Boubacare Toure’s 15 points and inside dominance combined with Paul Jackson’s 15 points were not enough to break Eastern Michigan University’s nine-year losing streak at the Rhodes Arena, Jan. 15.
EMU went into the game riding high after their demolition of Kent State, but ultimately met a harsh defense and staunch coaching from John Groce, head coach of Akron. Jimond Ivey and Daniel Utomi led Kent State with 12 points each to snap Akron’s two game losing streak.
While Eastern controlled the inside with 34 points in the paint, Akron played harder defense, stealing the ball 10 times to Eastern’s eight and shooting more efficiently from the line. Eastern was led by Jackson and Toure, who each contributed 15 points.
Toure had a stellar game shooting 7-9 from the field, collected 10 rebounds and a steal. Jackson finished 7-16 from the field and 1-3 from three, with five assists and four steals.
After trailing by four points at halftime, the Eagles’ offense began to flow a lot better. Within the first four minutes of the second half, EMU went on an 8-3 run to give them a 30-29 lead. James Thompson IV would later tie the game at 32 apiece with an offensive rebound and putback. The game remained within two possessions for the remainder, as neither team led by more than four points in the final 20 minutes. Unfortunately for EMU, the offense stalled in the final five minutes, scoring just six points in that time span.
The defense kept the Eagles in the game, and EMU had multiple opportunities down the stretch to try and either tie or win the game. With Akron leading 50-49 in the final seconds, Jackson lobbed a pass to forward Ty Groce, who was streaking down the near sideline. Groce caught the pass and attempted to bounce it off the backboard, but the ball rolled off the front of the iron. EMU had one more shot, trailing 51-49, and the ball was once again in Jackson’s hands. The senior point guard dribbled down the court and pulled up for a mid-range floater, but it slid off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
It was another disappointing loss at Akron as the Eagles haven’t won there since 2010. Jackson averaged 14.6 points per game in his last five and tied for a team-high of 15 points. He also added five assists. Toure scored nine points in the first half and finished the game with 15, as he earned a double-double with 10 boards.
EMU slid to 8-9 overall (2-2 in the MAC) and will head to Buffalo to take on the 16th-ranked team in the nation. Following that, the Eagles will return home to face 12-5 Bowling Green on Tuesday, Jan. 22.