March 10, 2008

Fisher's three saves the day

With just two minutes left in the rivalry game between Akron and Kent State many fans began to head for the James A. Rhodes Arena exits.

Boy, did they miss out.

The Zips forced the Flashes into four turnovers during the last two minutes to erase a 13 point deficit and tie the game at 58 on Akron senior forward Jeremiah Wood's uncharacteristic 3-pointer at the top of the key with just eight seconds remaining.

Just enough time remained for Kent State junior guard Al Fisher to race up the right sideline and raise up over Akron senior guard Nick Dials and splash an epic 3-pointer as time expired giving the Flashes a closer than it needed to be 61-58 victory.

"That's what happens in rivalries," Kent State coach Jim Christian said. "It's the things that people remember for a long time."

For the first 38 minutes the game wasn't nearly that exciting. Behind a stingy and relentless defense the Flashes swarmed the Zips in the first half and forced them into all kinds of zany shots. Dials threw up circus like lay-ups and fade-away 3's as he was hounded by Kent State junior guard Jordan Mincy all night.

"I can't talk enough about (Mincy)," Christian said. "The pressure he puts on the ball, it's almost like a blitzing linebacker in football. He takes you out of things and that's what the does. He extends them so far out in the court."

The Zips struggled so bad during the first half that they didn't connect on a field goal until senior guard Cedrick Middleton stroked a 3-pointer from the corner with over five minutes already off the clock. Even then, the struggles weren't over.

With Just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half Middleton hoisted an ill-advised air ball. Dials then followed up with a 3-point shot attempt over Kent State senior forward Mike Scott. Scott deposited the ball into the Kent State bench.

Akron senior forward Quade Milum then air balled a 3 on the next possession. At halftime the Zips had just four field goals and trailed 32-15. Their lowest scoring output this season.

"You take bad shots, you shoot 4-24," Akron head coach Keith Dambrot said. "We took quick, rushed shots. That has not been our formula. I give them credit they forced us into those."

The Zips never really seemed to turn it around in the second half either, but the Flashes were nearly just as bad then. A battle of attrition ensued.

After scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds in the first half, Scott disappeared. He had just a point and a rebound in the second half as well as two crucial turnovers in the final minutes.

Akron freshman Brett McKnight chipped in two of his 11 points with one minute 52 seconds left on the clock pulling the Zips within 11 points, 42-55.
Then, under the pressure of the Akron press, Kent State sophomore guard Chris Singletary coughed up the ball leading to a Wood lay up.

Kent State junior Isaac Knight took his turn buckling under the pressure, which was converted into a Brett McKnight dunk. The score was now 48-55.

Wood hit two big free throws, while Kent State's Haminn Quaintance, who split his two free throws, and Rodriquez Sherman could not. Another Wood dunk got the score to 52-56.

"They were very aggressive during that stretch," Christian said. "Got their hands on a lot of basketballs and we missed a couple free throws that gave them a little momentum."

The Akron pressure was still intense on the inbound. Scott tried to pop a pass to Quaintance above Wood's outstretched hand. The ball popped into the air and into the hands of Sherman who raced down the court for a dunk with 28 seconds remaining.

But Akron wasn't done. Dials, who struggled all game finally connected on a 3-pointer to bring the score to 58-55. Three Zips swarmed Scott on the inbound and forced yet another turnover giving Wood the opportunity to splash his 3-pointer form the top of the key with just eight seconds left.

It was then Al Fisher's time to make another bid for MAC player of the year.

"I was going to try and get a shot up or find somebody who could get an easy shot," Fisher said. "I thought there was going to be pressure but when I turned around and didn't see anything. I was like okay, I'll take it."


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