Hello Akron Zips Fans, This is Michael Beaven filling in for Mike Rasor.
I'm sittting courtside at the James A. Rhodes Arena watching the University of Akron vs. Canisius College men's basketball game on Saturday night. It's the season opening game for each team.
The attendance is decent considering it looks like winter is coming and fall is departing. Rain is being replaced by snow flurries and there is a strong wind in Akron. I miss spring and summer already.
Keep refreshing thoughout the game for updates ...
Akron's starting lineup: redshirt freshman guard Ronnie Steward, redshirt sophomore guard Steve McNees, junior forward Chris McKnight, senior forward Nate Linhart and redshirt sophomore center Mike Bardo.
Canisius' starting lineup: sophomore forward Greg Logins, junior guard Frank Turner, sophomore guard Robert Goldsberry, senior guard Bob Bevilacqua and sophomore forward Tomas Vazquez-Simmons.
Akron and Canisius are both sporting Nike uniforms. This is the Zips men's basketball team's first season wearing the Nike brand (because of the LeBron James connection) after wearing adidas for nearly the past decade.
Akron led 7-4 at the first media timeout with 15:54 remaining in the first half.
The Zips first five reserves in the game were: Brett McKnight, Darryl Roberts, Anthony "Humpty" Hitchens, Jimmy Conyers and Nikola Cvetinovic.
UA trailed 4-0 early and then put together a 13-3 run to lead 13-7 at the second media timeout. Nikola Cvetinovic, a freshman forward, had four points during the surge.
Neither team is shooting very well from the field. It's hard to say if it's good defense or poor offense. I would go with the poor offense.
The offense has picked up from the behind the 3-point line.
Anthony "Humpty" Hitchens, a Zips freshman guard, and Canisius senior guard Bob Bevilacqua each made two 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions. Following Hitchens second trey, the Zips led 19-18 with about 5:30 minutes remaining in the first half.
Canisius leads 26-22 at halftime. The Golden Griffins closed the half with baskets inside from 6-foot-9 and 320-pound junior center Chris Gadley, 6-foot-7 and 240-pound forward Greg Logins and 6-foot-7 and 190-pound sophomore forward Tomas Vazquez-Simmons.
The Zips defense was a problem in the 83-81 exhibition win over Walsh University last week. Tonight, it is definitely the offense. I'm sure coach Keith Dambrot and his staff are working in the locker room on making some changes for the second half.
The halftime stats are less than flattering for each squad. Akron is shooting 29.0 percent from the field and Canisius making 38.5 percent of the their shots. Can Zips 2009 7-foot recruit Zeke Marshall graduate early from McKeeseport High School and make it in time for the second half?
The offense can only get better. Tom Gaffney, my co-worker at the Akron Beacon Journal, and I both feel that Akron will find a way to win this game despite the poor offensive performance so far. Vincent Dorsey, of the Buchtelite, agrees the Zips will win.
The Zips defense has forced two 5-second turnovers in the first two minutes and 43 seconds of the second half.
UA leads 29-28 with 17:17 remaining in the second half. Chris McKnight and Nate Linhart each had a bucket and Darryl Roberts buried a 3-pointer.
Nate Linhart just made an impressive block with 15:50 remaining in the second half on a layup attempted by Bob Bevilacqua. The Zips hold a 31-30 lead at the 15:48 mark.
Griffins big man Chris Gadley just made a pair of free throws to give Canisius a 32-31 lead. Pat Galbincea of the Cleveland Plain Dealer just pointed some interesting stats regarding Gadley. He is 1-for-1 from beyond the 3-point arc, 2-for-2 from the free throw line and 1-for-5 on 2-point attempts. Galby is filling in for Elton Alexander.
Chris Gadley made another 3-pointer to make the score 37-31. The Zips Steve McNees converted a 3-pointer, a layup and split two free throws to tie the score 37-37.
It's still weird to look out on the floor and not see past Zips standouts Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce III, Jeremiah Wood, Nick Dials and Cedrick Middleton.
Cedrick Middleton is looking pretty sharp on the Zips bench as a graduate assistant. This is the first game that Zips fifth-year head coach Keith Dambrot has guided the team without Cedrick Middleton in the lineup. He played in every game during his four-year career.
Mike Bardo had a nice block.
Brett McKnight has scored the Zips past five points to give UA a 42-39 lead with 5:23 remainiing in the second half.
Darryl Roberts nailed a 3-pointer in front of the UA bench to extend the Zips lead to 45-39 with 4:28 left in the second half. The crowd erupted following the made basket, which gave the Zips their largest lead of the game.
UA leads 48-41 with 3:32 left in the second half. Brett McKnight made a 2-pointer and split two free throws to extend the lead. The defense forced another 5-second violation prior to the free throw.
The Zips lead has reached nine points (52-43) with just 1:43 left in the second half following Brett McKnight's two made free throws. Canisius has scored just six points in the past 11 minutes or so.
Chris McKnight made a layup off of an assist from Ronnie Steward with 1:06 left in the second half to make the score 54-43 in favor of the Zips.
It's looking like the Zips will notch a win, though it has not been very pretty.
Nate Linhart made two free throws in the final seconds.
Brett McKnight scored all of his 12 points in the final six minutes of the game.
Final Score: Akron 56, Canisius 46 ... Attendance: 2,216.
A sampling of the final stats:
Akron Brett McKnight led the Zips with 12 points and Darryl Roberts had 10 points.
Chris McKnight and Steve McNees each contributed nine points. Nate Linhart and Anthony "Humpty" Hitchens each had six points. Linhart had a team-high nine rebounds.
UA shot 35.0 percent (21-for-60) from the field and 50 percent (6-for-12) from the free throw line. The Zips had 27 rebounds and had 10 turnovers.
Canisius Frank Turner led the Golden Griffins with 12 points and Chris Gadley contributed 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Julius Coles and Greg Logins each scored seven points.
Canisius shot 35.4 percent (17-for-48) from the field and 100 percent (6-for-6) from the free throw line. The Golden Griffins had 47 rebounds but also had 30 turnovers.
Akron coach Keith Dambrot: "I told you I was going to earn my money this year. We couldn't throw it in the ocean. We had a lot of looks and couldn't make any. It got worse. We were throwing up airballs."
"We grinded through."
"I thought Mike Bardo played well defensively and (Nate) Linhart made a couple of big steals."
on Brett McKnight: "He is capable. They had the big guy (Chris Gadley) guard him so we took advantage of the size. Brett is a good shooter and a good scorer. We kind of rode him a little bit (at the end of the game)."
"We need to have Bardo on the floor defensively. We are a much better team when he plays, but we also need to have the McKnight's in the game because they are better offensively."
"Our guys have that winning mentality."
"I think early in the season, you see some crazy things. We seem to struggle early in the season (the past five seasons) for whatever reason. I think maybe we should not practice. The one thing we're good at over the course of the season is we get better."
comparing the Walsh exhibition to the Canisius game: "I think we were better, but we are not anywhere near where we have been. I thought the last eight or ten minutes we were pretty good."
on Anthony "Humpty" Hitchens: "Right now Humpty is kind of like that former (Cleveland) Indians player Russell Branyan. It's either a strike out or a home run. He can't get a walk or a single. He is trying like crazy. He has an unbelievable attitude and he wants to get better."
on an errant shot by Steve McNees: "Steve shot a 3-footer that went one-foot."
I normally don't look at the scoreboard during games, but I looked and saw we were shooting 28 percent for most of the game and I said to (assistant coach) Jeff (Boals) 'Are we ever going to make one.' I almost busted (Brett McClanhan's) redshirt (and brought him into the game to shoot)."
on Chris Gadley: "That is a big guy. He is pretty mobile around the basket. He is hard to deal with in there."
on the Zips team: "I think this team will get better. Some nights we will we just have to grind it out. We just have to continue to coach them up and get better."
Akron sophmore forward Brett McKnight: "I needed a spark to get going. Once I hit my first shot my confidence went up."
"I knew I could out-quick him (Chris Gadley) because he was so big."
Akron senior forward Nate Linhart: "If we didn't buckle down (defensively) in the end, it wasn't going to happen. Brett hit some big shots late for us."
"It was kind of a weird game, but thankfully we got it done."
on the offensive struggles: "Personally, I thought I have to contribute somehow. I had to defend, rebound and create havoc out there."
Canisius coach Tom Parrotta: "We didn't take care of the basketball. We had a six point lead ... and we shot ourselves in the foot. They capitalized. That lead should have grown from six to 10 (points)."