The University of Akron withstood a frontal assault from host Miami University and remained unbeaten in the Mid-American Conference with a 54-50 at Millett Hall on Saturday.
Forward Demetrius Treadwell led the Zips (19-4, 10-0) with 13 points and six rebounds, followed by guard Brian Walsh with 12 points.
Guard Allen Roberts led the RedHawks (8-14, 3-7) with 11 points, followed by Drew McGhee and Reggie Johnson, with 10 each.
The Zips struggled for much of the game, not grabbing hold of the victory until its waning moments. Miami used a 13-1 run in the first half to take a 25-16 halftime lead.
More impressively, Miami kept UA center Zeke Marshall (nine points, five rebounds, four blocks) in check in the middle.
UA made just 24 percent of its first-half shots and turned the ball over eight times to put the game’s outcome into question. But as has been the case on several occasions this season, the Zips mustered the will and just enough offense to mount a comeback.
“They did a good job. They pressured the ball,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said of the RedHawks’ defense. “They have one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league in Quinten Rollins and Geovonie McKnight is a good pressure guy. They made it hard for us to get inside and we had our struggles. We just gutted it out.”
Marshall was bottled up on offense but still made an impact on defense. And although the RedHawks clogged the middle and didn’t allow him easy baskets, Treadwell still got his share.
“He did a good job,” Dambrot said of Treadwell. “I thought he made some big defensive plays at the end. I think they drove in there and Zeke was standing there and they were indecisive.”
The Zips opened the second half with a quick 6-0 burst to blunt any momentum that Miami possessed going into halftime and cut their deficit to 25-22.
Miami eventually answered and ran the lead to 34-26 with 12 minutes left in the game.
Then the Zips went back to work. They went on a 15-2 run to take a five-point lead with 6:20 left in the game.
During that span, they held the RedHawks without a score from the floor.
Near the end of the run, UA’s steely freshmen contributed huge baskets. Reggie McAdams made a 3-pointer at the 7:25 mark to give the Zips a 38-36 lead. Seconds later, McAdams delivered defensively as well, stealing the ball from McKnight. After a miss by point guard Alex Abreu, the Zips regained control and freshman Jake Kretzer hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 41-36.
“Those guys are two good players,” Dambrot said. “They’re gutsy guys. They played well.”
The second-half play of McAdams and Kretzer lifted the UA reserves, who only scored one point in the first half. McAdams and Kretzer delivered nine of UA’s 12 points off the bench.
The game came down to whether the Zips could handle the pressure.
Dambrot said he didn’t yell at halftime. Instead, he wrote “splinter” or “gut up” on his locker-room chalkboard and challenged the team to do one or the other.
The results show in the final score.