The Zips put the glass slipper back on the foot of their Cinderella season with a 72-58 win over the Miami RedHawks at the JAR to clinch not only their 24th win on the season but also the top seed in the upcoming MAC Conference Tournament.
It was truly a team effort as four Akron players scored in double digits led by Zeke Marshall's 14 points to repeat as over Mid-American Conference champions.
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(University of Akron Athletics) Zeke Marshall led four Akron players in double-figure points with 14 in helping the Zips to a 72-58 win over Miami (Ohio) and clinching their second-consecutive Mid-American Conference championship on Tuesday night at James A. Rhodes Arena.
Marshall made 6-of-7 shots from the field, grabbed eight rebounds and registered three blocked shots to go with a career-high five assists. Nick Harney (13), Alex Abreu (12) and Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell (10) rounded out the team's double-digit scorers. Abreu also had seven assists and three steals, and Treadwell tallied seven rebounds.
Akron (24-5, 14-1 MAC) is the third team in the last 30 years to repeat as regular-season champions, joining Ball State (1989-90) and Kent State (2010-11). Overall, 12 teams have won back-to-back regular-season crowns in the MAC's 65 years of basketball.
Jon Harris led Miami (8-20, 3-12) with 21 points.
After holding a 31-28 margin at the half, Akron pushed its advantage to 44-30 courtesy of a 13-2 run to open the second half. The Akron defense forced four turnovers and held Miami to just three shot attempts over the first 5:08 of the half.
The RedHawks began to chip away at the Zips' lead at the charity stripe, hitting four-straight free throws to trim the gap to 47-36 with 12 minutes to play. Both teams traded buckets over the next four-plus minutes, with the Akron lead shrinking to eight. The Zips once again had an answer thanks to back-to-back buckets that pushed their lead back to 59-46 heading into the under-8 media timeout and the RedHawks did not threaten the rest of the way.
With the score tied 5-5, the Zips used a short 7-0 run to open up a 12-5 lead with 14:51 on the clock to force the RedHawks to call their first timeout of the game. The run us jump-started by baskets from Treadwell, Abreu and Jake Kretzer.
The Zips opened up their first double-digit lead of the night thanks to a 9-0 run, going up 11 (26-15) with 6:53 left before halftime. The RedHawks responded with an 8-0 to force Akron to call it's first timeout with 2:56 to go in the half and the Zips leading 29-28.
Deji Ibitayo's free throws with 1:25 left would be the final points of the half as the Zips took a 31-28 lead into the locker room.
Treadwell led Akron with eight points, four boards, one assist and one steal. Harney finished the half with seven points while Abreu had six points and one assist.
Both teams shot better than 40 percent from the field, with the Zips shooting 46.2 percent. Miami (Ohio) held a 19-14 advantage on the boards and committed eight turnovers to Akron's seven.
Akron closes the regular season on Friday, March 8, when the Zips play host to neighborhood rival Kent State at the JAR. Tip-off for the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge contest is set for 7 p.m. ET and will air live on ESPN2.
Zips Notebook: Zeke Marshall's previous high for assists was three against Oral Roberts (Feb. 18, 2012) ... the Zips have now won 20 of their last 21 games, in addition to 15-straight at Rhodes Arena ... Akron has defeated Miami in six-straight and in 10 of the last 11 contests ... UA has held 19 of 28 opponents to 65 points or less, going a perfect 19-0.