The Zips looked hopeless midway through the first half, trailing 55-51. Then freshman Nate Linhart went on a 7-0 run to give Akron a lead it would never relinquish.
Akron (18-5, 11-2) beat Eastern Michigan (5-16, 2-11) 77-72 Saturday night at EMU's Convocation Center in front of 1,805 fans.
Eastern shot 58 percent and Akron suffered from 11 turnovers in the first half. On top of that, EMU's John Bowler (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Carlos Medlock (six of seven on 3-point shooting, 24 points, eight assists) had huge games. Still, the Zips drove, dished, rebounded and made free throws to take over the sole conference lead.
"We had a hard time guarding them for most of the night," coach Keith Dambrot said in the post-game interview with Steve French. "But you just have to win those games and gut them out."
Five Zips scored in double figures, but not Dru Joyce (10 assists) or Romeo Travis (six points, seven rebounds, three blocks).
"We didn't get a great performance from our main guy (Travis)," Dambrot said. "It was a rough night for him."
Akron's main contributors were Cedrick Middleton (12 points, five rebounds, strong defense), Nick Dials (16 points), Darryl Peterson (11 points), Rob Preston (14 points, four rebounds) and Linhart (10 points).
Kent State plays Northern Illinois tomorrow to keep pace with Akron. Akron plays Bowling Green next at Rhodes Arena on Tuesday at 8.
"We have six games so every game is really important," Middleton said after the game.
Some side notes:
Other MAC action: