By Senior Quincy Diggs scored 21 points and teammate Demetrius Treadwell added 13 points and seven rebounds and the University of Akron beat Ball State 72-68 at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind., Wednesday night.
“If those guys play well, we have a chance,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said.
UA definitely needed the duo against the Ball State. The Zips’ (9-5, 1-0) march to defend their Mid-American Conference crown in the opener for both teams played out in much the same way as the non-conference schedule — erratically.
UA shot just 40 percent from the floor and just 2-of-13 for 13 percent from the 3-point arc. The Zips were pounded on the boards 42-35 and were fortunate to win.
Forward Chris Bond led the Cardinals (3-9, 0-1) with 18 points and seven rebounds and Majok Majok followed with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Despite falling behind by 15 points in the first half, scrappy Ball State cut the lead to 34-28 at halftime, allowing them to stay in the game.
“We played really good defense early, but then kept them in the game at the foul line,” Dambrot said. “Any time a team shoots that many  free throws it’s hard to win, that’s for sure. We have to do a better job of keeping them off the free-throw line.”
The Cardinals took advantage of the opportunity eventually taking a 47-45 lead at the 11:10 mark in the second half, completing at 12-0 run.
The lead proved short-lived. UA fought back, eventually outscoring the Cardinals 22-10 in the next 8:54 to take a 67-57 lead with 2:13 left in the game, by no means a secure lead, but certainly a cushion that eventually held up despite Ball State fighting its way back behind the efforts of Bond and Majok and a lot of free throws.
At times it appeared as if the Zips were not only playing the Cardinals, but also battling the referees. With new foul rules in place this year, the officials blew their whistles liberally. The result was that at one point Ball State had taken more than double the number of trips to the free throw line as UA.
“I thought this game was called the closest of any game we’ve played all year,” Dambrot said.
The Zips opened the game with poise and in control, appearing as if they would dominate the Cardinals from end to end.
They slowly, methodically built a lead that began modestly enough, but ballooned to 15 points after two free throws from center Pat Forsythe. Holding a 27-12 lead at the 6:21 mark of the first half, the Zips imploded, allowing the Cardinals back in the game.
UA connected on just 3-of-14 shots to close out the half. Diggs saved the Zips’ lead by scoring their last seven points of the half.