Just like Saturday's win at BG, Akron tightened its defense and implemented a more effective offense down the stretch to beat arch-rival Kent State, 78-68.
The talent level between Akron and Kent has been almost identical during the Keith Dambrot era.
The difference has always been experience.
When the second half wound down in the first two years, KSU gained momentum while Akron played not to lose. Tonight, we saw evidence those intangibles -- which helped Kent win several big games -- have swung to Akron's advantage.
As soon as the crowd intensified, Akron went on a run. Meanwhile, the Flashes ball handler looked like a runt trapped in the corner by three massive class bullies. They fumbled the ball, shot airballs and traveled, giving the Zips even more momentum to turn a four-point second-half deficit to a double-digit lead.
Just like Saturday's win, the difference was Cedrick Middleton, who scored 25 points, including the game-turning 3-pointer that gave Akron a seven-point lead. Dru Joyce (18 points, five assists) and Romeo Travis (16 points, eight rebounds) also played terrific games.
As I expected, Armon Gates played well. He connected on five of 11 3-point attempts for a total of 21 points. The Flashes enjoyed decent success driving to the basket, particularly with Julian Sullinger, who scored 15.
Although Omni Smith scored only eight, he contributed much more by drawing double-teams in the paint, allowing Mike Scott and Sullinger to crash the weak-side boards.
Kent State played fairly well and shot 48 percent from the field. I like Jim Christian's offense. Its double screens and backdoor passes are fun to watch. The Flashes got plenty of easy buckets that way.
KSU will win a lot of games in the MAC this season. I just wouldn't count on a young team like this with chemistry problems, shooting woes and inexperience to advance past the conference semifinals.
I'll have more on the game tomorrow. A change in the starting lineup could be necessary now that Nick Dials is becoming just a role player on offense and Middleton is nearly unstoppable at times.