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MAC Tournament: Akron moves on to seventh straight MAC title game after defeat of archrival Kent State

CLEVELAND — The scrum for the Mid-American Conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament has been raging for three days.

No. 4 Kent State pushed rival Akron to the brink in the teams’ semifinal matchup Friday, but the Zips came away with the 62-59 victory and a ticket to their seventh-straight MAC Championship final.

“My hats off to Kent State,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. “They really improved throughout this season. My guys were emotionally ruptured but they came right back.”

No. 2 Ohio now knows what it will be against up should it defeat Western Michigan in the second semifinal game Friday night.

The two biggest storylines entering the tournament — how will No. 1 Akron play without the services of its junior facilitator Alex Abreu and what Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper will do for an encore — remain as such.

Akron answered its portion of the question with its usual dominating paint presence thanks in large part to senior center Zeke Marshall and junior forward Demetrius Treadwell.

Marshall led the Zips with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and eight blocks for his sixth double-double of the season. Treadwell chipped in with a double-double of his own with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

A dynamic pair of all-MAC performers in Randal Holt, a third-team selection, and first-team selection Chris Evans paced No. 4 Kent State’s offensive output.

The former led his team with 19 points on 7-of-14 from the field.  Evans never got comfortable, and fouled out with 36 seconds remaining after scoring just 6 points and making one of 11 shots he took from the field.

The Zips were behind by three points on two occasions in the game — one with four minutes to play. But Marshall and Treadwell would not be denied.

Although Akron secured the lead, it struggled to put the game away. The Zips connected on just 13 of the 29 attempts from the charity stripe.

But the two most important makes came with the game on the line. Akron senior guard Brian Walsh snagged a rebound with six seconds left and sank both free throws to put the game out of reach.

Dambrot continued praising his team's resilience but will it be able to break the Bobcats a third time or will the Broncos get a shot at bucking the Zips.

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