The Akron Zips defended home court yet again, defeating Buffalo 91-90 on Saturday Night at James A. Rhodes Arena.
For most of the night, it was the senior duo of Kwan Cheatham Jr. (31 points, 7 three-pointers) and Isaiah “Big Dog” Johnson (27 points, 10 rebounds) carrying the team’s offense, but the Zips also received clutch contributions from Antino Jackson and Josh Williams, who each scored 12.
LeBron James was in attendance and the Zips did not disappoint, remaining unbeaten in MAC play and keeping their home win-streak alive at 28 games, the third-longest active streak in NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball.
Buffalo, the defending MAC Champs, gave Akron everything it could handle, as Blake Hamilton erupted for a game-high 33 points, keeping the Bulls in the game all night.
One of Akron’s biggest advantages was having Johnson’s dominant presence in the post, as the 6-10, 290 pound center essentially caused two of Buffalo’s centers to foul out by the time all was said and done.
Johnson, a 63 percent shooter from the field, made the most of his close range opportunities, shooting 9-for-14 on the night, but the foul line was a different story.
The Cincinnati-native is a 60 percent free throw shooter and those issues came into play down the stretch. Johnson was 8-for-17 from the line to start the game and the Zips fed him the ball in the post, creating an opportunity for a buzzer beater, with the game tied at 90.
Rather than allow Johnson to continue to gallop his way to the bucket and end it with a clean look, Buffalo’s David Kadiri made the smart play and fouled the big man with 2.3 seconds left.
Johnson’s first attempt was no good. The second one rattled its way around and went down to give Akron a 91-90 lead. Buffalo’s desperation buzzer beater attempt missed and the Zips squeaked by with the win.
Buffalo (9-12, 3-5) may not be off to the start it envisioned after winning the MAC in 2016, but gave Akron arguably its toughest test of conference play this season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if these two teams have another close match down the road at the MAC Tournament in March.
In the mean time, Akron still has a road match against Buffalo on Feb. 25, but sets its sights on an upcoming road game at Northern Illinois (13-8, 5-3) on Tuesday night.
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