The University of Akron used its deep bench Tuesday night at Ball State’s Worthen Arena to gain what could be a huge postseason advantage.
The Zips took advantage of superior offensive firepower from their bench and beat the Cardinals 70-58 to take control of their destiny in the Mid-American Conference.
With both teams coming in tied in conference play, the Zips’ victory gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker should it be needed when it comes to seeding the conference tournament.
Four Zips scored in double figures, with forward Quincy Diggs and guard Brian Walsh leading all Zips with 16 points each, followed by point guard Alex Abreu with 12 and Demetrious Treadwell with 11.
As the game opened, it looked as if the Zips were going to suffer an emotional letdown after their big win over Kent State University on Saturday. The Cardinals jumped off to a 9-0 lead powered by forward Jarrod Jones.
It took coach Keith Dambrot’s reserves, who play more impressively in each game, to get the Zips going.
“They played terrific,” Dambrot said. “They were big for us because we were in trouble for a while.”
The first order of business: Clamp down on Jones. Enter reserve forward Treadwell, who made an immediate impact by halting Jones’ momentum. In the process, he quickly scored five points himself.
“He did make a big impact,” Dambrot said, “but Zeke [Marshall] did a great job in the second half.”
Getting the offensive flow going was Dambrot’s next challenge. A barrage of 3-pointers, including two in a row by Abreu, helped erase the early deficit.
Dambrot said that Abreu has had few problems getting to the rim in recent games, but he also possesses the skills to hit those long-range jumpers.
“We feel like he’s been a good jump shooter,” he said, “he just has to get used to it.”
But even with that, the Zips proved that they can still be their own worst enemy at times as they turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, contributing to a 30-27 deficit.
Enter Diggs. The Cardinals held their last lead with 17:22 left in the game ahead 34-32. From then on, the Zips, led by Diggs, took over the game. The Zips went on a 30-17 run to close the Cardinals out.
While the win gives the Zips a heads-up in the MAC race, Dambrot knows things aren’t perfect.
“We have to start better, we know that,” he said.