Real big Fisher

Doug Gulasy

Another big shot from the guard leads to a win over rival Akron

WATCH video of the men’s basketball game against Akron.

Al Fisher knew it was in the second it left his hand, or so he said.

The junior guard hit a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to cap a crazy end to the game and give the Kent State men’s basketball team (25-6, 13-3 Mid-American Conference) a 61-58 victory over Akron at the James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron.

“Once it left, I kind of knew it was in,” Fisher said. “But it was just a matter of getting a shot off or not.”

This game’s final minute was harder to believe than the final minute of the Zips’ and Flashes’ first meeting this year. There was no shoving match this time, but there was a comeback by Akron and a near-meltdown by Kent State.

The Flashes missed three of four free throws and committed two turnovers in the final 1:02, and Akron hit two 3-pointers to come back from being down seven in the final minute.

“I give a lot of credit to Akron,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “They hung in there tough and didn’t quit. I thought we got rattled by the crowd and the comeback. Guys just dropped passes, just made some silly decisions. But at the end of the day you’ve got to find a way to win.”

Akron trailed by as many as 17 in the game and was down 55-42 with 2:07 remaining. Zips fans were leaving and Kent State fans were celebrating.

But the game wasn’t over. The Zips went on a 10-1 run to cut the score to 56-52 with 34 seconds left.

Then things got even crazier. Kent State sophomore guard Rodriquez Sherman got a breakaway dunk, putting the Flashes up six.

The Zips had shot 1-of-21 on 3-pointers to that point, but senior Nick Dials hit a 3 with 19.3 seconds left. After an Akron timeout, Flashes senior forward Mike Scott turned it over and Akron senior Jeremiah Wood hit a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game with 9.4 seconds left and cause the home crowd to erupt.

But Fisher took the inbounds pass, ran the length of the floor down the right sideline and shot the ball from the corner over Dials. It found nothing but net, and Akron couldn’t get a final shot off, turning it over.

“We got caught up in the moment, were stretched out,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. “We let their best player beat us, which isn’t too smart.”

Kent State never trailed in the game, thanks mostly to its defense. Akron didn’t make a field goal until five minutes had passed in the game, and the Zips shot just 4-of-24 in the first half. The Flashes led 32-15 at halftime.

Also, the Flashes held the best 3-point shooting team in the MAC to a 3-of-23 performance behind the arc.

“The last couple games we’ve kind of weathered the storms on offense and just kept playing hard,” Christian said. “That’s what you have to do this time of the year. Obviously tonight the key was to take away as many 3s as we can.”

Fisher led the Flashes with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. His 3-pointer assured that the Flashes would be sole champions of the MAC East and gave them the most regular season wins in program history.

Kent State is the No. 1 seed in the MAC Tournament and will play at 7 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s Toledo-Bowling Green game.

“I’m glad we got the win and we’re No. 1 now,” Fisher said. “We were No. 1, but (now we’re the) No.1 seed, No. 1 in the conference.”

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].