CLEVELAND (AP) — Xavier Castaneda scored 26 points and Ali Ali added 13, leading fourth-seeded Akron to a 70-62 upset of top-seeded Toledo in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament on Friday night.
The Zips (23-9) avenged a regular-season loss on Jan. 28 to Toledo and moved into Saturday's title game, where they'll play the winner of the second semifinal between Kent State and Ohio for the MAC's automatic NCAA bid.
The Rockets (26-7) had their six-game winning streak stopped. More importantly, they'll likely extend their NCAA Tournament drought to 42 years. Toledo last made the NCAA field in 1980 and despite the school's strong record this season, the MAC is unlikely to have a second team invited.
Enrique Freeman added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Akron, which last made the NCAAs in 2013.
Ryan Rollins scored 18 and Ra'Heim Moss had 13 for the Rockets, who pulled within 61-59 on JT Shumate's basket with 2:52 left. But Freeman powered inside for a bucket and Mikal Dawson made a big 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to put Akron ahead 66-59 with 1:51 left.
Toledo again got within four, but the Rockets were forced to foul in the final minute and Greg Tribble and Castaneda made two free throws apiece to close out the win.
Down 15 and out of sorts, Toledo finally settled in and closed the first half with five straight points. The Rockets then opened the second 20 minutes by outscoring 19-10 over the first 8:48 to pull within 48-47 on Shumate's 3-pointer.
But Castaneda, a junior from Chicago, buried consecutive 3-pointers to put the Zips back in control.
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