The University of Akron hit the road to play Toledo at Savage Arena Friday night and fell short in an 84-76 loss, snapping a four-game winning streak.
After spotting the Rockets (17-4, 9-1 in Mid-American Conference) a nine-point halftime lead, the Zips (13-6, 6-3, in MAC) fell behind by as many as 17 in the second half. UA made a run to get back into the game with 5:12 left, cutting the deficit to four points, but got no closer.
Guard Bryan Trimble led the Zips with 18 points and four assists. Forward Enrique Freeman followed him with 17 points and added nine rebounds.
The Rockets’ Ryan Rollins led all scorers with 21 points and grabbed six rebounds.
The Zips won’t play for until next Friday. Here’s what to take away from this game:
Rocket powered offense, vs. Zips defense
The game had the makings of a classic MAC battle with the Rockets’ top-three scoring offense and the Zips' No. 1-ranked scoring defense matched up. Interestingly, it was almost a stalemate with the Rockets getting an upper hand in the first half and nearly relinquishing it in the second.
The Zips get credit for showing resilience and coach John Groce praised them for that. But defensively speaking, one key personnel loss and the work of Rockets guard Ra’Heim Moss allowed Toledo to hold on. Groce said Moss’ play was one of two things that affected the game significantly.
Moss, who Groce praised, came into the game averaging 7.8 points per game. He gave the Rockets 20. It wasn’t just Moss. The Rockets shot 58.9% from the floor to UA’s 43.8%. No team is going to win many games giving up those types of shooting percentages.
The loss of Enrique Freeman
Freeman had to deal with persistent foul trouble, which undoubtedly hindered the Zips offensively and defensively.
He collected his second foul with 7:18 left in the first half and sat out. Freeman returned to the game at 3:39 and was whistled for his third foul of the game and stayed out until the start of the second half.
Not surprisingly, it was in those moments when the Rockets were able to gain some separation and continue into the second half.
“Obviously, I thought the foul trouble on him was the second thing that dictated the game,” Groce said. “It didn’t allow him to play as much in the first half, didn’t allow us to start him in the second half when they went on their run which I thought really put us in a hole.”
Freeman’s loss threw the Zips' equilibrium off, defensively as much as offensively.
“He’s such a good rebounder,” Groce said. “And such an important part of defense is defensive rebounding, finishing possessions. And obviously, he’s one of the best rebounders in the country, not just our league.”
Still, even with his minutes limited to 25, Freeman played like Freeman. The conference’s leading rebounder, he put up 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for another double-double.
Zips off for a week
The Zips will not play again for a week.
UA will face Miami University next Friday at Rhodes Arena. Given the five-games-in-11-days stretch the Zips just endured, it should be welcomed, especially the next two days.
“This time of year to have two days off in a row, it’s unheard of,” Groce said. “That will help us, I think, because we just played five games in 11 days. And we’ve got another stretch like that or two like we just had coming up. So we’ve got to really manage it as well as we can.”
Zips bonus point
FDuring the extended layoff, the Zips need to do whatever they can to improve their free-throw shooting. They are shooting 66% as a team. Against the Rockets, they shot 56.5% (13-of-23).
Reach George M. Thomas at email@example.com or on Twitter @ByGeorgeThomas.
Miami at Akron
Time: 6:30 p.m. Friday
TV/Radio: CBSSN/WHLO (640-AM)
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron ZIps lose to Toledo in MAC men's basketball