Akron Zips men's basketball team goes cold in loss to Marshall

Akron Zips forward Enrique Freeman dunks the ball over South Dakota State guard Charlie Easley during the second half, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.
Akron Zips forward Enrique Freeman dunks the ball over South Dakota State guard Charlie Easley during the second half, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.

The University of Akron men’s basketball team struggled from start to finish Wednesday night in a 68-57 loss to Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia.

After cutting a 16-point deficit to 12 at halftime, the Zips (3-4) could not chip away at Marshall's double-digit lead despite coming close a couple of times in the second half.

The Herd’s length gave it a decided defensive advantage, which it used to hold UA to 34% shooting (24 of 71) for the game. The Herd (6-1) converted 41% on 25-of-61 shooting.

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Marshall guard Taevion Kinsey led all scorers with 21 points and added four assists.

Freshman guard Tavari Johnson led the Zips with 16 points and forward Enrique Freeman produced a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Here are the key observations regarding the Zips' loss:

Akron Zips started slowly, continuing a pattern

For all practical purposes, the Zips were shooting a ball of ice in the first half, connecting on 30% of their shots (10 of 33). In the meantime, they allowed Marshall guards Andy Taylor and Kinsey to control the tempo and score 15 apiece before halftime.

“I thought those two guards collectively were the best one and two we've played against all year,” UA coach John Groce said. “They had 30 at the half plus five assists. They basically had everything to do with if not all, the majority of those 37 points they scored [in the first half].”

Groce said the slow starts have been a pattern so far this season.

“I am concerned about that. I've got to continue to look and push buttons and figure out how we can get some individuals to play better,” he said, “get our team to play better to start games because we've overcome it a couple times, but we're putting ourselves in holes.”

Zips coach John Groce looked to compensate for slow starts

Groce made a couple of moves Wednesday in order to try to get an offensive spark. First, guard Nate Johnson received the start over Sammy Hunter. It seemed to either spark or alleviate some pressure on Hunter, who delivered a nine-point, six-rebound performance.

The other move was starting Tavari Johnson in the second half, when he scored all of 14 his points on 7-of-13 shooting with two 3-pointers.

“He was efficient again with 16 points and I have to grade out the film. I thought that [against] Nevada he was spectacular offensively and very porous defensively,” he said of a performance that made an impression last week. “Tonight, my gut read on it was that he was once again very good offensively, and I think he was better defensively tonight than he was against Nevada.”

Zips had problems with Marshall's length

Depending on the moment of the game, the Thundering Herd had several players 6-foot-6 or taller on the court. One of those players, 7-foot-1 Micah Handlogten, produced six blocks, which made it extremely difficult for the Zips to get points in the paint.

Combined with the Zips' struggles with their outside shooting, it made for sluggish offense and another slow start. UA shot just 34% for the game, including 20% from behind the 3-point line.

“I think it did some,” Groce said when asked if Marshall’s length was a factor. “A couple times we weren't very smart. We tried to challenge them at the rim against a team that's a great shot-blocking team.”

Gut-check moment of the game came from Zips' Trendon Hankerson

Up until the 11:45 mark of the second half, guard Trendon Hankerson was having a decent night. But then came a scare as he went up for a rebound and appeared to roll his ankle, losing his shoe in the process. The ball was still in play, so Hankerson flicked his shoe off to the side and finished until the Zips grabbed a defensive rebound.

He was able to walk off the court and eventually returned.

Reach George M. Thomas at gthomas@thebeaconjournal.com

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Marshall has too much length for Akron Zips in men's basketball