This might have been more what coach John Groce envisioned for the University of Akron men’s basketball season in Mid-American Conference play.

He could have done without the 13 turnovers (11 in the first half), but there was little disputing the effort on display Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena for his team that had been struggling in recent games. The Zips relied on their defense to give them an advantage in a 70-67 win over Central Michigan (14-5, 3-3 in MAC) in a rematch of a game they lost in overtime two weeks ago, withstanding a late barrage of 3-pointers in the process.

“We put a lot of pressure on our defense and we have to get better on offense,” Groce said.

Led by guards Tyler Cheese and Jimond Ivey, UA (11-8, 3-3) hung on in a fiercely fought game in which they drew to .500 in the MAC. Cheese tallied a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Ivey led UA with 15 points and pulled down four rebounds and had four assists.

Larry Austin led Central Michigan with 19 points and six rebounds.

Defensively, the Zips held the Chippewas to 39 percent shooting.

“I think we just wanted to get stops,” Cheese said, referencing the 70 percent shooting the Chippewas produced in the second half of their first game.

The Zips owe some of this victory to the Chippewas’ mediocre free-throw shooting. They shot 53 (10-of-19) percent from the line and UA made 17-of-23.

Despite enduring pressure for much of the game, the Zips gutted it out on offense and showed some patience early on, never trailing in the game.

They shot 37 percent from the floor (24-of-65), but the distinct difference from recent games is they showed patience and worked to get the right shot. That didn’t always pay dividends as the Zips struggled from the 3-point line, making just 5-of-27 in the game.

Point guard Loren Cristian Jackson said part of it came from the Zips’ ability to push the pace which gave them the ability to drive and kick the ball out. He acknowledged the team’s offensive miscues.

“We turned the ball over with our mistakes,” he said. “They didn’t make us turn the ball over.”

UA set the tone early, holding the Chippewas to 24 percent shooting in the first half to head into the locker room with a 29-22 lead. Those 22 points were the third fewest the Zips allowed in the first half all season. But they did their best work on the glass. Coming into the game ranked last in the MAC, the Zips outrebounded the Chippewas 46-42.

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.