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I plan to do some studying during this game. Usually that doesn't work too well.
Some of you have posted predictions. I don't want to spew out a figure without additional research, but I think the game will be closer than most expect for the first half. Akron might even tie the game midway through the second half. That said, Pitt should close out and win by around 20.
Another important game to watch is Bowling Green vs. Buffalo in football. Bowling Green leads early,
The Zips are 20-point
underdogs tonight. I can't remember a spread like this in my years of covering the Zips.
Keith Dambrot's pregame quotes with
Steve French: "It's going to be difficult, but it's a good experience for our young guys. It will help them down the line no matter what the outcome is. They have one of the best front lines in the Big East. Their point guard is one of the best in the country. Their three best guys are back. If we shoot the ball in, we can stretch them out, especially with our bigger people."
Dambrot said Pitt dodged the Zips two years ago. They went up to Buffalo instead, and still almost lost.
The Zips were originally supposed to play at Mississippi State in this tournament. It's a shorter trip to Pitt, but longer odds.
Nik Cvetinovic is starting again. I like Dambrot's rationale for that move. It makes more sense to bring a balanced offensive-defensive attack off the bench with
Brett McKnight and
Mike Bardo. That said, Cvetinovic may not know Dambrot's system well, but he is an adequate defender regardless.
For a moment at least, Akron is better than the No. 6 Pitt Panthers. The Zips lead 3-2 after a
Nate Linhart 3-pointer.
It's probably a good thing that
Zeke Marshall signed before this game. Pitt is dominating Akron on the offensive glass.
Joe Dunn said Pitt's forwards aren't particularly tall, but they bounce like pogo sticks.
Bowling Green scored another touchdown. The Falcons lead Buffalo 14-0 heading into the half.
The game sounds bleak now, but the Zips will go on a run. I have seen plenty of games like this. Remember all of those games at Rhodes Arena where the overmatched team starts to hit shots and that coincides with an Akron cold stretch? I assure you something similar will happen tonight.
Dunn said Akron is recruiting one of Cvetinovic's Serbian teammates. He drilled the first two free throws in his college career.
Pitt went on a 10-0 run to blow this game wide open. It wouldn't be too far of a stretch to say this game is a matchup of high-school all stars (or kids who are a year away from it) against NBA players (or players who are a year from it).
For example, Pitt's
Sam Young has 16 points in the half. Those are NBA numbers.
This game is exploiting Akron's greatest weakness -- defensive rebounding. I bet the coaches will study this tape to fix the lurking problem. As I wrote Tuesday, the Winthrop game was fool's gold. The Eagles were getting crushed on the boards, too.
Bowling Green scored again. If you didn't know, if BG and Akron both win this week, there will be a three-way tie at 4-3 in the MAC East. Bowling Green would control its own destiny, however, because of its wins over Akron and Buffalo.
Humpty Hitchens and Brett McKnight started the second half.
Akron needed to play a nearly flawless game tonight -- about as cleanly as it played against Winthrop. Instead, turnovers are creating leak-outs for easy Pitt layups.
Bowling Green and Buffalo traded touchdowns. It's 27-7 with 13 minutes to play.
Ronnie Steward still has not scored. Oh wait! There it was.
From the sounds of it, Cvetinovic and Brett McKnight have played well offensively. The latter has 15 points.
Brett McKnight is up to 20 points. This is a game against a team with a strong frontcourt. We have already seen that Dambrot wants McKnight to get the last shot in crunch time. Maybe he is becoming a go-to guy on a more consistent basis.
Buffalo scored again. It is 27-20 and the Bulls have the ball with 1:55 to play.
Despite the Zips' sloppiness, the team keeps fighting. That must be exactly what Dambrot was looking for. He was fairly clear that he didn't expect a win, calling it a "gravy game."
Buffalo tied the game at 27. There are 37 seconds left. It looks like the Bulls will have another overtime thriller. The winner basically earns the division title.
It is strange that Pitt coach
Jamie Dixon is keeping the starters in. Either he wants them to get more work or he is unsettled by how the Zips have made runs against the backups. Akron has outscored Pitt in the second half, 30-28.
The Buffalo-BG game is going to overtime.
French said that Marshall doesn't like anything about Pitt. Therefore, Dixon wanted a blowout. Good stuff.
Buffalo scored on its first overtime possession. BG answered.
This is a respectable loss. It's the kind of game that every team needs to experience early in the season. It helps you learn to cope with a loss. It adapts you to harsh environments. It lets you learn from teams that are good at exploiting weaknesses. In my opinion, it is one of the reasons that the Zips did not win the MAC Tournament in the past three years.
Buffalo won the MAC East. They made a goal-line stand against BG. Then
James Starks ran for a 25-yard touchdown on their first play with the ball in double-overtime.
Akron 67, Pitt 86 -- Final score