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Akron holds on after building big early lead

Bobcats get within 1 point late but come up short

AKRON – Akron built a 14-point first-half lead, never trailed and held on to beat Ohio, 71-68, on Tuesday night at James R. Rhodes Arena.

The Bobcats trailed 25-11 with 8:46 remaining in the first half, tied the game three times in the second half and got back within a point after then falling behind by nine with three minutes to go.

Gavin Block led Ohio (9-10, 2-5 Mid-American Conference) with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Teyvion Kirk had 16 points and six assists. Doug Taylor contributed 11 points, six rebounds and four blocks.

Jimond Ivey paced the Zips (10-9, 3-4 MAC) with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists. Malcon Duvivier scored 16 points, Daniel Utomi had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Mark Kostelac scored 10 points off the bench. Akron coach John Groce earned a win in his first game against his former team.

"We kept fighting but we just couldn't execute," Block said. "Down the stretch, you've got to come together as a team and grind it out and make a lot of winning plays."

Jordan Dartis tied the game at 58 with a layup with 5:35 remaining, but Akron followed with a 9-0 run. Kostelac scored a layup and then Ivey followed with seven straight points to make it 67-58.

In only a minute and a half, Ohio got back in it. Taylor hit two free throws with 2:57 to go, Mike Laster hit a jumper for his first points of the game, and a Jordan Dartis steal led to two free throws. Laster scored a layup at the 1:31 mark to make it 67-66.

Following an Akron turnover, Ohio had a chance to take its first lead, but Block missed a 3-pointer. Ivey made two free throws, and the Bobcats missed on the other end. Virshon Cotton’s pair of free throws with six seconds left put the game away.

“We had some silly mishaps at times on the offensive end," Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “At times, very good, but, again, in crunch time where you needed to generate it we weren't able to do it.”

After a bad start to the game, the Bobcats got to within four and trailed 36-29 at halftime. Ohio first tied the game on a Block 3-pointer with 8:47 to go and a minute later on another Block 3-pointer.

Ohio shot 23 of 50 (46 percent) from the field, including 9 of 23 (39.1 percent) on 3-pointers, and made 13 of 16 (81.3 percent) free throws. Akron shot 47.3 percent overall, made 10 of 23 (43.5 percent) 3-pointers and was 9 of 14 (64.3 percent) at the foul line.

The Bobcats take on Buffalo, unbeaten in MAC play, at 6:30 p.m. Friday in a game that will be shown on CBS Sports Network.

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