January 24, 2009

Zips zap Flashes

Akron used its home-court advantage and sophomore forward Brett McKnight's career high 29 points to hold off Kent State's second-half surge in a 68-54 victory on Saturday at James A. Rhodes Arena.

At the end of the first half it looked as though the Zips (10-8, 2-3 Mid-American Conference) were going to make quick work of the Flashes (8-11, 1-4 MAC) as Akron went into the locker room with a 14-point lead.

The Flashes got themselves together at halftime and were able to make it a game.

Junior forward Anthony Simpson's 11 second-half points and nine rebounds allowed Kent State to claw its way back, and five minutes into the half the Flashes only trailed by six. Simpson finished his day with a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.

"Anthony Simpson was fantastic for us, [but] you're not going to win a rivalry game on the road when only one guy shows up and plays well," Kent State coach Geno Ford said. "It's going to be tough to win on the road or anywhere [when that happens].

Senior guard Al Fisher, who committed six turnovers, faced foul trouble and struggled most of the game. He was on the bench during most of Kent State's run, but came into game and hit a big three with nine minutes to go, cutting Akron's lead to one.

Shortly after that, Brandon Parks connected on a short jump hook to give the Flashes a one-point lead.

However, after taking the lead, the Flashes went cold.

To make matters worse, junior forward and team leader Chris Singletary fouled out with less than six minutes to play.

It was the second consecutive tough Saturday afternoon for Kent State's "Big Three" (Fisher, Singletary and junior guard Tyree Evans), as the Flashes' most recognizable players only combined to shoot 9-of-34 from the field, after shooting just 8-of-30 last week against Miami.

"The big three have struggled," Ford said. "We explained to them after the game, reputation and production have got to match up."

Akron coach Keith Dambrot said shutting down the big three was key to getting the victory.

"We told our guys before the game that you can't let any of the big three hit a homerun on you--you can't let them beat you by themselves," he said. "I couldn't have drawn it up any better as far as Singletary [scoring] 10, Fisher [scoring] eight and Tyree Evens [scoring] eight. The big three didn't clobber us."

At the four and a half minute-mark, with the game getting out of reach for Kent State, Akron's McKnight led a fast break that resulted in a high-flying jam to bring the raucous Akron crowd of 4,100 to its feet.

"After that dunk, in my head, I knew the game was over," McKnight said.

The Flashes return home on Tuesday when they'll try and end their three game losing streak against Eastern Michigan (1-3, 3-15 MAC).

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