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Clock Strikes Midnight on Kent State's Cinderella Run; Akron Punches March Madness Ticket with 62-61 Victory

Cleveland, OH- There's something about rivalries in sports that heighten the intensity. As is typical for any time Akron and Kent State square off in any form of competition, it was a tightly contested battle from start to finish. This time, as it has 4 times prior, a trip to the Big Dance and March Madness was on the line.


The teams entered with a series record of 82-82, including 2-2 in MAC Championship games. The two teams that represent Northeast Ohio in the Mid-American Conference headed north to Rocket Mortgage Field House for another battle.


It was a back and forth affair through much of the 1st half, with Kent building their largest lead of the half with a 7 point advantage with 5:00 left before halftime before Akron stormed back to take the lead, and built their own advantage to as many as 8 points before a Jalen Sullinger buzzer beater at the end of the 1st half cut the lead to 5 at the half, 34-29.


It was more back and forth action through much of the start of the 2nd half, before Kent State strung together some stops on defense and successful offensive possessions to regain the lead for the first time in the 2nd half with just over 11:00 remaining.


Kent State would hold that lead until 6:52 when Nate Johnson succeeded on an 'And 1' to knot the score at 51. From there, the Zips would go on a run to build a 59-52 lead with 3:31 remaining. As has been the case with the Golden Flashes much of the year, they had one last spurt to make things interesting.


VonCameron Davis had two buckets to cut the lead to 3 before Julius Rollins drew a foul while making a layup that cut the lead to one. Rollins was successful on his free throw to knot the score at 59 with 1:47 remaining.


The deadlock was broken when Akron star, and tournament MVP, Enrique Freeman split 2 from the line to make it 60-59. Following a miss from Jalen Sullinger, Cli'ron Hornbeak grabbed the board and slammed it home, giving the Flashes a 61-60 lead with 5 seconds left.


On the inbounds pass to Greg Tribble, Rollins committed an untimely foul, putting Tribble on the line. Tribble made both and Kent had 4.8 seconds to drive the length of the court.


The Flashes got the ball into Jalen Sullinger's hands and he drove from the wing and put one up with Freeman applying pressure, causing the last ditch effort to fall short, sending the Zips to the tournament and ending an unlikely Kent State run following an up and down season.


Leaders

Akron

Enrique Freeman 17 points, 9 rebounds

Ali Ali 18 points, 5 rebounds


Kent State

VonCameron Davis 21 points, 6 rebounds

Jalen Sullinger 19 points, 8 rebounds


MAC All-Tournament Team

Ali Ali - Akron

Enrique Freeman - Akron (MVP)

VonCameron Davis - Kent State

Jalen Sullinger - Kent State

Jaylin Hunter - Ohio




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