UMass Set To Rematch Syracuse After 68-63 Win Over Akron
March 22, 2008
AMHERST, Mass. - UMass advanced past the second round of the NIT for the first time since 1991 with a hard-fought 68-63 win over Akron on Saturday at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen rallied from down 12 (58-46) from 8:30 left in the game to outscored Akron, 22-5 to end the game. The Minutemen (23-10) will travel to Syracuse on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The game will air on ESPN. It will be a rematch of UMass' epic 107-100 win at the Carrier Dome on Nov. 28, 2007. Ricky Harris led UMass with 20 points and Chris Lowe had 17, including the go-ahead free throws late in the game. A-10 Player of the Year Gary Forbes scored in double-figures for the 37th game in a row with 11.
Akron's Jeremiah Wood was a beast all game as he scored the most points by any Akron player this season with 25 to set a new career-high.
Forbes made a 1-of-2 free throws with 20 seconds left for a 66-63 edge, leaving Akron with the final shot and a chance to tie the game, but Woods's shot was off and
UMass tied the game and regained the lead on a pair of free throws by Lowe to make it 61-60 with 3:14 left in the game. He then hit two free throws on an intentional foul by Akron's Nick Dials with 2:52 left in regulation for a 63-60 lead. Dials grabbed Lowe's ankle while the players were fighting for a loose ball. Forbes was fouled on the possession after the initial free throws and made both of his foul shots for a 65-60 lead with 2:38 left. That finished a 19-2 run.
Brett McKnight made a 3-pointer to cut the UMass lead to 65-63 with 2:10 left.
Down, 58-46, UMass scored the game's next nine points to cut the lead to 58-55 on a Forbes' lay-up with 4:45 left in the second half.
The Minutemen went ice cold from the floor as they went more than five minutes without a basket as Akron continued to build its lead to double-figures with 10 minutes left in the game, 54-43. Akron jumped to a 52-43 lead on a Brett McKnight 3-pointer with 11:43 left in the second half. Wood was a force in the paint as he scored nine points in a six-minute span.
Wood hit on a 3-pointer and jumper in the lane to give Akron a 44-39 lead with 15:30 left in the second half for the Zips' largest lead of the game to date. UMass came back to within one at 44-43 on Etienne Brower's pair of free throws.
The Zips took their first lead since the first minute of the game on a Nate Linhart lay-up two minutes into the second half, to give Akron a 37-36 lead. That was short lived as Harris nailed a 3-pointer with 12:29 left to regain the UMass lead, 39-37.
Akron cut the lead to 31-27 on a wide-open 3-pointer with Cedrick Middleton with 2:57 left in the first half. The Zips made it 31-29 on a breakaway dunk by Brett McKnight with 1:30 left in the half to cap at 15-7 run to end the period.
Brower's 3-pointer with 7:20 left made it 27-16. Lowe had back-to-back lay-ups to put UMass ahead, 24-13 with 8:04 left in the first half. Harris' consecutive 3-pointers with 15:30 left in the first half, gave UMass a 13-8 lead.