After recording three-consecutive wins, Western Kentucky (3-1) suffered their first loss of the season in a 72-53 defeat to Akron (3-1) in the opening round of the Cayman Islands Classic at John Gray Gymnasium.
Prior to the opening tip, WKU head coach Rick Stansbury announced that guard Dontaie Allen would be unavailable for the game because of an eligibility matter involving his old school and conference. Stansbury added that the issue is currently being addressed and will hopefully be resolved soon.
“It’s not the loss that I’m really disappointed in, we all want to win. It’s how we lost the game… We were out of sorts. I hadn’t seen that team. That hadn’t been the team that we had coached all summer and fall. We had some different lineups in there that we hadn’t played, I didn’t think we functioned very well or executed.”– Rick Stansbury
The Hilltoppers struggled to connect throughout the contest, sinking 37.0% (20-54) from the field, shooting 28.6% (6-21) from beyond the arc and 53.8% (7-13) from the free throw line. The Zips shot 56.3% (27-48) from field goal range, sank 40.9% (9-22) from three-point range and shot 60.0% (9-15) from the free throw line.
“I’m glad it’s an early game. Get up and get playing. I don’t like this taste; I don’t like our team having this taste. It’ll be a challenge for us to get back after a hard-fought battle. We’ll see what we can do when we can do at 11 o’clock in the morning.”– Rick Stansbury
Western Kentucky’s scoring efforts were led by WKU sixth year guard Emmanuel Akot, who finished the contest with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal. Junior guard Dayvion McKnight chipped in 12 points, five rebounds and one assist. Redshirt sophomore forward/center Fallou Diagne contributed eight points and one rebound.
“I think we’ll watch film and see what we can do better. Obviously, we’ve got to be tougher on the ball. But we’ve also got to have short-term memory and apply those things to tomorrow’s game against Illinois State.”– Emmanuel Akot
Akron forward Enrique Freeman led the Zips on the boards, dropping 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Guard Xavier Castaneda was also explosive, collecting 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. The Zips had several other contributors as guards Greg Tribble, Trendon Hankerson and Nate Johnson recorded nine points each.
Western Kentucky won the opening tip and struck first as McKnight scored the first two points of the game. The Zips responded by sinking the next six points of the game to take the lead. Center Jamarion Sharp responded with a layup before the Zips extended their lead with two-straight from beyond the arc to lead 12-4 with a little more than 15 minutes left in the first of play.
After a few layups and some solid shooting at the line from guard Jordan Rawls, the Hilltoppers cut the Zips lead down. After their first seven shots from beyond the arc were off the mark, Western Kentucky sank their next three. Redshirt senior guard Luke Frampton, Akot and Diagne all contributed to the boards to tie the game 25-25 with 4:20 left in the first half.
The Zips responded with two straight three-pointers before the Hilltoppers sank the final three points of the half. Western Kentucky trailed Akron 32-20 at the half. Although Akot collected the first bucket of the second half but the Zips were just too much for the Hilltoppers, scoring 10-straight to secure the victory as WKU was only able to cut the deficit to eight. The Zips finished the contest by holding the Hilltoppers to just one field goal in the final five minutes of regulation.
Western Kentucky is back at John Gray Gymnasium for the Cayman Islands Classic tournament tomorrow for a second round matchup against Illinois State. The opening tip is at 10 a.m. CT and the game will be televised on FloHoops.