Cotton Drains 3-Pointer to Lift Zips Over Falcons, 80-78

By Published: 1/13/2018 7:25:50 PM Custom Tag

Courtesy: Brian Dennison

AKRON, Ohio – Freshman guard Virshon Cotton (Milwaukee, Wisc.) hit a contested 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3.7 seconds remaining to lift Akron to an 80-77 win over visiting Bowling Green Saturday afternoon at James A. Rhodes Arena.

The Zips led throughout the game, but on the strength of 43 free throw attempts and a 31-18 foul disparity in favor of the Falcons, Bowling Green was able to stay in the game and tie it up twice late in the contest, for the final time on two free throws by Demajeo Wiggins with 49 seconds remaining.

Following the second make, the Zips (8-8, 1-3 MAC) missed a 3-pointer, but junior forward Lucas Smith (Omaha, Neb.) grabbed the offensive rebound, setting up Cotton's game-winning heroics.

Cotton had his second straight big game off the bench, scoring 23 to tie his career high, set against Buffalo four days prior.

The Zips also received a career game from freshman forward Jayden Sayles (Cincinnati, Ohio), who hit his first five field goal attempts, including a pair of putbacks off of offensive rebounds, on his way to a 14-point outing and snagged four rebounds on the afternoon.

The 6-foot-9 freshman forward left the game after a hard fall under the Akron basket with 8:34 remaining in the second half and didn't return, but the Zips were able to hold on for the win thanks in large part to junior guard Jimond Ivey (Cleveland, Ohio), who added 19 points. Ivey also sank a pair of 3-pointers in a 9-0 run that helped Akron to its biggest lead of the game to that point at the 16:29 mark of the second half, 48-37.

Ivey also delivered one of the game's biggest plays, sinking a 3-pointer with 13:16 remaining after the Falcons (11-7, 2-3 MAC) narrowed the deficit to seven at 51-44. Moments later, graduate transfer guard Malcolm Duvivier (Toronto, Ontario) and Cotton sank back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Akron lead to 13 once again, and the Falcons slowly whittled away at it before tying it in the final minutes.

The contest was a slow-paced affair at the outset, with both teams looking to score out of their half-court offense. The two

Akron once again received a major boost from its bench as freshman forward Jayden Sayles powered his way to nine first-half points to go with three rebounds and Cotton tallied seven points in the first 20 minutes.

Behind Cotton and Sayles, the Zips shot 43.3 percent (13-of-30) for the opening frame in a game that was nearly even by most statistical measures at intermission. The rebounding, shooting and turnover categories all featured a difference of two or less between the Falcons and Zips, but Bowling Green was able to keep itself in the game at the foul line, converting 10-of-15 chances before the half as Akron was whistled for 12 team fouls.

Because of those fouls, Duvivier was sidelined for much of the half after accruing his third foul. Sayles, sophomore guard Daniel Utomi (Houston, Texas), Ivey and Smith all had two fouls before the break, forcing first-year head coach John Groce to delve deeper into a bench thinned by the absence of sophomore forward Emmanuel Olojakpoke (Houston, Texas). Due to a medical condition that required surgery, Olojakpoke will miss the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Full details will be disclosed at a later date.

Despite their foul troubles, the Zips held on for a 36-32 lead at the break, surviving 10 turnovers and a cold spell shooting the ball late in the half. Solid defense, including holding the Falcons to 34.6-percent shooting and just two made 3-pointers for the half, allowed Akron to survive its shooting drought to keep its four-point lead intact heading to the locker room.

Redshirt freshman guard Justin Turner led Bowling Green with 30 points and sophomore guard Dylan Frye contributed 14 in defeat.

Akron Zips are back on the road for the next league game, traveling to Ypsilanti, Mich. for a divisional crossover game against Eastern Michigan. The Zips are scheduled to play the Mid-American Conference game on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at EMU's Convocational Center. Fans can follow the action on ESPN3, 1350-AM, or

Published: 1/13/2018 7:25:50 PM Custom Tag