When the situation looks bleak, the University of Akron women’s basketball team knows where to look for help — to the players wearing No. 15 and No. 22.
Anita Brown and Hannah Plybon — the Zips’ two leading scorers — came up huge Saturday afternoon in a tense 75-72 Mid-American Conference victory over Eastern Michigan at Rhodes Arena.
The Zips (11-9, 5-4) trailed by 12 early in the second half. Then Brown and Plybon combined for all but six of their team’s 39 points the rest of the way as UA halted a two-game losing skid.
Brown, a 5-foot-8 senior, scored 18 of her game-high 27 points in the second half. And Plybon, a 5-9 junior from Orrville, had 24 points including four 3-pointers.
“I’m just really proud of our team,” Zips associate head coach Melissa Jackson said. “They really fought hard. Went on a big run. These two right here [Brown and Plybon] really pulled it through.”
Jackson assumed head-coaching duties for the second consecutive game, filling in for Jodi Kest, who was tending to a family matter, according to a UA spokesman.
She is expected to return for the next game at Ball State on Wednesday night.
“It’s never easy,” Jackson said. “Some big shoes to fill for sure. The whole week, we just have been going through the same routine, the same practices. Same game plan. Coach Kest was very involved in the game plan all week and we really wanted to get the win for her and we’re glad we were able to do it.”
The Zips had also won at Eastern Michigan in overtime (68-65) Jan. 6. This time, the Zips had to weather an early long-range shooting barrage by EMU (13-7, 4-5), which made 5-of-6 3-point shots to lead 23-18 after one quarter.
“Just wanted it more than the other team,” Brown said. “We’ve been down plenty of times, so we don’t really worry too much about the score early in the game. We know if we play hard, we’ll be able to chip slowly and get back in the game.”
An odd five-point play put the Eagles up 41-34 at the half. After a video review and delay of several long minutes, Brown was charged with a flagrant foul. EMU then made 3-of-4 free throws, followed by a jump shot by Sheyna Deans.
“I thought it was a questionable call,” Jackson said. “Just got to play through it, whatever happens, happens. Our kids responded coming out in the second half.”
But EMU scored seven of the first nine to go up 48-36. The Zips then went on a 19-4 run, capped by Plybon’s 3-pointer, to take a 55-52 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“I struggled a lot during the first half,” Plybon said. “But coach Jackson always tells me ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting.’ Sometimes in the back of your head, you’re counting, 0-for-4, 0-for-5. But you just have to keep shooting and see what happens, I guess.”
A 3-pointer by the Eagles’ Janay Morton put EMU up 63-60 with 5:20 left. The Zips went ahead for good on back-to-back buckets by Brown, followed by a 3-pointer from the right corner by Alex Ricketts for a 67-63 lead.
EMU got within three on a pair of free throws by Cha Sweeney (23 points) with 5.6 seconds left. Brown then missed two from the line, but an attempted half-court heave by Morton (19 points) was blocked by Megan Barilla at the buzzer.