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Brown's 37-point outburst invigorates Akron in OT thriller

University of Akron stays undefeated in overtime, defeating the University of Toledo, 73-71, to advance in the Mid-American Conference tournament

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland, OH -- Don't count out Anita Brown or the Akron Zips.

The No. 5-seeded University of Akron Zips (19-12, 12-7 MAC) put the game on Brown's back to beat the No. 4-seeded University of Toledo Rockets, 73-71, in overtime and pull off the second Mid-American Conference quarterfinal upset of the day. The victory pushes the Zips to an undefeated 4-0 record in overtime this season.

Playing 43 minutes, Brown accounted for more than half Akron's points, scoring a game-high 37.

"I'm very happy," Akron coach Jodi Kest said. "We have the utmost respect for Toledo. We knew it was going to come down to the end. I'm really glad we had Anita Brown tonight."

Toledo (17-13, 12-7 MAC) started the game with a 6-3 advantage; however, the cushion was short lived. Akron grabbed the lead with back-to-back 3-point baskets, pushing ahead 16-12 in the first quarter. It carried that lead until 9:08 remained in the game. By the end of 10 minutes, the Zips maintained a five-point edge with a 22-17 lead.

Opening the second period, the Rockets generated some offense and cut the score to one point around the five-minute mark, but never really found an answer for Brown.

Brown went off for 21 points on a 9-of-13 performance from the field in the first half to pace the Akron Zips to a 40-36 halftime advantage. While Brown's showing in the first half was nothing short of impressive, her production over the last two quarters and overtime endured.

Brown finished the game 17-of-31 from the field and 4-of-6 from the charity stripe with 37 points. She also led the Zips with three steals and finished second in both rebounding and assists with seven and two, respectively.

The third period started with a defensive stalemate as Brown knocked down a quick basket 30 seconds in and both teams were held scoreless over the next three minutes.

A perfect Brenae Harris trip to the free throw line with 6:12 left in the third encompassed Toledo's scoring for the quarter until just over two minutes remained, while Akron jumped ahead 50-38.

Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott finally broke the Rocket's drought, hitting a 3-pointer and spurring a 5-0 run to close the quarter. However, the Zips still led 50-44 into the final 10 minutes. Brown totaled half of the Akron's points with 25, shooting 61.1 percent from the field at that juncture.

Heading into the final period, there had only been one lead change and one tied score. At the end of four quarters, the contest had been tied, and the lead had changed six times.

Opening the fourth period, Toledo extended its 5-0 run to 13 unanswered points that spanned over five and a half minutes. Bravo-Harriott brought the game within three points with 9:08 remaining in the game on a completed and-one attempt. Ana Capotosto evened the score at 50-50 with 7:56 left on the clock. Then the Rockets claimed their first lead since the first quarter as Harris again was perfect at the line. With 7:14 left, Toledo managed to take a 52-50 lead.

The run and only second lead change of the game motivated Akron break to the streak. DiAndra Gibson tied the score at 52-52 on a layup for her 10th point of the game, joining Brown in double figures and setting her teammate up to pick up the lead.

Brown followed up with a jumper to give the Zips a 54-52 edge. Megan Barilla facilitated both plays, getting her teammates the ball. Barilla led Akron in both assists and rebounds with six and 10, respectively.

Kaayla McIntyre tied the score again on a layup, and the took the lead back for the Rockets on a 1-for-2 trip to the line with 3:21 remaining. Toledo carried a narrow 55-54 cushion before Brown kissed a layup off the glass to set the game in Akron's favor by a point. Harris reversed things on a layup to set the score at 57-56 for the Rockets with three minutes to play.

A Sarah St. Fort free throw pushed the Toledo's advantage to two points, but Brown stole the ball and made a layup to help the Zips match the Rockets. With 1:09 on the clock, Toledo took a 62-60 lead via a perfect Capotosto trip to the free throw line.

It then held Akron scoreless until 10 seconds remained as Brown found Greta Burry for a quick layup to tie the score one last time at 60-60, sending the game into overtime.

After carrying a lead for a majority of the game Akron and allowing Toledo to crawl back into it, pushing things out five extra minutes, the Zips buckled down in overtime.

"I thought we were going to be fine, but we couldn't finish the deal," Toledo coach Tricia Cullop said. "Some of it you have to credit to Akron's defense, but you know, we missed some easy ones too right at the basket."

They quickly secured a lead and never relinquished it. Akron jumped ahead by as many as six and Toledo cut its deficit as close as one point with seconds remaining; however, the advantage never shifted back to the Rockets. Brown managed consecutive 1-for-2 trips to the line down the stretch to break up back-to-back 3-point baskets from Capotosto and Harris, allowing the Zips to claim a 73-71 victory.

Akron will advance to play the No. 8 University of Buffalo Bulls, who topped No. 1 University 72-60, in a semifinal matchup at noon on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.

"We've had two great games at our place and at their place, obviously they're really confident," Kest said.