One last nonconference opponent provided a low-stress tuneup for the University of Akron men's basketball team Sunday.

A home crowd of 2,446 got its first look at the Zips since Dec. 18 and was treated to a convincing 82-55 victory over Carnegie Mellon at Rhodes Arena.

It was a satisfying return to action for the Zips (8-5), who last played in a 68-62 loss at Nevada eight days earlier. They jumped out to a big early lead and were never seriously challenged.

UA begins Mid-American Conference play by hosting Western Michigan at 2 p.m. Saturday. From the looks of things Sunday, the Zips are ready and able.

"The real deal starts next weekend," Zips coach John Groce said. "It's going to be a great challenge. I think the league's as strong as it's ever been in the six years I've been in the league."

Concluding nonleague play on a strong note was important, according to Groce, who got the players together last week after the Christmas break.

"We wanted to address some of the things we saw in the Nevada game we were disappointed with that we could have controlled from an execution standpoint," Groce said. "I thought the guys were really locked in, and I thought we got better over the last three days."

They took an immediate 8-0 lead. The Zips led 12-8 before a 13-0 run — six of those from 6-foot-9 sophomore Jaden Sayles — made it 25-8 with 13:29 left in the half.

It was 43-27 at halftime. A 19-4 burst, culminated by a resounding dunk by 6-11 sophomore Mark Kostelac, made it 72-42 with 8:01 remaining in the game.

"We did some good things offensively," Groce said. "Obviously, 17-7 assists to turn[overs]. Shot selection and ball movement was good. We struggled to make some free throws — we've got to do a little better there. Defensively, we were better in the second half than the first half."

Everyone participated in the fun. Four players scored in double figures, paced by 6-6 junior Daniel Utomi with 22 points.

Utomi made 5-of-9 3-point attempts and 8-of-15 overall. He was among three Zips with six rebounds apiece.

"It's not an accident the guy's become a good player," Groce said. "He works. He earns everything that's come his way. It's great to have that example for the guys in our locker room."

Junior Channel Banks scored 13 points and junior Tyler Cheese had 12. Jimond Ivey, a 6-5 senior who reached 1,000 career points two games earlier, scored 11 with a game-high seven assists.

The Zips made 31-of-63 shots, 11-of-30 on 3-pointers, but just 9-of-19 free throws. They had a 40-33 rebounding advantage.

Cooper Williams led Carnegie Mellon with 12 points. The Tartans (4-7) made five of their first nine 3-point shots, but just 2-of-14 after that.