3, Dambrot broke Akron's all-time wins record as the Zips defeated Bowling Green, 89-84, at James A. Rhodes Arena to give Dambrot his 289th win at Akron. It replaced the previous record of 288 held by Russell Beichly, who led the Zips for 19 seasons (1941-59). Dambrot is currently 302-137 at Akron with a 155-65 league record. Dambrot is 410-207 in 19 years as a collegiate coach.
The Zips have won at least one game every year in the MAC Tournament with Dambrot at the helm. Akron is 25-9 all-time under Dambrot, advancing to eight MAC title games in the last 10 seasons and 11-straight semifinal appearances. The Zips' runs of consecutive title game and semifinal appearances are the longest streaks in MAC history.
In the last 24 tournament games, Akron posted 19 wins, and the Zips are 22-9 at Quicken Loans Arena. In the MAC Tournament, Akron is 5-6 in opening round games and 4-0 under Dambrot. The Zips won their only second round appearance in tournament history under Dambrot before the tournament format changed from a five game maximum to four games.
Akron is 9-3 all-time in quarterfinal games and 9-2 under Dambrot. Dambrot is the only coach in Akron basketball history to lead the Zips to the MAC semifinals, making 11-straight appearances. The Zips are 8-3 all-time in semifinal play and 3-5 in Mac title games.
Three Zips on All-MAC SQUAD
Three Zips earned All-MAC selections, including senior center Isaiah Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio), who was named First-Team All-MAC. Senior forward Kwan Cheatham, Jr. (Cincinnati, Ohio) garnered a Second-Team All-MAC selection, while junior guard Antino Jackson (Houston, Texas) earned Honorable Mention. For a second-straight season, Johnson was named to the first-team All-MAC and Jackson earned honorable mention honors, while Cheatham made his first appearance as an all-league player, marking 29 All-MAC honorees under Dambrot.
Johnson has dominated the paint all season for the Zips. Big Dog started all 31 games and posted six double-double performances while leading Akron in nearly every statistical category. The 6'10" senior from Cincinnati averages a team-high 16.2 points per game, scoring double digits in 28-of-31 games this season. He ranks first in the MAC and ninth in the NCAA for field goal percentage, shooting 63 percent from the floor on 189-of-300. He dishes out a team-best 2.9 assists per game with 89 total assists. On the glass, Johnson pulls down a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game with 228 total boards, 137 defensive and 91 offensive. Johnson adds a second-best 27 blocks and owns 14 steals. Johnson was named MAC East Player of the Week three times this season, and also garnered the Savannah Invitational MVP and Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational All-Tournament team honors. In addition, Johnson became Akron's 42nd member of the 1,000 point club and 12thunder Dambrot. He has scored 501 points this season and 1,277 career.
Cheatham has been the x-factor for the Zips, emerging as one of leaders in all areas of the game. He is second in team scoring with 11.5 points per game, while leading Akron's efforts from beyond the 3-point arc. Cheatham ranks seventh in the league for 3-pointers made per game (2.2) with a team-high 69 triples. Cheatham knocks down the long distance shot at a 39 percent rate which is 13th best in the MAC. From the field, Cheatham shoots 41.4 percent with 121 made field goals. He leads Akron on the defensive glass, grabbing 179 defensive rebounds en route to a second best 226 total boards (7.3 rebs/g). Cheatham is also the squad's leading rim protector with a 29 blocked shots while adding 61 assists and 17 steals. Cheatham was named MAC East Player of the Week on January 30, after scoring a career-high 31 points against Buffalo and shooting 10-of-19 from beyond the 3-point arc for the week.
Jackson started all 31 games and is third in scoring for the Zips with 11.3 points per game. He is shooting a career-best 44.6 percent from the floor (112-of-251), which includes a personal-high 41.9 percent from downtown (62-of-148). Jackson is 63-of-83 from the charity stripe (.759) and has dished out a second-best 87 assists (2.8 apg), collected 69 rebounds (2.2 rebs/g), and has a second-best 28 steals (0.9 stl/g). Jackson earned MAC East Player of the Week and was named Don Haskins Sun Bowl MVP while landing on the Savannah Invitational All-Tournament team.
Off the Bench
The Akron bench has been the catalyst for success under 13th-year head coach Keith Dambrot and this year is no different. The Zips' bench is scoring 19.3 points per game (675 total points). The UA reserves are shooting 43.3 percent from the floor (231-of-533), 34.7 percent from long range (110-of-317), and 66.9 from the free throw line (103-of-154). The UA bench has contributed 10.6 rebounds per game (371), and squad is receiving 2.3 assists (81), 1.4 steals (48), and 1.1 blocked shots (39).
As of March 14, Three of Akron's players rank in the Mid-American Conference Top 15 for 3-point FG percentage and seven are shooting around or above 35.0 percent for the Zips. Antino Jackson leads the Zips and ranks No. 7 in the MAC with 40.9 shooting percentage (67-of-164), while Noah Robotham Ranks No. 11 (.390, 46-of-118) and Kwan Cheatham, Jr. is No. 12 with a 38.9 percentage (74-of-190). Daniel Utomi leads the Zips in shooting percentage from behind the 3-point arc with a 43.1 percent effort on 25-of-58 shooting, but does not have enough attempts to be ranked. Tavian Dunn-Martin (.370, 30-of-81), Josh Williams (.381, 63-of-178), and Jimond Ivey (.344, 33-of-96) are keys in Akron's perimeter game.
The Zips rank among the nations best from behind the 3-point arc. The Zips rank No. 8 out of 347 teams in the NCAA for 3-point FG made per game with 10.2 triples. In addition, Akron is No. 4 overall in total 3-pointers made with 356, and ranked 5th for 3-point attempts at 950. As a result, the Zips 37.5 long distance percentage ranks 65th best.
Four Zips Averaging Double Figures
Four Zips are averaging double figures in scoring led by Johnson's 16.8 points per game while fellow senior Kwan Cheatham, Jr. is tied for second with 11.0 points per game as Antino Jackson also averages 11.0 points. Jimond Ivey rounds out the double-digit scorers with 10.1 points per game. Noah Robotham and Josh Williams follow closely with 8.9 and 7.5 points, respectively. Five players have scored in double figures seven times this season, including the starters twice. In the UMES game, all five starters scored double-digits for the first time since March 10, 2009, and the Zips matched that feat as the starters did it again against Western Michigan (1/24). Johnson ranks No. 7 overall in the MAC for scoring while Cheatham and Jackson are 29th and 30th.
The Zips secured their 21st win for the 12th consecutive season thanks to a 12-game winning streak and bouncing back with three wins over Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and Toledo. In addition, the Zips completed a 30-game home-court winning streak at Rhodes Arena, setting the facility record, which spanned three seasons from 1985-87 under head coach Bob Huggins (26 games). The Zips rattled-off 13 consecutive wins this season at Rhodes Arena over American, Radford, Georgia Southern, Adrian, Coppin State, Marshall, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Ball State, and Toledo. In addition, Akron won 12 consecutive regular season MAC games, dating back to the 2015-16 season, second most in Dambrot's tenure. The win over Ball State moved Akron to 20-4 on the season, which ties the fastest UA team to reach 20 wins in Akron's Division I era. The 2012-13 team reached the 20-win plateau on Feb. 13, 2013 (20-4, 24 games).
Akron's home-court winning streak was the second longest in the NCAA and dated back to the 2014-15 season. Akron won the final two home games that season over Ohio and Northern Illinois, and posted an unblemished 15-0 record in 2015-16 at Rhodes Arena. After a loss to Kent State, the Zips are 175-24 with an 87.9 winning percentage at the JAR. Akron's previous loss came Feb. 21, 2015 against Miami (57-52).
Another Breakout Moment
Redshirt freshman Daniel Utomi received his first start on Saturday, Jan. 14, against Miami. The Houston, Texas native took full advantage of the moment, scoring 15 points. Utomi started the game on fire, knocking down five 3-pointers on five attempts in the first half. For the game, he went 5-of-7 from the field and 5-of-6 from deep with a career-best three steals and a rebound. He followed with three-straight games of at least five points, and then exploded for a career-high 19 points against Eastern Michigan with a perfect shooting night from behind the 3-point arc. He shot 5-of-5 from 3-point land and finished the game shooting 6-of-7 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the charity stripe. Utomi added a 16 point effort against Kent State with a 4-of-4 performance from deep.
Chop-ing Up the Competition
Senior forward Kwan Cheatham, Jr. has emerged as one of the Zips leaders in all areas of the game. Cheatham scores a second-best 11.0 points per game and leads the team shooting efforts behind the 3-point arc. He ranks No. 12 in the MAC at 38.9 percent, and has buried a team-high 76 triples (2.2 per game No. 8 in MAC) and connects from the charity stripe with a team-best 80.7 percent (46-of-57). In addition, he is a leader on the glass, pulling down 7.1 rebounds per game (250) with a team-high 197 defensive boards and 53 offensive grabs. Cheatham is tied as the Zips' leading rim protector with 34 blocked shots while adding 63 assists and 18 steals. Cheatham earned MAC East Player of the Week on Jan. 30.
Zips Continue to Feed the Dog
Last season, Isaiah Johnson was a force in the paint for the Zips, and this year, he proves to be even better. Johnson leads the Zips' scoring efforts with 16.8 points per game, scoring double digits in 32-of-35 games including 17-of-the-last-18 outings. Johnson buried a 16-foot shot from the wing as the buzzer sounded to lift the Zips to 65-63 home win over Ball State. Big Dog has led the Zips' scoring efforts in 19-of-35 games, while posting a career-high 33-point performance against Central Michigan. He has seven double-doubles this season, including the MAC quarterfinal game with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Big Dog ranks No. 9 in the NCAA for FG percentage, shooting 62.5 percent from the floor (220-of-352), and pulled down a team-high 254 rebounds with 154 defensive boards and 100 on the offensive end. He leads in assists (100) and blocks (32) with 17 steals. Big Dog earned the MAC Player of the Year, All-MAC Tournament Team, Savannah Invitational MVP award, MAC East Player of the Week (three times, 11/28, 1/16, and 2/10), College Sports Madness Player of the Week, and Sun Bowl All-Tournament team.
Thriving in A New ROLE
With the loss of two starters and a third key player from the Akron's 2015-16 MAC Championship run, more minutes have been available for junior guard Jimond Ivey, and he has made the most of his time on the court. Ivey has played himself into the starting lineup after three starts due to an injury to point guard Noah Robotham. Now, Ivey is thriving in his new role, making 28 starts in 35 games. He has scored in double digits 20 times and 14-of-the-last-23 games, including a career-high 23 points and a personal best 12 rebounds. In addition, he posted two double-doubles against American (12 pts/11 rebs.) and Kent State 14 pts/12 rbs.).
In 35 games, Ivey averages 29.1 minutes with 10.1 points and ranks seventh in the MAC with a 52.3 shooting percentage from the field. He drained 123-of-235 shots and leads the team with 39 steals. Ivey is third on the squad with 5.7 rebounds per game, hauling in 200 total rebounds with 153 defensive and 47 offensive boards.
The Zips Sixth Man
Sophomore Josh Williams is a career 38.4 percent shooter from long distance, knocking down 124-of-323 triples to date. The Akron, Ohio native started nine games this season, and now is the Zips' sixth man, leading Akron's second unit. He has buried a second-best 66 long distance buckets on 183 attempts while averaging 7.5 points per game. Williams matched a career-high 18 points against UC Irvine, burying six 3-pointers on nine attempts.
In 34 games, Williams averages 21.9 minutes while shooting 38.5 percent from the field, 85-of-221. In 28 trips to the charity stripe, Williams collected 18 bonus buckets while pulling down 65 rebounds (1.9 rebs/g) and dishing out 26 assists with 17 steals.
Fire and Ice
We are not talking hot and cold, rather high intensity and fast play mixed with a methodical calculated approach to describe Akron's backcourt. The combination of junior guards, Antino Jackson and Noah Robotham, provide the Zips' with that type of leadership. Both, Jackson (Fire) and Robotham (Ice) are a threat with or without the ball in their hands.
Jackson, and his high-energy approach, is always in attack mode. He has the ability to beat an opponent off the bounce and uses a devastating step back to generate several different types of open looks. He is third in team scoring (11.0 ppg), and has buried 67 long distance field goals. He shoots 43.8 percent from the field and 40.1 from deep and owns a second-best 39 steals, while adding 2.7 assists (95) and 2.4 rebounds per game (84).
On the other hand, Robotham has a methodical approach to navigating the offense and picking apart defenses. His change of pace during play keeps defenders on their heels as he contributes 8.9 points per outing following a career-high 27-point performance against Marshall. He has 98 assists (3.1 ast/g) and 25 steals. He shoots 40.7 percent from the floor and 38.8 from behind the 3-point arc, burying 47 triples this season.
The Akron Zips continue to improve its bench play this season with the help of five newcomers, two freshmen and three redshirt freshmen, whom are beginning to see more and more action. Playing in all 35 games is freshmen Tavian Dunn-Martin. After 16 straight appearances, freshman Michael Hughes was sidelined with an injury, while second-year freshmen, Emmanuel Olojakpoke, Daniel Utomi, and Craig Eubanks are starting to see their roles increase.
Dunn-Martin has made an immediate impact from the outside, draining 32-of-84 long distance shots for a 38.1 3-point FG shooting percentage. In 10.5 minutes a game, Dunn-Martin owns a 39.5 FG shooting percentage (47-of-119) en route to adding 4.0 points per game. As a backup point guard, Dunn-Martin has dished out 38 assists and made 18 trips to the charity stripe, draining 14 bonus buckets for a 77.8 free throw percentage.
After missing six games, Hughes returned to action against Ohio and buried two free throws. In 7.4 minutes per game in the center position, he has scored 35 points and pulled down 23 rebounds with 10 blocked shots and five steals.
Olojakpoke is a rim protector who managed to block four shots against Coppin State. In 31 games and 6.0 minutes on average, Olojakpoke is shooting 68.6 percent on 35-of-51 shots from the field and has pulled down 42 rebounds with 20 blocked shots.
Meanwhile, Utomi has a knack for scoring the ball. He shoots 45.7 percent from the floor on 43-of-94, including a 45.7 percent effort from downtown. In 9.5 minutes per game, Utomi has connected with 25-of-58 shots from deep while adding 33 rebounds, nine steals, eight assists, and a blocked shot. Rounding out the newcomer play is Eubanks. He provided a spark in 26 minutes of work, knocking down 3-of-5 shots, including 2-of-4 from long distance with one rebound and one blocked shot.
The Akron basketball team will look to advance to the third round of the NIT and looks for its fourth tournament win in school history. The Akron-UT Arlington winner will play the winner of the No.4 Colorado State and No. 8 CSU Bakersfield. Fans can also follow the action on ESPNU, WatchESPN/ESPN3, GoZips.com via live stats, or by Zips' radio broadcast on Akron-IMG Sports Network available at SportsRadio1350.com, iHeart Radio, and TuneIn.com/Akron Zips.
21 WINS, 12 STRAIGHT SEASONS
The Akron Zips recorded its 21st win of the season on ESPNU, using 18 long distance shots and a 52.9 percent shooting effort from downtown to defeat Eastern Michigan 87-76 at the EMU Convocation Center on Friday night.
Under 13th-year head coach Keith Dambrot, the Akron basketball program has won at least 21 games in 12-straight seasons , something only a handful of Division I programs have accomplished. In fact, Akron, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Ohio State are the only programs to post 11-straight 21-win seasons, and of those five teams Akron, Gonzaga, Duke, and Kansas are the only programs to already accomplish that feat this year.
The Zips had five players score in double figures led by redshirt freshman Daniel Utomi (Houston, Texas) with a career-high 19 points. Utomi was perfect from beyond the 3-point arc, draining 5-of-5 shots from downtown and finishing 6-of-7 from the floor with a 2-of-2 effort from the free throw line in 15 minutes of action.
AKRON SECURES MAC REGULAR-SEASON TITLE, DEFEATS BUFFALO 89-83
The Akron Zips secured a share of the Mid-American Conference regular-season title after defeating Buffalo, 89-83, in front of a sold-out crowd at Alumni Arena on Friday night. With the win, Akron moved to 23-6 overall and 13-3 in league play, and a win or Ohio loss away from clinching the No. 1 seed for the MAC Tournament with sole possession of the regular season title
For the seventh time this season, five Zips scored in double figures led by senior center Isaiah Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) with 19 points and six rebounds. Junior Noah Robotham (Las Vegas, Nev.) and sophomore Josh Williams (Akron, Ohio) added 16 and 15 points, respectively, while junior Antino Jackson (Houston, Texas) and sophomore Jimond Ivey (Cleveland, Ohio) followed with 14 and 13. All four players went 3-of-4 from long distance, combining for 12 of the Zips 13 made 3-pointers. Blake Hamilton led the Bulls with 23 points. Willie Conner followed with 18 points, while CJ Massinburg and Nick Perkins added 17 and 13.
For the game, Akron shot 59.1 percent from behind the 3-point arc and 56 percent from the field (28-of-50) compared to the Bulls shot 41.1 percent effort from the floor (23-of-56) and 30.4 percent from deep (7-of-23). In addition, Buffalo scored 30 points at the charity stripe in an 81.1 percent performance (30-of-37). The Bulls won the battle of the boards 42-22.
Zips' Win Streak Reaches 30 Games, Dambrot Earns 300th Win at Akron
The Akron Zips erased an 11-point second-half deficit and defeated the Toledo Rockets, 71-65, on Spectrum Sports Network at James A. Rhodes Arena. The win was the 30th consecutive victory at James A. Rhodes Arena for the Zips and also marked the 300th career victory for head coach Keith Dambrot. In addition, the win against the Rockets halted a four-game skid for the Zips.
Senior forward Kwan Cheatham, Jr. led the way for the Zips with a game-high 21 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Senior center Isaiah Johnson added 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while junior guard Antino Jackson rounded out the Zips in double-digit scoring efforts with 13 points. Steve Taylor poured in 13 points and pulled down 13 boards for the Rockets. Nate Navigato added 13 points and Jonathan Williams chipped in 12 points and seven assists.
For the contest, the Zips shot 41.3 percent (26-of-63) from the field and connected on 35.5 percent (11-of-31) of their shots from beyond the arc. From the free throw line, the Zips converted 53.3 percent (8-of-15) of their attempts. The Rockets were successful on 43.4 percent (23-of-53) percent of their attempts from the floor and 37.5 percent (9-of-24) from downtown. Toledo converted 58.8 percent (10-of-17) of their free throw attempts.
Johnson Buzzer Beater LiftS Zips to 29th Straight Win at Rhodes Arena
Isaiah "Big Dog" Johnson continued his dominant season, hitting a 16-foot jumper from the wing as time expired to give the Akron Zips a 65-63 victory over the Ball State Cardinals. The victory marks the 29th consecutive win at James A. Rhodes Arena, which is the second-best home-court winning streak in the country behind Oregon (40). Johnson led the way for the Zips, scoring 20 points and pulling down a game-high nine rebounds. Jimond Ivey (Cleveland, Ohio) chipped in 10 points and Antino Jackson added eight points and five assists. Franko House paced the Cardinals in scoring with 18 points and seven rebounds and Ryan Weber added 16 points.
For the game, Akron converted 42.6 percent (26-of-61) of their attempts from the floor and shot 67 percent (8-of-12) from the charity stripe. Ball State shot 43.1 percent (22-of-51) from the floor and converted 76.9 percent (10-of-13) of their free throw attempts. The Zips outscored the Cardinals 40-24 in the paint and pulled down 11 offensive rebounds in the contest.