In the winner take-all showdown, senior forward Anthony Simpson (Rockford Ill./Highland CC[Ill]) led Kent State with a career high 23 points while adding nine rebounds. A MAC Sixth Man of the Year Candidate, Simpson shot 9-13 from the field, including 6-8 in the second half in which he totaled 15 points. Red-shirt junior Rodriquez Sherman (Indianapolis, Ind. / Ben Davis) added 15 points and five assists, while classmates Chris Singletary (Chicago, Ill./Florida Prep) chipped in 11 points and three steals in just 15 minutes of action.
“It shows a lot of character when you are able to win the conference championship on the road in front of a sold out arena,” said Singletary. “By winning tonight we showed the toughness of our team and the toughness of the Kent State program.”
Down by six (11-5) early, the Golden Flashes took control with a 14-1 run and never looked back. With the Kent State defense holding Akron without a field goal for six plus minutes, senior Frank Henry–Ala (Pasadena, Calif./Motlow C.C. [Tenn.]) was dominating the glass grabbing five rebounds of his career high nine rebounds. Henry-Ala also scored during the well balanced offensive stretch as five different players scored for KSU. The Zips, which shot just 26.9 percent (7-26) in the half, cut the deficit back down to five a few minutes later before the Golden Flashes took a 31-23 lead at the break.
“To win a conference championship, we must win on the road. I thought we played really well throughout and Akron was not great in the first half and that was probably the difference,” said Kent State Head Coach Geno Ford. “We were able to get a comfortable lead and Akron could not get the score close enough that we could fold to its pressure.”
In what has been a continuing trend throughout the MAC season, Kent State dominated the majority of the second half. After Akron pulled to within seven (33-26) at the 18:17 mark, the Golden Flashes ripped off a 17-5 run in the next five minutes led by seven points from Sherman and five from Simpson.
The run all but put the game away as the Zips would never get closer than 12 points the rest of the way. Kent State shot 64 percent (16-25) in the second half, marking the ninth time in the last 14 games the team has hit better than 50 percent from the field in the second half.
For the game KSU shot 51.7 percent compared to 38.5 percent for Akron, which hit just 3-19 (15.8 percent) from three. Jimmy Conyers led the Zips with 18 points
Kent State has a first round bye in the MAC Tournament and will face the winner of Ohio and Bowling Green next Thursday in the Quarterfinals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.