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Akron leads the all-time series between the teams 34-29. This is a series that Keith Dambrot has addressed from time to time during press conferences. The implication has been that Gary Waters' team was dodging the Zips. In fact, after the last game, Dambrot said that Cleveland State must be pretty good because Waters finally agreed to play Akron. This offseason, the teams signed a four-year contract that begins tonight.
Cleveland State is 5-0 this season, having beaten most notably Kent State by three. Senior guard Norris Cole leads the Vikings with 21.6 points and 3.2 assists per game. Four of their five starters average at least five rebounds per game, which is really good. All five starters returned from last year, and four of them will return next season, too. For what it's worth (and "very little" is the proper answer this early in the season), the Vikings have never started a season with five straight wins.
With the game about to start, I'm a little surprised there aren't more fans here. I would surmise there are fewer people here than the previous two home games (Youngstown and Millikin). Then again, here are the home attendance totals for the CSU games played in Cleveland this year: 1,450, 1,561, 2,805, and 1,411. It's safe to say the CSU fanbase probably doesn't travel well, either.
I thought this game would be close to a sell-out, but now that I think of it, I haven't heard much buzz about it. I work in an office full of guys who went to Cleveland State for law school, and not one word of smack was spoken.
Akron's starters: Zeke Marshall, Darryl Roberts, Steve McNees, Nik Cvetinovic and Brett McClanahan.
Cvetinovic will be giving up size and strength to 6-foot-9, 265-pound center Aaron Pogue. Cvetinovic took him off the dribble and scored on a spin move to start the game.
Cole runs the point for CSU. He is one of three exceptional point guards in the Horizon League. The other two are Ray McCallum from Detroit and Shelvin Mack from Butler. Akron will visit McCallum and the Detroit Titans a week from today. The freshman spurned offers from Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and UCLA to play for his father, the head coach.
Marshall has been dead-on with his jump hooks today. The kid is very confident with that shot. It almost looks robotic now. Aside from Marshall's scoring, Akron has sloppy with six turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game.
Alex Abreu made a boneheaded handoff pass that was tapped away. The ball then bounced off the referee, out of bounds. It would have been a breakaway layup for CSU if not for the ref.
Caleb Porter is personally buying 500 tickets to give away to students to "fill the hill" on Sunday, when the Zips play Indiana in the Sweet 16. He gave a speech on the jumbotron during a timeout and got probably a louder applause than any other Zip has tonight. I'm really hoping Porter continues making such an impact on campus, and also in the community. You can tell he's a natural leader, and if there's one thing I've learned in politics, it's that Ohio has a need for real leaders.
Quincy Diggs entered the game and quickly scored off the dribble while being fouled.
Marshall pinned a shot against the backboard -- with both hands. He could've blocked that with his chin if he so desired.
Pogue and Marshall are wrestling in the post as Marshall seeks to gain position. Pogue was called for two fouls on the same possession, but eventually tipped the ball away and caused another turnover.
The Zips aren't playing their normal offense. When they're going well, they're chucking 3s after a kick-out pass from the post. When they're going poorly, they're chucking 3s without the due diligence in the post. Tonight, Akron has only shot two 3-pointers, both from McNees.
Some AK-Rowdies are holding up a giant check (like the kind from Happy Gilmore). To: Tonight's referees. For: Bad officiation. From: Cleveland State. Let's see how long the athletic department lets that go.
Speaking of the Rowdies, they fooled another opponent with their phony shotclock countdown.
Cole is sporting the early-'90s Will Smith haircut. (See below)
Akron hasn't scored since the 5:29 mark in the first half. After two Cvetinovic free throws, they're only down five. That's something to be thankful for. The Zips have now racked up 11 turnovers.
Abreu is not doing a good job leading the offense. He has made a couple of bad plays in particular when he leaves his feet to pass.
CSU's backup center Joe Latas picked up his third foul with 25 seconds left in the half. Marshall is likely to lead the league in fouls drawn this year -- although I don't believe anyone actually tallies that statistic.
Halftime stats of note: Akron has 11 turnovers (CSU has 4). Trevon Harmon has nine points for CSU. McClanahan and Cole have five rebounds and three assists each. The Vikings are shooting 33.3 percent (Akron 50 percent). The Zips have blocked five shots (CSU zero).
The Akron drum band performed at halftime. I'll tell you what; it's entertaining. It's also louder than I've ever put my music up in my car.
Here is some Thanksgiving advice from TV's Stephen Colbert: If you're looking for a great stuffing for your turkey that is sure to please your guests, try cash.
We were talking about leadership earlier (or at least I was). There is another person in Ohio sports whom I would like to see run for office: Jim Tressel. He has a good deal of integrity, courage and intelligence. Then again, I used to tell people that I thought Tiger Woods could run for president and win.
Cole threw a quick elbow jab at McClanahan, who was up in his face guarding him on the perimeter. The ref called Cole for an offensive foul, and in demonstrating what Cole did, the ref nearly hit McClanahan a second time.
I hope I don't lose your readership with this next statement: I was a Kent State fan when Waters coached there. Yes, I was. Well, heck, campus was five minutes away from my house, and the Flashes went to the Elite Eight. I rooted for Kent and even wore Kent State gear to high school now and then. That was before I saw the light. ... But anyhow, it was devastating to see Waters go to Rutgers. I think it has made me more sensitive to the possibility that the Zips would lose Dambrot or Porter. I really pushed for the athletic department to extend the contracts of both Dambrot and J.D. Brookhart in 2006 because of that fear.
If you're still reading, thank you. If you never forgive me for that confession, I understand that too.
I think it would be hilarious for Brett McKnight to do the following: Start buying tickets to home games. Sit up near the rafters and half-way try to conceal his identity. Then one night, storm the court in street clothes, steal the ball during a play, knock down a jumper, then walk out to a chorus of boos. Sure, it's an old-school pro wrestling storyline, but maybe that's why it would be so awesome.
On a serious note regarding Brett ... It sounds like this is a decision by the athletic department. Never before has a player been suspended for breaking "university rules," and never before has Dambrot needed the university to help him decide a personnel matter. I applaud Dambrot for opting to put up a unified front publicly, but it doesn't add up.
Cole might be heating up. He's taking those long field goals that only the really good players shoot, and only to show off their range.
Latis returned to the game and quickly picked up his fourth foul.
Marshall just blew the easiest shot he'll ever see. He caught a rebound a foot from the rim. Rather than dropping it through the cylinder, he dropped it over the cylinder. CSU has opened up an eight-point lead based on the Zips' inability to score. They have only 11 points in the 12 minutes that have expired in the second half.
Latis just fouled out with 7:45 left. He had only twice as many minutes (11) as fouls (5).
Harmon has found a floorboard that is giving him good luck. He has drilled three 3-pointers from the same spot. CSU leads by 12 with 4:49 left. Akron has not yet shown a pulse on offense. It's Cvetinovic driving, an occasional Marshall hook shot, or a turnover. Harmon, by the way, plays most of the game with his mouthpiece hanging out of his gums. Odd habit.
McClanahan hit a 12-footer from the baseline that appeared to travel over the corner of the backboard.
Reasons Akron is losing: 2-for-11 on 3-point attempts. 34 to 29 rebounding deficit. Harmon is 4-of-7 on 3s.
A Vikings player chucked the ball at referee Bo Boroski, who was not looking. It hit him in the head with some velocity. Boroski was not pleased, but he wasn't sure if the intent was to blast him with the ball. Boroski somehow finds himself in controversy more than most refs.
With a Roberts jumper, quick turnover and McNees 3, Akron cut CSU's lead to six. The Zips have the ball with 1:32 left.
Marshall airballed a jump hook. After a scrum for the ball, Cole came away with it for a breakaway dunk. Marshall was just close enough to foul him, which tacked on another point. With Akron down nine and one minute left, it's basically over.
Roberts dribbled around for 10 seconds, drove, and heaved up a turn-around shot from the foul line. It hit backboard, rim and wound up in McClanahan's hands. Unfortunately, he fouled to get that position. Cole made a couple more free throws to extend CSU's lead.
CSU plays some great defense, but Akron hardly put up a fight. And the defense was only marginal.
Final score -- Akron 51, Cleveland State 64
Final stats of note: Both teams shot poorly: 36 and 37.7 percent. Akron was 3-of-16 on 3-point attempts (CSU 6-of-20). CSU outrebounded Akron 39 to 31. Cole finished with 19. Harmon had 18. Marshall led Akron with 14. McClanahan and Cole tied for the game high with seven rebounds apiece. Cole also had seven assists. The Zips had 16 turnovers (CSU 12).
I have an event to go to tonight, so I won't be writing down press conference quotes. Sorry.
The Zips don't come back home until December 18. They play at Detroit on Wednesday.
I will be previewing the Akron-Buffalo pillow fight sometime in the next 24 hours.