Akron’s head coach John Groce, talks with Loren Cristian Jackson in the second half during an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Akron, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
- Kent State brings a three-game winning streak into a home game against cross-town rival Akron at 7 pm Friday
- Kent State’s Danny Pippen and Akron’s Loren Cristian-Jackson are 1-2 in the MAC in scoring, both averaging more than 21 points per game
- Check the odds, analysis and betting advice below
Kent State (10-4, 7-3 MAC) will look to avenge a four-point loss at Akron (10-4, 8-3 MAC) in the first game of the season series when the MAC rivals meet in Kent, Ohio, at 7 pm ET on Friday night. The campuses are 12 miles apart. Akron had a six-game winning streak broken its last time out, and heads into Friday as the underdog.
This is the first year that only the top eight teams will qualify for the MAC postseason tournament in Cleveland, but neither seems in danger of missing the cut. The loser will remain at least two games ahead of eighth-place Ball State (6-9, 4-6), which plays at league-leader Toledo on Friday.
Akron vs Kent State Odds
|Akron Zips||+114||+1.5 (-104)||Over 150.5 (-114)|
|Kent State Flashes||-134||-1.5 (-118)||Under 150.5 (-106)|
Odds taken Feb. 4 from FanDuel
Kent State Must Overcome Loss of Nuga
The Flashes will play their second game without senior shooting guard Michael Nuga, their second leading scorer. Nuga is expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury early in an 83-76 home victory over Central Michigan last Saturday.
Nuga is averaging 17.8 points per game, second on the team to Danny Pippen, and is shooting 50 percent from the field. He is tied for fourth in the MAC with 37 3-pointers.
Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Hernandez made his second start of the season in place of Nuga in the 77-68 victory over Miami on Tuesday, and reserve junior guard James Jordan received extended playing time. Hernandez had three points and no assists in 23 minutes before fouling out and Jordan had six points — on two 3-pointers — and five rebounds in 24 minutes.
Feb. 1, 2021
BOSTON, MA — Kent State’s Danny Pippen is the recipient of the Lou Henson award National Player of the Week. Pippen helped the Golden Flashes to a pair of wins, averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks per game. pic.twitter.com/4pEa0wploh
— College Insider Inc. (@collegeinsider) February 1, 2021
Nuga, who played two years in junior college and sat out last season after transferring from Portland State, had 19 points and eight rebounds in the first game against Akron. Jordan played 11 minutes in the first meeting. Hernandez played four.
MAC MVP Candidates Meet Again
Kent State 6-foot-9 senior forward Danny Pippen leads the MAC in scoring at 21.6 points per game and Akron 5-8 senior guard Loren Cristian Jackson is a second at 21.4. Pippen is third in the league with 8.8 rebounds per game and Jackson is second with 6.5 assists.
Jackson has five 30-point games this season, including 32 in the loss to Toledo, and two double-doubles. Pippen has three 30-point games, two during the Flashes’ three-game winning streak, and five double-doubles, three in the last four games. Jackson was the MAC player of the year in 2019-20 when he averaged 19.8 points and 4.5 assists.
Akron @ZipsMBB Guard Loren Cristian Jackson (@little_loren3) named to @collegeinsider Lute Olson and Lou Henson National Player of the Year Watch Lists… 💪 #GoZips 🦘 #1Akron
Full Release 👇https://t.co/JkPSV7TAav pic.twitter.com/TTanw6qmGc
— Akron Zips MBB (@ZipsMBB) January 28, 2021
Kent State had more trouble with Jackson than Akron had with Pippen in the Zips’ 66-62 victory on Jan. 1. Jackson had 31 points on 9-of-23 shooting, made 7 of 14 threes and had six assists in that game. Pippen had 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting and nine rebounds.
Akron 6-7 forward Enrique Freeman averages 9.6 rebounds per game, second in the MAC, and has six double-digit rebounding games, although his playing time has decreased the last three games when the Zips played a smaller group.
By the Numbers
Both Akron and Kent State have been good to their backers this season. Akron is 8-4 against the spread and Kent State is 8-4-1.
The Zips covered all six games during their recent six-game winning steak, although both streaks came to an end in their 91-76 loss at MAC-leader Toledo on Tuesday. Akron is 5-2 as a favorite, 2-3 as a road favorite. The Zips covered the first meeting between the two, laying three, when Maishe Dailey made a free throw with one second remaining in a 66-62 home victory on New Year’s Day. The Zips are 6-6 against the total.
4 new teams in the latest Mid-Major Top 25®
ENTIRE POLL: https://t.co/bM3IUsJZmc pic.twitter.com/Rt2LZ1DAQQ
— College Insider Inc. (@collegeinsider) February 2, 2021
Kent Sate is 8-4-1 against the spread, 5-3-1 as a favorite and 3-3-1 as a home favorite. The Flashes are 7-1 at home. Kent State is No. 73 in the NCAA net ratings, ahead of Kentucky, Pitt, North Carolina State and Michigan State. Akron is 101st.
The teams have split the last 14 games of the series, almost along home-court lines. The Flashes have won four of the last five at home, covering twice. Akron shot only 32 percent on Jan. 1 but made 11 threes and were 17 of 22 from the foul line. The Flashes shot 38 percent and made only 9 of 17 free throws.
By KenPom ratings, this is the most difficult game remaining on either team’s schedule. The winner would have a strong shot at the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, especially if Akron wins to sweep the season series. This is the second of four straight road games for the Zips.
The Pick: Akron +1.5 (-104)
Jack has covered college and professional sports for various Arizona media outlets and has written for the AP, USA Today and Baseball America, among others. He staffed the 2015-17 World Series and has staffed four Super Bowls.