Greg Tribble's two late free throws after Kent State gaffe gives Akron 62-61 win in MAC title game

Sat, Mar 16, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

Greg Tribble's two late free throws after Kent State gaffe gives Akron 62-61 win in MAC title game

CLEVELAND (AP) - Greg Tribble made two free throws with 4.8 seconds left after he was inexplicably fouled by Kent State's Julius Rollins, giving Akron a 62-61 win over its bitter rival in the Mid-American Conference championship to earn an NCAA Tournament bid on Saturday night.

The second-seeded Zips (24-10) won their fifth MAC title and second in three years. Making it sweeter is that they did it against the Golden Flashes (17-17), the No. 8 seed who knocked off top-seeded Toledo in the quarterfinals.

Kent State was in position to pull off another stunning upset when Cli'Ron Hornbeak tipped in a miss by Jalen Sullinger to give the Golden Flashes a 61-60 lead with 6.2 seconds to go.

The Zips quickly inbounded the ball to Tribble, but he was fouled by Rollins, who apparently didn't realize the Golden Flashes had taken the lead. Kent State coach Rob Senderoff covered his head and paced along the sideline after seeing his reserve make the costly mistake.

Tribble then dropped both free throws and Akron held on when Sullinger, who scored 19 points, missed a runner in the final second.

Ali Ali scored 18 points and Enrique Freeman, the MAC's player of the year, added 17 and nine rebounds for the Zips. Freeman was named the tournament's most outstanding player.

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VonCameron Davis scored 21 to lead the Golden Flashes.

This was the fifth meeting between Akron and Kent State in the MAC title game and second in three years. Somehow, they always seem to collide in March.

There is no love lost between Akron and Kent State, longtime rivals in football, basketball and every other sport. The campuses are roughly just 12 miles apart and their passionate fan bases - sometimes dividing families and neighborhoods - are in constant conflict.

Amazingly, the series was tied 82-82 entering the title game.

Kent State's zone defense was effective in the first half as it limited Freeman's touches and forced the Zips to play with patience - something they struggle to do.

With Akron's offense lacking any rhythm, the Golden Flashes opened a 24-18 lead before Ali made a 3-pointer and was fouled making another one, and his 4-point play capped a 16-2 run to put the Zips up 34-29 at half.

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