Men’s Basketball: Zips make it four in a row against Bobcats in instant classic

When Akron needed to make a clutch shot, it was Quincy Diggs who stepped up and delivered.

The senior forward’s 20-point, seven-rebound effort lifted the Zips (10-5, 2-0 MAC) to an enthralling 83-80 double overtime victory against the Ohio Bobcats (11-4, 1-1 MAC) at the Convocation Center on Sunday night.

With the Zips up 81-80 with less than a minute to go, Diggs’ initial attempt to increase Akron’s lead fell short, but the Dallas native rebounded his own miss and converted on a layup to give the Zips an 83-80 lead with 34.8 ticks left in the game.

Despite holding a three-point cushion, Akron had to make one last defensive stand. Ohio senior guard Nick Kellogg had a decent look to send the game into a third overtime, but the Westerville, Ohio, native was unable to extend the contest.

“He (Diggs) was a hard matchup for us,” Ohio head coach Jim Christian said. “He hurt all three of the players who guarded him. He is a good player, and he made some shots.”

The victory gives Akron its fourth-straight victory against Jim Christian’s squad. The Zips will look to win their fourth-straight contest when they host Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

With the loss, the Bobcats’ home record now stands at 7-2. The ‘Cats are now 45-5 in their last 50 games inside the Convocation Center.

Demetrius Treadwell was able to produce another strong display against the Bobcats. The senior forward scored 16 points and collected eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Jake Kretzer connected on three 3-pointers and finished the contest with 11 points.

“He (Kretzer) is the glue of our team,” Akron head coach Keith Dambrot said. “He hits the big three, he gets every loose ball, he can guard any position on the floor, he’s smart and he’s tough. We wouldn’t be any good without Jake Kretzer.”

In the first overtime with Akron down 68-63, the Zips needed to score a basket to keep their faint hopes of earning another win against the Bobcats alive, and Kretzer was able to provide Dambrot with a lifeline. The Waverly, Ohio, native hit a 3-pointer under pressure to cut Ohio’s lead to 68-66.

“I was trying to get myself in a situation to shoot the shot,” Kretzer said. “Stevie Taylor came up with the hand in the face, and coach (Dambrot) told me to shoot it.”

In his first game against Akron, junior forward Maurice Ndour tallied 25 points and six rebounds. Kellogg continued his stellar play with 19 points and three assists, and much like he did against Kent State, Travis Wilkins gave Christian valuable minutes off the bench with 14 points, including a 4-point play early in the first half.

“It’s two good teams competing against each other,” Ndour said. “It’s not going to be easy. In the end, they were tougher than us.”

Near the end of the first overtime, Kellogg was given the opportunity to force Akron to shoot a game-tying three if he made two free throws. Kellogg made one of two free throws, and Diggs calmly buried a jumper to tie the game at 71 and send it to double overtime.

“As a senior, I can’t miss that free throw,” Kellogg said. “I feel responsible for it. You’ve got to give them credit. They made the plays down the stretch.”

Early in the highly anticipated contest, both teams struggled finding their offense. Ndour opened the scoring with a highlight-reel jam, but 3-point baskets from Reggie McAdams and Diggs handed the Zips an 8-5 advantage with 11:13 left in the first half.

Ohio went on a 6-0 run to take a 21-17 lead, and Kretzer’s 3-pointer was the last made basket of the first half, which gave the Zips a 26-25 lead at intermission.

Midway through the second half, Ohio was able to create some separation from Akron. A Kellogg three from the corner and a Wilkins three-point play lifted the ‘Cats to a 52-43 lead with 8:16 left in the contest.

Ohio shot 41.9 percent from the field in the game (26 of 62). Akron outrebounded Ohio, 45-33, but Ohio held a 9-4 advantage in blocks. Eight of the nine blocks were credited to Jon Smith.

The Bobcats will be hoping to start a new winning streak when they welcome Ball State to the Convocation Center on Wednesday. Start time is set for 8 p.m.

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