Jordan Korinek showed what she could do without any pesky foul trouble limiting her playing time Saturday afternoon.

The Kent State senior poured in a career-high 31 points and the Golden Flashes reaped the benefits in an 81-60 victory over Southeastern Louisiana in the Akron Classic women’s basketball tournament at Rhodes Arena.

Whistled for two fouls barely two minutes into Friday’s matchup with Florida Gulf Coast, Korinek was limited to just 20 minutes on the court as the Golden Flashes suffered an 80-62 setback despite 19 points from the St. Vincent-St. Mary graduate.

With no foul trouble, and mostly man-to-man defense to deal with, Korinek thrived. She made 9-of-13 shots from the floor and missed only one of 14 free-throw attempts and Kent State (3-1) never trailed.

“I owe a lot to my teammates. They were looking to get the ball inside today because we had an advantage on height,” said Korinek, who also grabbed seven rebounds. “McKenna Stephens threw the ball in a lot and our guards were really focused on getting the ball inside.”

That they did. Korinek scored 17 points in 17 first-half minutes, and the Flashes built a 39-27 halftime advantage.

“Our team jokes a lot that every time I get the ball I dribble so they don’t get any assists,” she said. “I always dribble first. It’s definitely a lot of fun, getting out there playing, coming off a loss. Being able to have a big lead was fun.”

Ali Poole, a 6-foot sophomore guard, scored 10 of her 15 points in the third quarter when a 13-0 run increased a 41-29 lead to 54-29 with 5:43 left in the quarter.

It was 65-43 entering the fourth, and six consecutive points by Korinek made it 73-46 with 5:53 left.

Todd Starkey, now in his second year as coach, guided a turnaround in fortunes last season with a 19-13 record.

“We played solid at times today but we also played sloppy at times today,” Starkey said. “And our goal is to get more consistent, and that’s one of the things this team has struggled with early on. That’s what I’m looking for is for us to string together four good quarters.

“I was more pleased with our effort from the start today after not getting out to a good start [Friday].”

Poole, a new starter this year, enjoyed her best game of the season. She made 6-of-12 field goals and added five rebounds. She has become the second scoring option so far.

“It’s just kind of the way it’s fallen this year,” Poole said. “It hasn’t really been specifically put in my lap that I need to. I’m just trying to fill my role.”

And after last season’s success, there is expectation of winning, she said.

“This year, every time we walk in the gym, it’s like we’re-going-to-win-this-game mentality,” she said.

Kent State’s Merissa Barber-Smith, a 6-4 junior, scored nine points. Alexa Golden, a 5-9 junior, had seven points, seven rebounds and four assists. Naddiyah Cross, a 5-5 senior, also added seven points and four assists.

Stephens, a 6-0 graduate student, led the Flashes with 10 rebounds, adding five points.

Ashailee Bradley led three double-figure scorers for the Lions (0-5) with 14 points.

A trip to Las Vegas is next up for the Flashes. They will play No. 14-ranked Stanford on Thursday in the first of three games at the Play4Kay Showcase.

“I’m excited about it,” said Poole. “It’s just an opportunity. We’re kind of in the position [of] ‘What do we have to lose?’ We’re not expected to win this game, so give ’em heck.”

The University of Akron showed distinct differences from its season opener last week to Saturday night’s performance at Rhodes Arena against the University of Tennessee at Martin.

The biggest difference is the Zips came out with energy and sustained it in a 76-59 victory.

Guard Daniel Utomi led UA (2-0) with 32 points, highlighted by 8-of-11 shooting on 3-pointers. Point guard Malcolm Duvivier was next with 17 points, hitting 5-of-7 from deep, and added four rebounds.

Guard Matthew Butler and forward Fatodd Lewis scored 18 each for the Skyhawks (1-3).

After taking a 34-28 halftime lead, the Zips withstood an early second-half spurt by the Skyhawks that made it 39-37.

Akron coach John Groce said he wasn’t overly worried, though. He said he preferred to concentrate on the mental aspect of how the Zips lost the lead as opposed to getting overly emotional about it.

Skyhawks coach Anthony Stewart saw those early moments of the second half as an opening.

“We tried to emphasize playing inside out, but we didn’t get it done on the defensive end,” he said. “Our defense let us down.”

That two-point deficit was as close as the Skyhawks got, as UA outscored UT Martin 37-22 the rest of the way.

The main reason was the Zips made like mad bombardiers from 3-point range, connecting on 13-of-29 (45 percent) from behind the arc, with six of those coming in the second half. The Skyhawks hit 6-of-18 from deep.

Scoring inside wasn’t emphasized. The Zips worked the ball around the 3-point line until an acceptable shot opened and then they generally took it without hesitation.

The Zips ended the night with 18 assists on 25 made shots.

“You can’t live or die by the 3 but I think it’s going to be one of our stronger suits,” Duvivier said. “If they’re there, we’re going to take it.”

A look at the stats would seem to scream that the Zips, shellacked 30-12 in the paint, should have lost. Groce said part of the problem stemmed from a lack of familiarity with the Skyhawks.

“Guys will get better at scouting,” he said.

The Skyhawks bench outscored UA’s 32-10. UT Martin also beat the Zips on the glass 12-9 and scored 15 points off 14 UA turnovers.

With the victory, however, the Zips can take positives from the game, Groce said.

“Obviously, we’ve made progress over the last week,” he said. “I knew we would shoot the ball better over the course of games. … We’ve by no means arrived. We still have a long way to go and, quite honestly, tonight we had some guys who played up to their potential and some guys who didn’t.”

Groce said he looked at that optimistically.

“I think it shows that we can be better,” he said.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected].

The Walsh University women’s cross country team was 12th, led by Sarah Berger’s (Wadsworth) second-place finish, at the NCAA Division II National Championships in Evansville, Ind. The Cavaliers finished with 370 points. Adams State won the women’s team crown.

Berger’s time of 20:52.1 was just off of Alaska Anchorage’s Caroline Kurgat’s winning time of 20:32.2. Malone’s Jade Smith (Lake), competing as an individual, was 20th overall to also earn All-American honors.

The Walsh men had their best showing since joining NCAA Division II, placing 22nd. Walsh was led by Jacob Kernell (Lake) who finished the race with a time of 32:28.8. He was 74th in the individual standings and received 62 points towards the team results.

Wrestling

The Naval Academy won its own Navy Classic wrestling tournament.

It was Navy’s first team title of the 40-year-old event since 2011.

Kent State tied Brown for ninth place. Casey Sparkman (Perry) and Kyle Conel led the Golden Flashes with fourth-place finishes.

Swimming and diving

• After 30 events of the Magnus Cup at Cleveland State, the University of Akron women’s swimming team leads the 15-team event. The Zips have 1,163.5 points through the second of three days.

• Kenyon won both the men’s and women’s team titles at the Malone Invitational at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton. The Malone men were third overall, led by Brice Dixon’s runner-up finishes in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100 butterfly.

The University of Akron learned firsthand Saturday the same thing Kent State discovered Friday.

Florida Gulf Coast has a very good women’s basketball team.

Deep and talented, the Eagles ran off to a big early lead and never looked back in defeating the Zips 82-63 to cap the two-day Akron Classic at Rhodes Arena.

And they handled the Zips in much the same fashion as they did the Golden Flashes in an 80-62 victory Friday.

There was no official champion in the two-day event, but make no mistake: the Eagles would wear the crown after their impressive performance.

“Florida Gulf Coast is the real deal,” Zips coach Jodi Kest said. “They’re a top 25 team. They have so many issues for a lot of teams. They’re very athletic. They can shoot the 3. They make extra passes. They make you play for 30 seconds.”

And Kest had still more praise for the Eagles.

“They defend, they are physical,” she said. “They get out in the passing lanes. They take away a lot of your stuff. So that’s a really good team. We knew we would be challenged today. Our kids enjoy playing those kind of teams. It’s going to help us down the road.”

The Zips (1-2), who defeated Southeastern Louisiana 66-54 Friday night, found themselves in an early hole from which there was no escape. FGCU (4-0) jumped out to an immediate 7-0 lead. And it held Akron scoreless for a 4:38 stretch, building the margin to 22-6.

It grew to 47-26 at halftime and 73-41 after three quarters.

The Zips outscored the Eagles 22-9 in the fourth quarter as some of the young players provided shining moments and made the final margin more palatable.

Nasrin Ulel, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, led FGCU with 18 points and was selected the tourney’s outstanding player. She was one of four Eagles to score in double figures. Ulel hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range and her team made 17-of-40 from long distance.

Megan Sefcik, a 5-10 sophomore guard, led Akron with 13 points and 5-6 freshman guard Destiny Perkins scored 10 points with four assists.

“[We] had an opportunity to play a lot of young kids,” Kest said. “I thought Destiny Perkins did a really good job. I thought Sarah [Leyendecker] did a good job. I thought we did a good job of fighting and not giving up.

“That’s the second time we’ve been down on teams and we continue to fight. So that tells me a lot about my team, and I think we’ll be encouraged after we watch the tape of this game.”

Leyendecker, a 6-4 freshman, scored seven points — 5-of-6 on free throws — and showed some nifty post moves. She also grabbed five rebounds in nine second-half minutes.

“We feel like we have a lot of kids on the bench that can contribute,” Kest said.

Starting point guard Shaunay Edmonds, a 5-4 sophomore, contributed nine points. Haliegh Reinoehl, a 6-1 sophomore forward, led the Zips with seven rebounds after scoring a career-high 21 points in the win over Southeastern Louisiana.

Taylor Gradinjan scored 16 points for FGCU and teammates Jessica Cattani and China Dow both added 11.

Haliegh Reinoehl had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the University of Akron women’s basketball team to a 66-54 victory Friday over Southeastern Louisiana at Rhodes Arena.

Shaunay Edmonds added 16 points, Caitlin Vari (Revere) 16 rebounds and seven points, and Greta Burry 10 rebounds and six points for the Zips (1-1).

Akron trailed 11-7 after one quarter, but outscored the Lions 19-10 in the second quarter to lead 26-21 at halftime. The lead peaked at 16 (39-23) in the third quarter, and it was 45-37 at the quarter stop.

More women’s basketball

Florida Gulf Coast got off to a fast start and cruised to an 80-62 victory over Kent State at Rhodes Arena.

The Golden Flashes (2-1) trailed 24-10 after the first quarter and 55-29 at the half.

Jordan Korinek (St. Vincent-St. Mary) led KSU with 19 points and five rebounds. McKenna Stephens (Lake) had seven points and 10 rebounds for the Flashes, who shot just 42 percent for the game.

Nasrin Ulel led Florida Gulf Coast (3-0) with 18 points and Tytionia Adderly added nine points and 10 rebounds.

University of Akron men’s basketball coach John Groce likes to win.

He prefers to win the right way. He understands that pretty losses — ones where his team will do everything the right way, shoot, rebound and the little things that many don’t see — will happen.

He also appreciates that ugly wins will happen. In that regard, he’d prefer to play the right way. Last week’s debut and win over Cleveland State falls somewhere in the middle.

“I thought we’d come out in the first half with a little bit more fight and aggressiveness than what we had to start the game,” Groce said after Thursday morning’s practice.

He called the Zips’ play against the Vikings tentative. In some ways it could be a reflection of a season still yet to unfold, one likely to be akin to a roller-coaster ride more than a cruise in a Lamborghini. Ups. Downs. Highs. Lows. The first half against the Vikings could be considered a perpetual low. The second half was significantly better.

“We did [pick up] the second half,” Groce said. “[We] came out the first few possessions and we were on the offensive glass. We played with a fearlessness, aggressiveness. We attacked.”

That second half is what he wants the team to take into Saturday night’s game against the University of Tennessee-Martin.

With so many new faces, it’s difficult to know what type of team the Zips are or how they will evolve as the season progresses.

Last Saturday, they battled back from an eight-point halftime deficit to claim a win. It’s as if they were not only feeling out the Vikings, but also one another and a UA crowd that most of them had not played in front of before.

They shot 26 percent from the floor in the first half. It wasn’t much better in the second when they shot 34 percent. The difference came in hustle, which allowed them to get to shoot 21 free throws in the second half. They made 18 of them.

“It was not a masterpiece by any means,” Groce said. “I was disappointed a little bit in our execution of what we were supposed to do in different schemes offensively and defensively.”

He would have much rather seen one team as opposed to the two different ones he saw.

“I’m trying to get them to be more consistent,” he said. “We’re trying to get them to value being consistent more. I think that’s important. Coaches always like to know what they’re getting day in and day out.”

That is why minutes, and perhaps, the starting lineup, will remain in flux. Groce and his staff will continue to try to find the right combination of players and rotations based on a number of factors, including matchups and merit.

A couple of players provided him with play to ponder against Cleveland State. Daniel Utomi could turn into a player who leads on and off the floor, and freshman Eric Parrish, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound guard, debuted with a 17-point effort.

But Groce continues to look for consistency, and he wants to see it in practice and in games.

In short, it needs to be part of the UA’s basketball culture. But he did see plenty of good things the Zips can use going forward.

“Now that we had the opportunity to win the game, the fact that we got behind and had to show some grit, had to pick ourselves up, had to show some courage and a little bit of toughness in the second half,” he said, “you hope that starts to seep in. We want to be tough, mentally, physically. We want to be together regardless of circumstance.”

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected].

University of Akron coach Terry Bowden declined to name a starting quarterback for the Zips’ pivotal rivalry game next week against Kent State.

Presumably, former starter Thomas Woodson, who has been suspended the past two weeks, will be available for the game, which is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at InfoCision Stadium Tuesday.

Bowden said in a Thursday news conference that his offense will have options at the quarterback position.

If Woodson returns, they will have an abundance of riches. But should he return?

“We’ve got some various options and we’ll make a decision at game time whether Tommy Woodson will play and how we’ll do that,” Bowden said.

No one outside of the UA coaching staff and sports administration is saying why Woodson received what has become a multigame suspension for a “violation of team rules.” For him to receive more than a one-game penalty, though, points to a serious infraction.

Had the incident come at the beginning of the season, the possibility that it could all be forgiven and mostly forgotten is a given. But now?

I won’t pretend to know why Woodson was suspended. Given the way he’s treated me — polite, answering questions as honestly as possible — I was disappointed after learning the news.

But should Woodson step right back into the starting lineup?

“We’ll make the right decision when it comes,” Bowden said. “We have a good understanding [of our players]. I’d hope all of our players are unselfish and that they’d want to do what’s best for the football team. When we make that decision, it will be based on what’s best for the football team and those circumstances.”

That’s pragmatic. Woodson — whether it was intentional or not — submarined his team at a crucial part of the season. The Zips are making a run at the Mid-American Conference East Division title and everything that comes with it — a shot at a conference title and a bowl appearance.

I only played football in high school, so what do I know? Trust issues likely exist among some on the team.

In the meantime, in Woodson’s place, Kato Nelson has stepped in and done his job and acquitted himself admirably. That was especially so against Ohio, when he connected on 22-of-38 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Zips to a 37-34 victory many didn’t think possible.

So that should be enough to solidify his standing for Tuesday’s game, right?

Not so fast.

“When we decide to make a two-game suspension, that was supposed to be the punishment,” Bowden said of Woodson. “That is the punishment. If that’s the punishment, that’s the punishment.”

Of course, that doesn’t really answer the question at hand and this could all merely be gamesmanship. Bowden’s playing a card in his deck to ensure the Golden Flashes are on their toes. It’s not like football coaches haven’t been accused of that before.

On to Kent State

Not that it needed it in these parts, but the Backyard Rivalry suddenly became a lot more significant given what’s on the line for UA.

The Zips can clinch the MAC East title, play for the conference championship in Detroit on Dec. 2 and claim a bowl bid. Should they extend their season to three games, they would also have the opportunity to put up the team’s best record (9-6) since entering the MAC. The previous best was an 8-5 record by the 2015 team that went to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Bowden, though, said he’s more worried about beating a Kent State team that’s been playing well in recent games. He also said the game carries plenty of importance on its own.

“Kent is our rival. It’s the Wagon Wheel game,” Bowden said. “That carries enough significance on its own that both of us want to win that game because of the nature of this rivalry.

“You can’t hide from this rivalry. It sits in your neighborhood. It sits in your grocery store. It sits in your office where graduates work. So you can’t get away from it like you can with so many other rivalries.”

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.

Ivan Rabb rarely missed, seven players scored in double figures and the Memphis Hustle overcame an early deficit to beat the host Canton Charge 124-117 Wednesday night at Canton Memorial Civic Center.

Rabb converted 9-of-14 field goals en route to a team-high 22 points for the Hustle (2-2).

JaCorey Williams more than matched that effort, leading the Charge (1-3) with 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting and adding 10 rebounds for a double-double.

John Holland poured in 22 points and dished out eight assists for the Charge.

He added four boards and three steals.

The Mid-American Conference East Division lead was on the line Tuesday night at InfoCision Stadium.

If the University of Akron football team was going to claim it, they had to do so with redshirt freshman Kato Nelson at quarterback with first-string signal caller Thomas Woodson sitting out his second consecutive game because of a suspension.

The Zips (6-5, 5-2 in MAC) didn’t miss him and became bowl eligible in the process.

It might be premature, but UA might have found their quarterback of the future at work in a 37-34 win over Ohio University (8-3, 5-2).

A win over rival Kent State next Tuesday night at InfoCision Stadium or an Ohio loss at Buffalo and the Zips will advance to the MAC Championship Game against the West Division champion.

Nelson provided a calming, effective influence on the Zips’ offense, completing 22-of-38 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns.

He connected with wide receiver Kwadarrius Smith on touchdown passes of 54 and 71 yards. In all, he completed passes to seven receivers in the game.

Nelson battled Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke, Ohio’s one-man offensive juggernaut, who at one point had his team ahead 21-10. Rourke scored on a 68-yard run and a three-yard reception.

But he threw two interceptions — two of three Ohio turnovers UA converted into three touchdowns — including one in the fourth quarter that led to an 8-yard touchdown dash by running back Manny Morgan with 11:30 left in the game to give the Zips a 37-27 lead and some breathing room.

It didn’t last long. Rourke scored on a 13-yard run with 5:58 left in the game to cut the Zips’ lead to 37-34.

The Bobcats received another crack to either tie or win the game after forcing UA to punt, but the Zips’ defense held, forcing the Bobcats to turn the ball over on downs.

An offensively explosive first half, in which the Zips took a 30-24 lead, gave way to a defensive battle in the second.

UA having inflicted most of their damage in the first half, played as if content to play keep away. The defense had trouble with Rourke in the running game, but never allowed him to get into a rhythm in the passing game, holding him to 9-of-22 passing for 110 yards with two interceptions.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips.

Bowl hopes for the University of Akron likely hinge on the season’s final two games.

Two wins probably would send the Zips to a bowl game in December, and one would make them eligible for consideration.

One of those remaining games is against rival Kent State on Nov. 21. The other is against Ohio at 7 p.m. Tuesday at InfoCision Stadium.

The surging Bobcats (8-2, 5-1 in the Mid-American Conference) present a substantial hurdle, and UA coach Terry Bowden understands the stakes.

“You don’t want to put too much, but there’s plenty on the game,” he said. “All of your goals are out there.”

The Zips (5-5, 4-2) can still stake claim to the East Division title with a win. But they must deal with an Ohio team that’s baring its teeth.

The Bobcats forced the MAC to sit up and take notice last week with a 38-10 dissection of Toledo, the conference’s West Division leader. Bowden said his team started getting pumped with the first practices of the new work week.

“The greatest thing these guys have going for them is the incentive, the motivation,” Bowden said. “The motivation that you can go out there, and this game carries a lot of weight. It’s a head-to-head with the leader in this division. If you can go out and win that game you can put yourself right on top.”

Making the hill the Zips must climb potentially much steeper is a quarterback situation that remains uncertain because of starter Thomas Woodson’s suspension. Bowden declined last week to answer questions about how long Woodson would be absent from the team.

Bowden could be forced to turn again to the redshirt freshman Kato Nelson. Despite being under constant siege by Miami in a 24-14 loss last Tuesday, Nelson performed respectably, connecting on 19-of-38 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked six times.

Even if Woodson plays, though, the Bobcats present a significant challenge, and sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke is a big reason for it.

The 6-2, 209-pound sophomore is a legitimate dual threat at the position. On average, Rourke accounts for more than 230 yards of offense per game — 164.3 yards passing and 66.8 yards rushing. He has rushed for 17 touchdowns and passed for 14 more, making him a candidate for conference offensive player of the year.

The Zips recruited him, Bowden said.

“We really liked him,” Bowden said of Rourke. “We knew he was an outstanding player. He’s a gamer that has great running ability and throwing ability, and he loves the game of football, I know that much.”

Bowden said he recognizes how Ohio coach Frank Solich is using Rourke. He likened it to when the coach had Eric Crouch at Nebraska.

“He’s running some of that same stuff that he ran out there,” Bowden said of Solich. “He’s going to run the football and he’s got a quarterback that can run that option and run it well, and you better stop him if you’re going to stop that team.”

By no means does Rourke lack help. Running back A.J. Ouellette ranks third in the conference in rushing with 867 yards on 158 carries. That duo will offer a tough test for a UA rushing defense that allows 185.8 yards per game.

If circumstances force Nelson into duty again, the Zips may have to rely on defense. On the plus side, the UA defense continues to be stingy, ranking fourth in the MAC with 24.9 points allowed per game.

Ohio, however, is averaging 40.9 points per game, and Bowden understands what his team is up against.

“This is clearly the best Ohio team since I’ve been in the conference because they’re very good on both sides of the ball and their quarterback, Rourke, makes them a little bit more something special,” he said.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.

When the University of Akron men’s soccer team was announced as the fifth seed in this year’s NCAA Division I Tournament, fans may have expected cheers and smiles to permeate Tommy Evans Lounge.

But Monday’s watch party on the second floor of Rhodes Arena was unmoved, and a more determined look came from the players with Wake Forest (17-1-2), Indiana (15-0-5), North Carolina (14-3-1) and Louisville (11-2-4) taking the top four spots.

Don’t get the Zips (16-3-1) wrong. They’re ecstatic they have a bye in the first round and will play at home against either Seattle (14-3-4) or Washington (12-6-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Still, not receiving one of the top four seeds could provide the Zips some extra motivation.

“I think anything can help,” Akron coach Jared Embick said. “Anytime you feel like you’re not getting the respect you deserve, it can motivate you to prove people wrong.

“The committee had a difficult job and I’m sure it came down to the wire between us and Louisville between four and five. At the end of the day, this is going to be decided on the field.”

Therein is the biggest piece of the puzzle as Akron is guaranteed at least two home games (with wins) and possibly a third depending on how the Cardinals do.

The Zips’ resume is certainly worthy of the five seed, and possibly higher, after winning a sixth consecutive MAC Tournament title with a 3-1 victory Sunday over Western Michigan (16-3-1), which picked up the 10th seed.

Akron counts wins this season over then-No. 1 Michigan State, then-No. 4 Western Michigan, then-No. 8 Notre Dame, then-No. 20 Pittsburgh, then-No. 21 UMass Lowell and then-No. 25 West Virginia.

The Zips’ three losses came to top-25 teams Utah Valley, Denver and the Broncos in the regular season and all three were 1-0 contests.

Akron is on a 10-game winning streak to boot.

“Obviously, we wanted the four seed because of the guaranteed home games to the Final Four,” Copley graduate and Akron midfielder Skye Harter said. “At the end of the day, it is what it is and we’re going to go out and play our game.

“We’re Akron and we’re going to do our best. There’s a good chance either way that even if we do win our first two games, we still could be at home.”

That’s the beauty of the whole thing as familiarity runs amok through Akron’s first two games. Akron counts a 2-0 win on Sept. 1 over Washington, which finished third in the PAC-12. Last season, the Zips beat Western Athletic Conference Tournament champion Seattle 1-0.

If the seeds hold and No. 12 Notre Dame (11-6-2) beats either Wisconsin (10-4-5) or Illinois-Chicago (11-5-3), it would set up a rematch of the Zips’ 2-0 victory over Fighting Irish on Oct. 17.

Meanwhile, Louisville plays either San Francisco (9-8) or California (11-6) in the second round with Michigan (12-5-2), Massachusetts (15-3-3) or Colgate (10-10-1) waiting after that.

The Cardinals haven’t played any of the five schools in the last two seasons.

“Playing the same teams that we’ve already beaten gives us confidence,” Zips forward Stuart Holthusen said. “That’s the main thing that comes, especially at home.”

The University of Akron women’s basketball team opened its season with 63-52 loss to Bucknell Sunday in Lewisburg, Pa. Kaitlyn Slagus had game-highs with 20 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Bison (2-0) to the nonleague win.

The Zips trailed by five with three minutes to play, but Bucknell went on a 9-3 scoring run to close out the victory.

The Zips, who got a team-high 19 points from Megan Sefcik, converted just 27 percent from the floor.

Bucknell, which led the entire game, shot 43 percent from the field.

Canton Charge

The visiting Canton Charge needed overtime to get their first win of the season, 120-118 over the Maine Red Claws (3-1).

John Holland hit 6-of-10 3-pointers and led the Charge with a career-high 43 points. His long-range shot at the buzzer set up the extra two-minute quarter.

In overtime, Marcus Thornton put the Charge up with a shot on a pass from Holland. Holland then hit 3-pointers on the Charges’s next two possessions to secure the victory.

The Charge will play their home opener at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Division III football

Mount Union will host Virginia’s Washington and Lee University in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs at noon Saturday.

The unbeaten Purple Raiders are ranked No. 2 in the nation, and the Generals (8-2) will be making their fifth playoff appearance.

Women’s soccer

Sarah Puntel (Strongsville) scored both goals in Ohio Northern’s 2-0 win over Illinois Wesleyan as the Polar Bears (19-2-1) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

The University of Akron men’s soccer team rarely comes into a Mid-American Conference Tournament labeled as the underdog.

That’s what made the second-seeded Zips’ 3-1 championship win over top-seeded Western Michigan on Sunday more satisfying.

After the Broncos stopped a 12-year run by Akron as the MAC regular-season champion, the Zips exacted a little revenge in claiming their sixth consecutive tournament crown on the campus of Western Michigan.

“One hundred percent, this one feels just a little bit sweeter because we had to come here and grind it out on their field,” Akron’s Sam Gainford said. “This one feels special.”

After losing to the Broncos 1-0 on Oct. 7, the Zips returned to the same venue and changed their fortune.

With the victory, Akron (16-3-1) received an automatic bid and first-round bye in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s the 32nd trip to the tournament for the Zips and the 11th season in a row they’ll put on their dancing shoes. They find out who they play Monday at 1 p.m.

“In some respects, [the title] means more than some of the previous ones,” Akron coach Jared Embick said. “We messed up in the regular season and the players knew it, the coaches knew it. We had to make it right. That’s about it. That’s why it feels sweet to come to this field. We’ve struggled here for years.”

Akron knocked off the Broncos (16-3-1) with a little forward thinking.

Looking determined and pressing the action, the Zips got on the board with 8:30 remaining before intermission on a goal by Stuart Holthusen.

A score nine seconds before halftime by Ben Thornton tied things up, but Gainford put home the game-winner off a corner kick by Skye Harter (Copley) with 34:50 remaining.

It was just more of the same from the All-MAC senior forwards, who have scored a combined 17 goals this season.

“They’re top players, and this is where good players want to play,” Embick said. “They want to play for championships and show they can carry the load. The most important thing for us is that they’re both healthy and they’re both confident.”

Almost as important was the mettle the squad showed when things got tight.

On Friday, the Zips beat Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in overtime thanks in large part to an Akron goal scored just before the end of regulation.

Carrying the momentum into the extra session, the Zips beat the Cougars 2-1 in a game that completely turned just before overtime.

The situation could have been reversed with Thornton’s goal for the Broncos, but the Zips stayed the course.

“We’ve been in this situation a couple times this season and we’ve learned from them,” Gainford said. “We’ve grown from them. We put ourselves in the situation again and we came through.”

Manuel Cordeiro scored the final goal with 12:36 remaining and Akron returned home where it could play as many as three games at Cub Cadet Field depending on its seed.

“It’s a lot to handle as an opponent,” Embick said. “We’ve been excellent at home all year [the Zips are 10-0]. We want to continue that in the postseason.”

The John Groce era at the University of Akron officially tipped off at Rhodes Arena on Saturday night.

Groce and his freshman-laden team made an uneven debut but defeated Cleveland State 67-57 to make him the first Zips coach to win his first game since Bob Huggins in 1985.

The important words to remember are “under construction.” Despite the victory, there is a lot of work to be done on this year’s team. Still, the Zips deserve credit for scrappy play, which allowed them to overcome a suspect first half to take control in the second in their home opener.

“We’ve got a lot of inexperienced young guys, but you can’t use that as an excuse,” Groce said. “I’m not an excuse guy. I’m not into that.”

Forward Daniel Utomi had 20 points, shooting 4-of-11 from deep, and freshman guard Eric Parrish, who scored 17 points — 13 in the second half — and grabbed six rebounds. The Zips outscored the Vikings 15-7 to open the second half and tied the game at 37-all with 15:18 left after trailing 30-22 at the half.

Parrish gave UA a 41-39 lead at 12:17, their first since 18:54 of the first half. It also gave them momentum as the Zips went on to outscore the Vikings 22-16 the rest of the way.

“We all have to do a better job of making sure we start a little bit better from what we did from an energy-toughness perspective,” Groce said.

The Zips won the game despite shooting 31 percent from the floor. Helping matters was the fact the Vikings connected on just 10-of-26 attempts from the free-throw line, but the Zips also provided plenty of hustle to work their way into the win column.

UA trailed 23-16 in the rebound battle at the half, but finished with a 46-38 edge over the Vikings, including a 7-4 advantage on the offensive glass.

“In the second half they wrestled control away from us,” Vikings coach Dennis Felton said. “Rebounding started our troubles.”

Groce agreed rebounding proved to be a significant difference.

“I thought we imposed our will a little bit on the backboard much better,” he said. “And I thought our presence around the rim shot-blocking with [Jaden] Sayles and [Emmanuel Olojakpoke], and I thought our ability to guard the ball in the second half was better. We just played harder in the second half.”

And that effort came from a mix of veterans like Utomi and Jimond Ivey (10 points, four rebounds), along with freshmen like Sayles (four points, four rebounds) and Parrish.

“He played lights out,” said Ivey of Parrish. “I told him that. Everybody contributed, and for the freshmen that came in, they played better than I played in my first game and I told them all. That’s a good sign looking forward.”

There will be bumps along the way, however.

Both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half, but the Zips suffered more, going nearly five minutes without a score and in the process falling behind 19-8.

Part of the problem was UA’s willingness to settle for quick 3-point shots instead of working for a high-percentage attempt. The Zips were 5-of-16 from deep in the first half, contributing to an eight-point halftime deficit that could have been worse given UA shot 27 percent from the floor, were outrebounded 23-16 and committed 11 turnovers.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.

With Kent State down by 10 points in the third quarter, Jordan Korinek (St. Vincent-St. Mary) keyed a comeback that led to a 59-54 win in a women’s basketball season opener at Northern Kentucky on Saturday.

Korinek scored a career-high 29 points, including seven in a 15-1 run with 3:37 to go in the third.

Ali Poole added 12 points for Kent State.

Wrestling

Kent State improved to 5-0 with dual-meet victories over Virginia and Hofstra on Saturday at the Journeymen Northeast Duals in Clifton Park, N.Y.

KSU beat Virginia 20-18 and Hofstra 26-12. Overall, the Golden Flashes won 14-of-18 matches decided on the mat. Kent State forfeited at 125 pounds in both duals.

Kent State’s Devin Nye at 285 pounds won an overtime decision against Virginia and then recorded a first-period pin in his afternoon matchup against Hofstra.

Volleyball

• The University of Akron closed its volleyball season with a three-set loss to visiting Miami (21-8, 13-3 Mid-American Conference). The RedHawks won 26-24, 25-23 and 25-22 at Rhodes Arena. Alexis Adleta and Madi Maer (Stow) each had 10 kills for the Zips (6-22, 2-14).

• Kent State closed its season at home with a 3-1 loss to Eastern Michigan (14-17, 7-9). The Golden Flashes (5-22, 3-13) lost the first set 25-22 but then evened the score with a 25-16 victory. The Eagles closed out with 25-15 and 25-17 wins in the final two sets. Senior defensive specialist Challen Geraghty led Kent with a match-high 28 digs.

• Walsh completed its first winning season since 2011 with a 3-0 shutout at Ursuline. The Cavaliers finished 20-10 overall and 13-5 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.

• Lake Erie beat visiting Malone in three sets. The Pioneers dropped to 18-12 overall and 12-6 in the G-MAC.

Swimming

Malone swept the men’s and women’s meet at Notre Dame College. The Pioneers women were led by Jessica Slater (Kent Roosevelt), who won the 100-yard breaststroke.

Rhett Stanford won the 100 butterfly and the 500 freestyle for Malone.

The John Groce era officially tipped off at Rhodes Arena Saturday night.

Groce and his freshmen laden team made an uneven debut, beating the Cleveland State Vikings 67-57.

The important words to open the season:  under construction.  And there’s a lot of work to be done on this iteration of the men’s basketball team. But give them credit for scrappy play in their home opener as they overcame a suspect first half to take control in the second.

Led by forward Daniel Utomi with 20 points, including 4-of-11 from the three-point line, and guard Torrey Parrish, who scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds, the Zips outscored the Vikings 15-7 to open the second half and tie the game at 37 with 15:18 left.

Moments later at 12:17 Parrish gave UA a 41-39 lead, their first since 18:54 of the first half.  It also gave them momentum as the Zips went on to outscore the Vikings 22-16 the rest of the way.

The University of Akron men’s cross country team placed 13th and the women’s team finished 22nd at the 2017 NCAA Great Lakes Regional, hosted by Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind.

Senior Garrett Crichlow (Twinsburg) ran a time of 32:08 to finish 50th in his final collegiate race to lead the men.

Marc Migliozzi placed 74th, Jeremiah Fitzgerald finished 83rd and Jacob Ondash placed 119th to round out the men’s scoring.

Sophomore Mackenzie Andrews led the women’s squad with an 83rd-place finish.

Lindsey Scarton finished 130th, Whitney Wendling placed 170th and Hannah Pineault placed 177th for the UA women.

Volleyball

The University of Akron lost in straight sets to Bowling Green on Friday in Akron.

Alexis Adleta had 16 kills,

Emily Weigand had 33 assists and Taylor Sharrits had 12 digs to lead the Zips (6-21, 2-13 MAC).

The Zips will conclude the 2017 season at home against Miami at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Skye Harter came up with one big goal after another as a standout soccer player at Copley High School.

On Friday in Kalamazoo, Mich., the redshirt sophomore scored the biggest goal of the season for the University of Akron men’s team in a 2-1 overtime win over third-seeded Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in a Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinal.

Down a goal and fighting for their lives against the Cougars (7-10-1), the second-seeded Zips (15-3-1) needed someone to step up and the former Indians standout delivered in the nick of time.

Harter headed in a cross from Nate Shultz with 17 seconds remaining in regulation to knot things up.

Stuart Holthusen scored the game winner with 4:54 remaining in the second overtime to put the Zips in Sunday’s 1 p.m. final against top-seeded Western Michigan, but it was Harter’s goal that pushed momentum completely to Akron.

“It was a turning moment right there, to take that kind of momentum,” Zips coach Jared Embick said. “[SIUE] kind of felt maybe cheated a bit and that’s when we knew in overtime we had a good chance.

“When Skye put that in, I thought we would find a way to win [in] overtime. The guys in the huddle were very focused and very determined and had a lot more energy.”

As has been the case in the past, Holthusen rose to the occasion with his seventh goal in the last four games.

It came on an assist by Ezana Kahsay and gave Akron a chance at its sixth consecutive MAC Tournament title and 14th postseason league title in program history.

“This is his senior year,” Embick said of Holthusen. “He’s a guy with confidence. This is what he’s here for. We just needed to find him and let him get going.”

The resolve the team showed after Greg Solawa gave SIUE a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the second half was incredible.

Akron never wavered and eventually pushed through with grit and determination.

“We talked about this all year with this group,” Embick said. “One of the things I emphasized to them was despite how well we’ve played and the wins we’ve gotten, we haven’t found our way back into games when we’ve given up the first goal.

“At some point, we’re going to be down and we have to come from behind and do what we do. Today was a perfect opportunity and perfect example of what we preach to them.”

The win brings a rematch of Akron’s last loss and a chance for revenge against Western Michigan (16-2-1). The Broncos beat fourth-seeded West Virginia 1-0 and are the last team to beat the Zips — 1-0 on Oct. 7.

“We have to be good on the physical battles,” Embick said. “We have to be focused with the ball in the air. We have to be focused on Western’s restarts.”

Go into Rhodes Arena for the University of Akron men’s basketball practice and coach John Groce’s voice booms from the recently installed public address system.

He sounds like a motivational speaker on steroids. Given the youth of this almost unrecognizable UA team, that very well could end up being his primary job once the season tips off at 7 p.m. Saturday for the Coaches vs. Cancer doubleheader, which features the Zips against Cleveland State in the opener, followed by Kent State against Youngstown State in the second game.

“It’s the most inexperienced team that I’ve had as a head coach in 10 years,” Groce said as he sat at the desk in his office early Thursday afternoon.

With six freshmen, it’s easy to see why. The elder statesmen remain from coach Keith Dambrot’s final season: senior guard Craig Eubanks and guard Jimond Ivey, who averaged 10.1 points and 5.7 rebounds last season. Graduate transfer Malcolm Duvivier, a point guard, joins sophomore forwards Daniel Utomi and Emmanuel Olojakpoke.

Welcome to a program in transition. Groce isn’t complaining — far from it. He likens it to getting a blank or mostly blank canvas with which to work.

“Some of these guys have habits that we’re trying to change,” he said. “But some of them are that blank sheet of paper, blank canvas. They don’t have any habits, so you’re getting to kind of mold them a little bit. It’ll be challenging, but I’ve enjoyed it. They keep me on my toes every day.”

And the reality is some of these guys are going to play and in some cases, get significant minutes.

“They’re going to get some experience early on that they might not have gotten otherwise and you hope that allows you to build and put guys in situations as they become sophomores and juniors down the line that their experience level is greater than most,” Groce said.

There will be growing pains. That’s normally where veteran leadership plays a role and that might prove more difficult in the Zips’ case.

“I’m still trying to figure that out. It’s one of the reasons, to be honest with you, I haven’t named captains,” Groce said when asked who he will look to on the floor this season. “For me, right now, I want everybody to feel like they have ownership. Everybody has a voice. Everybody is respected. I want our guys to be leaders not followers.”

He acknowledged that others will have to take the lead, with Ivey, a 6-foot-5, 200 pound guard, and Duvivier, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound guard who transferred from Oregon State, topping the list for those roles.

“It’s going to be a lot of challenges for myself, because I’m still learning how to be that leader that the team needs me to be,” Ivey said. “It’s going to be a lot of ups and downs. My job is, when the downs come, to try and get us back up and try to learn from our mistakes.”

Duvivier, who averaged 6.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists with the Beavers last season, agreed.

“Whether we know it or not, guys are going to be following us just because we have those types of personas, so, yes, I feel guys are going to lean on us so we have to come out every day with energy and just have a good frame of mind and attitude,” he said.

Groce expects the team to gravitate toward them as well, considering their level of experience. Given they will probably start, the assumption makes sense. As for the starting lineup in general, nothing is etched in stone as of Thursday and it’s unlikely Groce and his staff will have a starting five locked down until after Friday’s final preseason practice.

In that regard, the Zips are like life, where the only constant is change.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.

About an hour before kickoff Tuesday night against Miami, the University of Akron announced it had suspended starting quarterback Thomas Woodson for a “violation of team rules.”

Woodson’s absence was felt in the Zips’ 24-14 loss. In his place, backup Kato Nelson led the UA offense and, while he didn’t play badly, the inexperience was evident.

The loss left the Zips 4-2 in the Mid-American Conference and 5-5 — one win short of bowl eligibility — overall.

A news release received before the game specified the suspension was for “tonight’s game,” yet the UA quarterback situation for an all-important matchup at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Ohio remains in flux. Zips coach Terry Bowden declined to name a starter in a Thursday news conference, suggesting that Woodson might be available.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say Tommy Woodson was not played because of a violation of team rules, and I will not make an announcement on his future play until later on this week,” Bowden said.

With that, Bowden declined further comment as Woodson’s status remained murky.

Athletics director Larry Williams would not go into detail, but when asked whether Woodson would sit multiple games, he said: “He’s still suspended.”

Whether that extends through Tuesday night when the Zips face the 8-2 Bobcats remains to be seen.

Nelson flashes

As for Nelson, his play provided a glimpse into what the future could be at UA. Since arriving at UA, his confidence in passing has grown and that showed against the RedHawks when he completed 19-of-38 attempts for 218 yards and a touchdown.

Nelson’s ability to scramble out of tough situations and run when his number is called nicely complement his developing passing skill. But there’s little replacement for experience in crucial game scenarios, and that is likely what was missing for him Tuesday night when the Miami defense sacked him six times.

“It’s just a matter of putting pressure on a young guy,” Bowden said of the Nelson’s problems. “A very [experienced] quarterback may just get rid of a ball instantly. Kato will react a little differently. I think that’s the first thing that will happen.”

The RedHawks unleashed a blitz barrage on Nelson and adjusted quickly after they realized he could hurt them with his legs.

Nelson also got in a couple of days of preparation after the team made the decision regarding Woodson, and Bowden said he wasn’t disappointed with Nelson’s play.

“He did remarkably well,” Bowden said of the 6-1 redshirt freshman.

The key to helping Zips quarterbacks, especially Nelson if he play again, is a strong running game, Bowden said. That wasn’t in evidence against Miami, who limited the Zips to 55 yards on the ground, although that number was skewed by the sacks.

Those rushing totals were made worse by the loss of sophomore Deltron Sands, who seemed on the verge of establishing himself as a top running back before breaking his fibula against Miami.

Whiffing on kicks

Another notable difference Tuesday was that Nick Gasser replaced kicker Tom O’Leary on field goals. O’Leary’s had a tough season, connecting on 3-of-7 kicks. Although Gasser missed his lone attempt (31 yards) Tuesday night, Bowden said he doesn’t plan to return to O’Leary.

“Gasser has been real consistent,” Bowden said. “I was kind of surprised he missed it because he’s calm, cool and it wasn’t a real long field goal. He’s almost 100 percent in practice.”

Cram the cROOzer

The UA athletics department will present its annual Cram the cROOzer event, asking fans to donate non-perishable food items and toiletries to benefit the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. The cruiser will be parked outside Gate 2 from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips.