Since Jody Michael has already recapped this game (and did a great job), I won't go too much into the details. I'll simply give you an Akron fan's experience of the wondrous occasion that was claiming the outright Mid-American Conference Championship.
The day of the Kent State game is truly that: an entire day. You really can't go the whole day without thinking about it every minute. In football, there is Kent State week, and then there is every other week. The rivalry is huge (as Jody mentioned) and people get into it. The extenuating circumstances only heightened the importance of this game. The Zips were 0-2 in Mid-American Conference Championship clinching games this year, and if they lost to Kent State, they would lose the #1 seed in the MAC Tournament and the automatic bid into the NIT to Buffalo. For the Golden Flashes, it was senior night. Michael Porrini, Justin Manns, Justin Greene, and Carlton Guyton are all starters and have had great careers in Kent uniforms. They didn't want to go out with a loss to rival Akron, and on top of that the Zips had already beaten them in the past two games including the MAC Championship. Both teams wanted it really badly, and the emotions on the player's faces showed how much they were putting into this game.
Akron's student group, the AK-Rowdies, gave out shirts before everyone carpooled over to the game. They were not very affectionate, but were in support of a good cause (Relay For Life).
We got to the MAC Center about an hour before tip, and the place was already starting to fill up (save for the chairbacks).
Kent students had pretty much filled up the two endzones behind the baskets, and the atmosphere was looking to be incredible. It's always a good time when opposing student sections are going at it, and when they are rivals, things only heat up. I think that Akron and Kent State student mutually respect each other though. There are never fights after games, or verbal arguments that get really heated. Both groups like to tease and put down each other. It's almost like a competition to who can make the best Akron or Kent State joke.
Like Jody said, it was really a tale of two halves. Kent led 27-18 at halftime and thoroughly dominated. Akron's offense was out of sorts. They shot 29% while committing fourteen turnovers to only two assists. Kent, meanwhile, shot 50% and was turning steals into layups at ease. A funny moment from the first half came when Kent State football alum and current New England Patriot Julian Edelman was announced. The AK-Rowdies started chanting "Let's go Giants!" That was a creative one.
Whatever Akron coach Keith Dambrot said at halftime worked, and the Zips raced out on a 22-2 run. Suddenly, they were up by eleven and everyone wondered out loud, "where did that come from?" Zips fans were vocal (at least from what I could hear standing in the middle of them), pushing their team to extend the lead. Flashes fans didn't let up, as they willed their team to within six with four minutes left. Chauncey Gilliam then hit a huge three for the Zips, and Akron was able to grind out a victory by holding on to the ball and making free throws.
As the MAC Center emptied, Akron students stuck around to congratulate their team. We went to visit the locker room area and salute the MAC Champs. What really stuck to me from visiting back there was when Kent State senior Justin Greene came and congratulated some of the Zips players that he has played against for four years. He is truly a class act, and shows the respect that these players have for each other. I gained a lot of respect for him that night, and hope nothing but the best for him in his future endeavors.
With the win, the Zips secured the MAC Championship and the #1 seed in the MAC Tournament. Barring the outcomes of other games, Kent State will likely receive the #4 seed. That's a potential semi-final match-up, which seems just the way to decide who moves on to have a chance to grasp the ultimate prize.
AKRON 61, at KENT STATE 55 03/02/2012
AKRON 21-10 (13-3) -- A. Abreu 3-12 4-4 10; Z. Marshall 3-4 6-8 12; B. Walsh 2-8 5-6 10; N. Cvetinovic 2-5 0-0 5; C. Gilliam 5-8 1-2 12; Q. Diggs 1-6 0-2 2; D. Treadwell 3-5 0-0 6; B. McClanahan 1-3 0-0 2; N. Harney 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-52 16-22 61. KENT STATE 20-10 (10-6) -- C. Guyton 5-13 1-1 12; M. Porrini 6-13 0-0 14; J. Greene 2-10 4-8 8; R. Holt 2-9 0-0 5; C. Evans 3-5 2-4 8; J. Manns 2-2 0-0 4; E. Gaines 1-4 2-2 4; P. Jackson 0-0 0-1 0; K. Brewer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-56 9-16 55.
Three-point goals: AKR 3-17 (C. Gilliam 1-2; B. Walsh 1-3; B. McClanahan 0-1; N. Cvetinovic 1-2; Z. Marshall 0-1; Q. Diggs 0-3; A. Abreu 0-5), KENT 4-15 (M. Porrini 2-4; C. Evans 0-1; R. Holt 1-2; E. Gaines 0-1; C. Guyton 1-7); Rebounds: AKR 28 (Z. Marshall 7), KENT 34 (J. Greene 13); Assists: AKR 9 (A. Abreu 5), KENT 14 (C. Guyton 4); Total Fouls -- AKR 17, KENT 17; Fouled Out: AKR-N. Cvetinovic; KENT-None.