Akron vs Ohio Preview
The Zips closed their regular season by winning three straight and eight of their last nine, finishing their conference slate 14-4 for the MAC title. They’re 24-7 overall.
Akron clinched the outright conference championship on Friday, besting the Kent State Golden Flashes 79-76 at home in each side’s regular season finale.
“I thought they were more physical and took it to us,” Zips head coach John Groce said, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “You do that in a game in March, start ordering Domino’s Pizza for Spring Break. You can’t do that. You’ve got to be tough for 40. I thought we were tough for about 30.”
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Akron forward Xeyrius Williams scored 22 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, both game highs. He shot 7-of-12 from the field and 3-of-7 from 3-point range.
Tyler Cheese dished a game-high 6 assists to go with 10 points and 9 boards. Fellow Zips guard Loren Cristian Jackson added 16 points and 4 assists.
“To be honest, it really doesn’t do anything,” Jackson said of claiming the title and the No. 1 seed, per the Akron Beacon Journal. “It just gives us a better season, being in the tournament, but we have bigger goals than just being the MAC champion. We have to enjoy this but, now we have to worry about the next game.”
The Zips bested Ohio by single digits in each of the sides’ two meetings this season, winning on the road on Jan. 25 then triumphing at home on March 3.
The Bobcats, who went 8-10 during the conference regular season for the tournament’s eighth seed, crushed the Central Michigan Chippewas 85-65 at home in the first round on Monday, improving to 17-15 on the year.
Ohio forward Ben Vander Plas, who missed the team’s regular season finale with an ankle injury, returned to score 25 points and grab 10 rebounds, leading all participants in both categories. He also dished 7 assists, tying Bobcats guard Jason Preston for the game high. Preston added 21 points.
“Awesome game by our guys,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said, according to the school’s athletics department website. “I’m really proud of their effort and preparation. I want to thank the dance team, the cheer team and the band for being here over spring break. It added to the atmosphere. I think all year long the town of Athens has stepped up and supported this team. A lot of places I go, they love who they (the student-athletes) are off the court. They love how hard they play and love how they play together. I think you could sense that all year. And I’m really happy those guys turned out for a first-round MAC game.”