Kent State vs. Akron: The battle of I-76

One Kent State basketball team views Akron as its biggest rival, while the other viewed it as just another game – until now.

But when the Kent State men’s and women’s teams tip off against the Zips this weekend at the M.A.C. Center, both will be seeking revenge.

The women’s team will host Akron at 4 p.m. tomorrow and look to regain its dominance over the Zips, while the men’s team will resume its ultra-competitive rivalry at noon Sunday.

Kent State vs. Akron: The men

For more than 90 years, the men’s series has been about as competitive as a rivalry can get. Kent State and Akron have been playing since the 1915-16 season, with the Flashes holding a 65-61 advantage over the Zips.

Recent years have been no different. In the three seasons prior to 2008-09, the two teams have a record of 4-4 against each other. They have met in the MAC Tournament in each of the last two seasons as well, which raised emotions in the rivalry to an even higher level.

The men’s game Kent State (16-13, 8-6 MAC) vs. Akron (18-11, 9-5)

When: Noon Sunday

Where: M.A.C. Center

TV: Fox Sports Ohio

Radio:, WNIR 100.1 FM

Internet: Live blog at

Kent State blanked the Zips last season, beating them twice in the regular season and then in the conference championship game for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Akron nearly pulled off a win in the second meeting at home last year. But with the scored tied at 58, senior guard Al Fisher nailed a shot at the buzzer to give Kent State the win.

“There’s nothing better than going to Akron and beating them in their own house,” Fisher said. “Hitting that shot, it really felt good.”

Sunday’s game looks to be no different than the past. Akron currently holds a tiebreaker over Kent State after beating them 68-54 on Jan. 24.

After losing that game, Kent State held a players-only meeting. The players promised each other they would play a new brand of basketball, and the Flashes have gone 8-2 since. Check at the end of tonight’s game

If the Flashes want any chance at a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament, beating Akron is a must.

“We’ve got returning guys that know what it takes to win a championship and win games,” Fisher said. “(We’ll) just go out there and play our hardest and give it our best. It’s a whole new season.”

Kent State vs. Akron: The women

While the women’s team holds the same rivalry with Akron, it has been decidedly one-sided for the past 33 years.

But that ended Jan. 21, when Akron beat Kent State 64-62 to break the Flashes’ 18-game winning streak in the rivalry. In 48 meetings between the teams, Kent State has come away victorious in 43 of them.

The women’s game Kent State (18-9, 7-8 Mid-American Conference) vs. Akron (11-17, 6-9)

When: 4 p.m. tomorrow

Where: M.A.C. Center

TV: Fox Sports Ohio

Radio: WHLO-AM 640

Internet: Live blog at

“We’re going for their throats; we’re going for the kill,” sophomore forward Chenel Harris said. “For years we’ve been on top and since they stole a win this year, we’re definitely going to come out strong.”

Tomorrow’s game has postseason implications as well. Kent State sits in a tie for second place in the MAC East with Ohio. With a win over Akron and an Ohio loss to Bowling Green, the Flashes would earn a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament.

“It’d be great,” junior guard Rachel Bennett said about getting a bye. “This whole conference has been crazy all year. I mean, the tournament’s anybody’s. To play one less game and get closer to the championship, that’s great.”

Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said he doesn’t want to make any predictions about the game, but he hopes Wednesday’s 72-53 blowout of Buffalo will give the Flashes momentum.

“I think we’ll respond to the challenge (tomorrow),” he said. “I think we’ll come out ready to play, and I think it will be a very good game.”

The conference season has been up and down for the Flashes. Tomorrow’s game will give Kent State a chance to win back-to-back games for just the third time against MAC opponents this season.

“We’re holding no prisoners right now,” Bennett said. “We’re going to (play) Akron as hard as we can (tomorrow) so that we can go into the tournament full force.”

Contact principal sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected] and sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected]