Central Michigan freshman Aaron Richie came off the bench to score a career-high 16-points and lead a furious second half comeback, but in the end, it wasn't quite enough.
Trailing 50-29 with 14:46 remaining in the game, the Chippewas (2-12, 0-6 Mid-American Conference) went on a 19-5 run to cut the Zips (12-3, 5-0 MAC) lead to just seven points, 55-48, at the 7:06 mark.
"I was getting a little winded at the end," said Richie, who scored eight of his 16 points during CMU's rally. "It (the rally) showed we weren't going to back down."
Akron led 63-58 following a Dru Joyce 3-pointer with 2:13 remaining in regulation. But the Chippewas responded with a layup by center Drew Walker and another by freshman guard Jon Yeazel to trim the Zips lead to one, 63-62, with 32 seconds remainining.
Akron's Nate Linhart then coverted one of two free throws before CMU point guard Giordan Watson hit a 12-foot jumper to even the score at 64 apiece with 17 seconds remaining. A desperation shot at the buzzer missed the mark for Akron sending the game into overtime.
The Zips never trailed in the five minute overtime, outscoring the Chippewas 12-4 on their way to a 76-69 victory in a hostile environment.
"I think we've had a problem putting teams away all year," Akron head coach Keith Dambrot said. "They (CMU) played harder than us that last 15 minutes (of regulation) and it almost cost us. (CMU head coach) Jay Smith gets his guys to play hard for him."
Smith was pleased with his team's effort in the second half.
"Once again it was a tale of two halfs for this team," Smith said. "We dug ourselves a hole in the first half, but there's a lot of positives we can build on tonight. We had 19 offensive rebounds and we were battling at the end to win the game."
Sefton Barrett and Eddie Spencer joined Richie in double-figures scoring for CMU with 15 and 14 points respectively. Akron's Romeo Travis led all scorers with a game-high 22 points.
The Chippewas return to the road once again for their next two games, still seeking their first MAC win of the season. CMU has a 2 p.m. tipoff at Buffalo this Saturday, before traveling to Ball State Tuesday night, Jan. 24, for a game against the Cardinals. Tipoff in Muncie is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"We're going to keep the faith and stay positive, that's what we'll build on," Smith said. "We're going to fight 'em tooth and nail."
CMU Loses to Akron in Overtime, 76-69
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