A 20-point halftime deficit turned out to be too much for Eastern Michigan University as they fell to the University of Akron 78-68 in front of 609 fans at the Convocation Center.
EMU (11-7, 3-2 MAC) pulled to within seven in the second half 11:50 on Karrington Ward’s three-pointer from the wing, but would get no closer.
“We came out in the second half and made a push,” Murphy said. “We cut it to single digits, but put all of our energy into coming back. Unfortunately, we could not finish (Akron).”
Ward led EMU with 20 on 7-of-15 shooting, 3-for-6 from three-point range and 3-of-4 on free throws.
Ward’s 20 points is the most in a single game since Dec. 7, 2013 at Purdue where he put up 25.
For Akron (12-6, 4-1 MAC), Jake Kretzer scored a career-high 25 on 9-of-18 shooting and 7-for-12 from the field.
“It felt like everything I was throwing up kept going in,” Kretzer said. “My team got me a bunch of open looks from the baseline, which helped my confidence.”
The Zips’ leading scorer and rebounder Demetrius Treadwell produced a double-double with 18 and 11, respectively.
“We knew it would be hard to stop Treadwell because he plays extremely tough and is super-athletic,” Murphy said.
Akron scored the first 12 of the game highlighted by Kretzer’s two three-point makes from the baseline.
The Eagles went the first 5:33 without a point until Talley made one of three free throws to put them on the board.
EMU’s first field goal of the game came at the 12-minute mark on Jalen Ross’s jump shot.
The Eagles would get no closer than nine points in the first half on Ward’s steal and follow-up dunk to pull EMU to 22-13.
Akron would end the half on a 17-6 run to go ahead by 20.
“We went down 20 at the half and knew it would be difficult to come back against a good team like Akron, but we gave it our all,” Murphy said.
The Eagles started the second half on an 11-4 run highlighted by Talley’s layup makes in back-to-back possessions.
Down 17, after Akron scored six straight to make it 47-30 when Ward hit back-to-back triples from the wing to pull within 11 once more.
After’s Ward three from the wing to make it 48-41, Akron would respond by going on a 9-0 run after Riley committed his third foul at the 12:01 mark.
The Eagles were never able to gain the lead as the Zips hit their free throws down the stretch to secure the 10-point win over the Eagles.
Combs fouled out with 17.4 seconds left and finished with 12 points despite shooting 5-of-20 (25 percent) from the field.
Quincy Diggs assessed a technical foul with 17.4 seconds left for trash-talking EMU players.
Glenn Bryant started the game after coming off the bench against Central Michigan University Jan. 18.
On Jan. 25, the Eagles will continue their three-game home stand as Ohio University comes calling for an 11 a.m. tip-off.
In the teams’ last meeting on Feb. 20, 2013 Ohio defeated EMU 73-50. J.R. Sims led the Eagles with 12 points.
Ohio (13-5, 3-2 MAC) was knocked off on Jan. 22 at home to Bowling Green State University 58-56.
Senior guard/forward T.J. Hall led the Bobcats with 15 points and connected on 5-of-9 field goal attempts.
With Ohio on the horizon, Murphy understands the importance of each game ahead in conference play.
“We need to understand the importance of each possession in every game,” Murphy said. “Us taking possessions for granted finally caught up with us tonight and must change going forward.”
You can hear Chad Bush and Sean Hostetter on WEMU 89.1 FM, while Dan Gutowsky and Sean Harrington will have the call on ESPNU.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.