CLEVELAND: A little oil in the form of a timely run here, some more in the form of a little tenacious defense there and the Akron Zips walked off of the Cleveland State Vikings’ court at the Wolstein Center with a 73-61 victory Saturday afternoon.
It comes after the Zips spent much of the past three weeks — with the exception of an exhibition game — doing nothing but squaring off against one another.
“It really wasn’t about rust,” said Zips senior forward Nick Harney, who led all scorers with 15 points. “When you have a long break like that it’s about getting comfortable and feeling out the game.”
The layoff might have done some good as UA found its outside game — for at least this afternoon.
The Zips made 50 percent of their 3-pointers, connecting on 11-of-22 from beyond the arc, a feat that could be called a breakthrough considering during their first three regular-season games they hit just 16-of-60.
Harney led the Zips with 15 points followed by Reggie McAdams and Nyles Evans with 12 each.
That 3-point shooting ultimately paved the way to the Zips’ win as Evans connected on one with time expiring in the first half to give the Zips a 32-23 halftime lead.
“When it left his hands we all had a feeling,” Harney said. “I know I did. I had a feeling it was going in as soon as it left.”
The Zips then opened up the second half with 3s by guard Deji Ibitayo and McAdams to take a 38-23 lead that withstood assaults throughout the rest of the game.
“I think we really did a good job of finding our shooters,” coach Keith Dambrot said. “Quincy Diggs [seven assists] really made a lot of good sacrifices to get our guys [McAdams, Jake Kretzer] and Nyles made shots. When you have [them] out there with Q, you have a lot of shooting. We have to figure out how to use that lineup a little bit more at times.”
For Vikings coach Gary Waters the game came down to his team not executing. He rattled off the fact that his team missed 10 layups and 10 free throws.
“This is college basketball,” he said. “We didn’t play well at all today. We make half those layups and half those free throws and we win this game.”
As important as the game was to the Zips’ attitude and fortunes overall, it may have been more so for Evans, who has struggled during his past three games.
The effort might have come with a little prodding. Dambrot said, half jokingly, that Evans came close to quitting the team.
“Coach has been on me a lot this week,” Evans said. “We haven’t played a game in so long; I was just getting more comfortable every day coming to practice. My teammates have been behind me. I knew I could play, it was just about adjusting to the game as much as possible.”
Harney said that this is what they expected from Evans. Dambrot agreed and said that if this is Evans’ breakthrough game, it’s a milestone.
“It’s important now because when you take [Alex] Abreu out of the mix, at least you’ve got a point guard who can shoot the ball which is important and a good mix with Carmelo Betancourt,” he said.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.