KENT, Ohio-- With the score tied at 35 at halftime, the Kent State Golden Flashes had the Akron Zips right where they wanted them in a nationally televised Mid-American Conference game in front of 6,204 at the M.A.C. Center on Saturday. Just like they did on Wednesday against Buffalo, the Golden Flashes used a dominating second half to claim an 87-70 victory over their cross-town rivals.
Akron 7-foot center Zeke Marshall-who scored just four points but had six rebounds and three steals-gave the Zips a 37-35 lead and Jimmy Conyers' lay-up put the Zips ahead, 39-38, with 18:48 left to play.
Kent State scored the next 19 points to lead 57-39 with 12:03 remaining.
"I think really they just physically manhandled us," said Akron head coach Keith Dambrot. "I just think they physically just gave it to us."
Dambrot's comments mainly focused on rebounding, where the Flashes held a 38-28 advantage, but Kent State's physical superiority carried over to other aspects of the game as well, especially on defense.
The Zips (13-6 overall, 3-2 in the MAC) entered the game shooting over 35-percent from behind the 3-point arc, but hit on just 4-of-17 attempts and turned the ball over 12 times on Saturday. They were just 1-for-9 behind the arc in the second half.
"Going into the game we tried to focus on two things: hold them to a low 3-point percentage, which I thought might have been the biggest key, and the second key was rebounding," said Kent State head coach Geno Ford. "We were a little bit fortunate on the first one. I thought on the second one we did a great job. We really rebounded the ball; you don't get lucky to rebound, you got to go make plays."
Meanwhile, Kent State shot 51.7-percent from the floor, including a blistering 65.6-percent in the second half, and hit on 5-of-13 (38.5-percent) 3-pointers.
Ford used the break to focus his players on distributing the basketball-a strategy that paid dividends.
"All we talked about at halftime on the offensive end was that we had five assists coming off a game (in which) we had 22," he said. "We wanted no unassisted baskets in the second half. We wanted the ball going inside, coming out, whatever; that's fine."
But is was Kent State's defense that enabled the Flashes hold the Zips scoreless for over seven minutes of the second half.
"At halftime coach talked about how that was the most we allowed a team to score in the MAC this season, they had 35," said senior Chris Singletary, who scored 10 points and had a team-high seven assists. "He was saying how we (weren't) going to be able to win a game if they were able to score that much, so we had to step up our defense; be more aggressive; be more into it; communicate more and that's what we did in the second half."
Sophomore Justin Greene scored 23 points and had 13 rebounds, both game-highs, while seniors Tyree Evans and Mike McKee added 14 points apiece.
Chris McKnight led Akron with 13 points.
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