Kent State snaps Akron’s home winning streak in thrilling rivalry game

Kent State senior forward Jimmy Hall shoots over Akron redshirt freshman Emmanuel Olojakpoke at the James A. Rhodes Arena on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Kent State beat Akron, 70-67.

Nick Buzzelli

The James A. Rhodes Arena provides The University of Akron with one of the top home court advantages in the Mid-American Conference.

In his 13-year tenure,coach Keith Dambrot has a .876 winning percentage when playing in the 5,500 seat venue and the Zips haven’t dropped a home game since Feb. 21, 2015.

Though Kent State senior Deon Edwin was aware of Akron’s 30-game home winning streak, he didn’t think much of it. In his mind, as long as he and his teammates played with confidence, then they could have a shot at disrupting the record.

So, with 45 seconds remaining and the score knotted at 63, Edwin took a kick out pass from senior Jimmy Hall — who was positioned in the low post — and calmly sank an 18-foot jumper to give the Flashes the lead and, ultimately, the victory.

Edwin led all scorers with 21 points on a 7-11 performance from the field and Hall and sophomore Jaylin Walker chipped in 18 and 16, respectively, as Kent State (15-12, 7-7) defeated Akron (22-5,12-2) on the road Friday night.

“We just came out there and played with confidence. That was the main key. You can’t come out here and be scared,” Edwin said after the win. “During shoot around coach said, ‘This game is a big game, can’t play like a boy. Got to play like a man.’ I guess everybody took that to heart and knew that we had to come out here and play real hard.”

Despite the fact that the Zips led for a majority of the first half and took a five-point advantage into the locker room, Kent State used a 13-2 run during the first seven minutes of the second half to go ahead by eight, 46-38.

Akron, led by senior Isaiah Johnson’s 18 points, would tie it up on at the 2:12 mark and would get within one on a Johnson free throw. However, the Zips couldn’t convert a game-tying three pointer in the closing seconds.

“Great game, as it usually is, when Kent State and Akron play. Proud of our guys for getting the win. Just a great win for us and obviously we have a ton of respect for Akron,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “Proud of our group and our seniors in particular. Everybody stepped up and contributed and helped us get this win.”

For Hall, a redshirt senior, Kent State’s explosive second half performance proved to be the difference in the game.

It was one of our better halves. We know we’re capable of it, we just got to take care of the ball, rebound and defend and everything will take care of itself,” he said. “We just got to take care of the ball and get a shot every time because we know we’ll get like two or three if we miss.”

The Flashes take on Buffalo — which currently sits in third place in the MAC’s East Division — on the road Tuesday night before returning home next Saturday to face Ohio University. The Bobcats won the season’s first matchup, 85-67, on Jan. 6. 

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]