Akron played terrible basketball for about 37 minutes but gathered momentum to score the game's final eight points to get the 56-52 win.
The play of the game was a blocked shot by Zeke Marshall with 15 seconds left when CMU had a chance to tie the game.
"Zeke made some high-major plays when it mattered," coach Keith Dambrot said on the postgame radio show. "He really has a lot to learn, but he helped us win tonight."
Because of 20 offensive rebounds and 17 Akron turnovers, the Chippewas attempted 63 field goals, compared to 44 for the Zips. However, Akron outshot CMU, 43 percent to 29 percent.
With 1:19 to play, Chris McKnight tied the game on a layup. Marshall rebounded a missed Jordan Bitzer 3-point attempt. CMU fouled Steve McNees, who made two free throws with 30 seconds left to take the lead.
After Marshall swatted the Chippewas' attempt to tie, Humpty Hitchens made two more free throws to extend Akron's lead to four, which iced the game.
"We competed when it mattered. We made every play when it mattered," Dambrot said. "Other than that, we struggled."
The Zips were without Brett McKnight, who was suspended. Coming off a career game, Nik Cvetinovic fouled out with 4:40 to play in the second half, having scored only four points. Marshall grabbed nine rebounds in their stead.
McNees led Akron with 16 points, including 4-of-4 on 3-pointers and 4-of-4 on free throws. As a team, Akron made all 12 free-throw attempts. Bitzer led CMU with 20 points.
"Winners win. Our guys believed they could win, even though they weren't good," Dambrot said. "We learned a lesson without getting beat, and that's the main thing."
Only 760 fans watched the game in Mount Pleasant, Mich., because of the snow.
Akron returns home after the long weekend on the road to play Ohio on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Zips are a half-game behind Kent State for the MAC lead. The Flashes host Ball State tomorrow.
"We're going to have to play a helluva lot better than we did tonight if we want the big prize," Dambrot said, referring to the MAC Tournament championship.