University of Akron men's basketball: Zips shoot themselves in foot in 71-59 loss to Eagles

George M. Thomas
Akron Beacon Journal
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Heading to Ypsilanti to face Eastern Michigan, University of Akron men's basketball coach John Groce knew there was plenty his team needed to clean up in order to come home with a win.

And No. 1  on that list was turnovers.

Ten first-half giveaways, many unforced, showed why that was the case as the Zips (4-2, 2-1) lost 71-59 to the Eagles (3-3, 1-2) in a Mid-American Conference game Saturday.

Anything Groce may have said to his team during intermission apparently didn’t stick as the problems carried over into the second half. The Eagles clamped down defensively, holding UA point guard Loren Cristian Jackson to 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting, and had their way offensively against the Zips.

UA’s last lead of the game came at 28-26 at the 5:13 mark of the first half. The Eagles outscored them 45-31 from that point .

“I thought the first five minutes of the second half when they really scored on almost [every possession] ... really set the tone for the second half,” Groce said. “I thought that group was really poor defensively to start the second half and allowed the tone to be set for the rest of the half and, ultimately, the rest of the game.”

Guard Drew Lowder led five Eagles in double figures with 18 points and three rebounds. Lowder shot 3-of-6 from behind the 3-point line, and two of them came early in the second half as the Eagles built a 50-34 lead.

“I thought our defense was putrid and porous, if you guard like that and give up 56 percent in the second half. [And] we turned it over 17 times,” Groce said. “We fouled too much. If Eastern plays well, we shoot ourselves in the foot by fouling and turning the ball over, you’re going to get a 22-point deficit with 10 minutes to go, and that’s exactly what happened.”

In all, Zips turnovers — which have been a consistent problem in the first six games of the season — led to 17 Eagles points. The Zips went into the game ranked ninth in the conference in turnover differential.

“We’re soft," Groce said. "We weren’t very tough with the ball. We weren’t very tough defensively. I thought guys were complaining about guys grabbing their arms, and I don’t know if they did or they didn’t. Officials do a good job in our league and they try to call what they see. 

"At the end of the day some of these guys have got to learn that if you take my ball, you’re going to have to break my arm almost.”

Turnovers and defensive issues will have to be sorted if the team is to have any hope of repeating as MAC champion.

“The good news is we have a lot of bodies,” Groce said, “and I’ll see if I can find five guys who want to play our defense the right way with some physicality, some toughness, some energy and some detail.”

Akron at Northern Illinois

Time: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Radio: WHLO (640-AM)