By EVAN MEYER
AKRON, OHIO – The Akron Zips completed their non-conference schedule with an 85-79 win over the Massachusetts Minutemen Monday night at Rhodes Arena
Akron (10-3) improved to 8-0 at home while winning nine of its last 11 encounters heading into the Zips Mid-American Conference opener on Saturday at Eastern Michigan.
“What stood out to me was our poise. Zips head coach John Groce said. “UMass kept coming, and we just finished the game. We need to clean up the turnovers.”
Junior Loren Cristen Jackson led the Zips with 26 points and three assists, going 7-of-14 from the field including 5-of-8 from three-point range. Senior Channel Banks added a career-high 21 points -- all of them coming in the second half -- with seven rebounds and three steals. Senior guard Tyler Cheese had 14 points with five boards and four assists.
Massachusetts (6-7) fell for the seventh time in the last eight games.
“We have to play 40 minutes of basketball," head coach Matt McCall said. “Not 30 minutes or 35 minutes, but we need to play 40 minutes as we get into Atlantic-10 Conference play.”
Minutemen freshman Sean East matched Cristen Jackson for high scoring honors with 26 points, going 11-of-21 from the floor. Junior Carl Pierre had 23 and 10 rebounds, with Tre Mitchell scoring 11.
The first 10 minutes was all Akron as it opened a 27-13 lead, fueled by four treys by Cristen Jackson. He scored 15 points in the opening 20 minutes.
After the Zips opened a 36-19 lead, UMass started to get the feel for the game, closing the half with a 14-2 run to close the deficit to 38-33 when Pierre connected on a three from the left arc. However, UA scored the final basket of the half and went into intermission leading by seven, 40-33.
UMass continued its run at the start of the second half, and took its first lead of the game 43-42 on a layup by Mitchell. The Minutmen outscored the UA 23-6 spanning both halves.
From that point on, the game was close. UMass opened its largestgest lead of the game 52-48 on an East jumper off the glass. Its final lead came 61-60 with 7:05 remaining on another jumper by East.
UA then took control, buiding a seven point lead 71-64 on a three by Banks at the 5:04 mark
The Minuteman just kept coming and closed to within two points, 81-79, with 24.7 seconds remaining on a three by Dibaji Walker. However, Cheese closed out the scoring with two free throws with 15.6 seconds remaining.
Statistically, UA finshed at 45 percent from the field (27-of-60), while UMass completed the 40 minutes at 39.4 percent from the floor (28-of-71). The Zips won the battle of the boards 45-39 and turned 12 UMass turnovers into 10 points.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.