The University of Akron men’s basketball team committed too many turnovers and shot poorly from the free throw line in a 68-63 loss to visiting Rhode Island on Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena.
The Rams (12-1) made a rally in the second-half after the Zips (10-4) held a 36-29 lead at halftime. The loss snapped UA’s six-game win streak and also ended their string of seven victories in a row at home. The Rams, who are receiving votes in both national polls this week, won their eighth game in a row.
Rams senior forward Lamonte Ulmer finished with game highs in points (20) and rebounds (11) and junior forward Delroy James scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Ulmer (6-foot-6 and 215 pounds) and James (6-foot-8 and 220 pounds) were each a difficult matchup for the Zips because of their length and quickness.
Senior guard Keith Cothran finished with 12 points and five rebounds for Rhode Island.
Junior forward Brett McKnight led the Zips with 13 points and had eight rebounds and two assists. Zips sophomore reserve forward Nikola Cvetinovic played with a lot of energy and finished with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Senior forward Jimmy Conyers grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds and scored eight points.
Rhode Island trailed 48-39 with 14:35 remaining in the second half, before outscoring UA 17-6 over the next 7:48. James scored 11 of his 19 points during the Rams run. He made two layups, a jump shot, two free throws and a 3-pointer before capping the run with a layup with 6:47 remaining, to give his team a 56-54 advantage and its first lead since being ahead 19-18 with 9:02 left in the first half.
The Zips overcame a 14-6 deficit in the first seven minutes of the game by putting together a 22-5 run to lead 28-19 with just over four minutes to play in the first half.
UA made 38.7 percent (24-of-62) of it shots from the field and Rhode Island made 35.9 percent (23-of-64) of its shots from the field.
The Zips held a 45-39 advantage in rebounds, but had 16 turnovers to the Rams 10.
Rhode Island shot 80 percent (16-of-23) from the free throw line and UA converted 61.1 percent (11-of-18).
UA was unable to consistently handle Rhode Island’s full-court pressure after successfully facing a full-court pressure in an 85-76 win over host Wyoming this past Wednesday night in Laramie, Wyo.
McKnight and sophomore guard Anthony ''Humpty'' Hitchens each scored 16 points to lead the Zips in that victory over the Cowboys. Conyers had 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds in the Wyoming win and junior guard Steve McNees contributed 14 points.
UA opens Mid-American Conference play on Saturday against Bowling Green at Rhodes Arena for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Akron coach Keith Dambrot
“There's no doubt, turnovers were the difference tonight. We made mistakes in the half court, but we didn't make them in the full court. We prepared heavily for the full court pressure, but I thought a lot of them were unforced. We just made bad decisions. I feel bad for our kids. We competed very hard in the first half. I thought we did a much better job rebounding the ball in the first than in the second. I think they hurt us when it really mattered, we didn't rebound when it really mattered and we didn't guard when it mattered and we certainly didn't make shots when it mattered.”
“We tried very hard and you can tell Rhode Island has won some games, that one's a heartbreaker for us because we probably played good enough to win. Defensively, especially the first half, we just did not make enough plays. We got the ball point blank, had a hard time scoring over them and then we missed free throws and open 3-pointers when it mattered. They made their shots and we didn't make ours.”
“We made some bad plays too, a combination of catching and passing. We did a poor job of that. Rhode Island is long and athletic, they've got a good team, not necessarily a good half court defensive team, which is probably what disappointed me the most. When it mattered, they played better defense than we did.”
Rhode Island coach Jim Baron
“It was a hard-fought game. It went back and forth. The difference was we were able to rebound the ball in the second half.”
“I told our guys we had to step it up and rebound the basketball on the defensive end, and, on the offensive end, we needed to get second and third shots. Our guys did a great job of doing that.”
Akron sophomore forward Nikola Cvetinovic
“We had them on the ropes. In the second half, we got anxious and didn't execute the plays.”
Note: For the record (and responding to a comment below), I did attend the Zips/Rams men's basketball game Tuesday night. I sat in the crowd with some family and friends and watched the game. After the game ended, I had to go back to the office to work on high school sports stuff. I posted this information in the early morning hours based on what I witnessed and by reading the box score. I also corrected the first sentence and adjusted the height and weight references regarding players.