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The Zips' quarterfinal game will come against either Central Michigan or Northern Illinois. The teams will play at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The Zips got a pretty favorable draw in the MAC Tournament. Typically, the 1 vs. 4 game is scheduled first on Friday -- so as to give the No. 1 team an extra few hours of rest. This year, Akron vs. Western Michigan will be played at 7 p.m. (assuming they both make it). Kent State vs. Miami/Ohio will be at 9 p.m.
The finals, of course, will be played on Saturday at 7 p.m.
OK. Enough tournament talk.
Ronnie Steward has some wild design shaved into his head.
Chris McKnight and
Jeremy Sallee have wings carved into his head.
Cedrick Middleton has a mohawk.
has speculated whether
Keith Dambrot will put all five seniors in the starting lineup. I really have no idea. It would be much more likely if the Senior night opponent was anyone but Kent State.
It's about 25 minutes until gametime and the general admission sections are mostly packed.
To make room for the overload of reporters, the university set up media table beside one hoop. Smart move.
One of those reporters is the Buchtelite's
Adam Ferrise, who
says this is a game worth waiting for.
I'm searching for an easy way to get a chat room going. If you have a suggestion, let me know.
True to form, some jackass yelled "Let's go Kent!" in the middle of the national anthem. I'm not a huge fan of the AK-Rowdies yelling "...and the home of the Zips!" either.
Today's MAC results: Miami beat BG at Oxford, 75-59. Toledo won on the road at CMU, 90-83. Western Michigan survived a home scare against Ball State, winning 57-53. Ohio stomped Buffalo at Athens, 94-80. Eastern Michigan drilled NIU at Ypsilanti, 82-63. KSU vs. Akron is the final game of the MAC regular season, and arguably the most important.
Mack Rhoades delivered a speech about sportsmanship via video. In light of how Kent's fans reacted at the end of the Jan. 23 game, that's a good idea.
Haminn Quaintance was the only player outside of Kent State's pregame pump-up huddle. Not a surprise. As much as I despise Quaintance, he was one of two Flashes to come over and shake the other coach's hand.
The seniors have had a 53-4 home record during their four years. That's incredible. The university presented each with a framed jersey.
Dambrot decided to start all the seniors. That's classy.
This place is really loud.
Kent State's ball defense isn't quite as treacherous as the first game. The Flashes definitely fed off their home crowd.
Dambrot subbed in Chris McKnight and
Nate Linhart at the 17:30 mark.
Quaintance has slapped the backboard going for a block and vibrated the hoop. Both shots rattled and came out. I have seen that called as goaltending.
Wood has put some good moves on Quaintance. He might not have the same jumping ability as his counterpart, but Wood is probably quicker.
The buzzer inadvertantly went off with eight seconds left on the clock. Middleton had the ball in triple-threat position and just looked over at the refs, who stopped play to figure it out. Play resumed and Dials bricked a desperation 3.
Steve McNees came in and
Jim Christian immediately kicked up the ball pressure. He obviously believes he can rattle the freshman point guard. So far, he's been right.
Dambrot has called his third timeout. The Zips need to settle down into the offense. It looks bad now, but these games can turn quickly -- as Akron saw at the M.A.C. Center.
The Zips' facial expressions show their frustration.
Chris Singletary picked up his second foul. That's Kent State's only concern at this point.
This could be a lot uglier if Kent State was making its 3's. Christian substituted 3-point specialist
Rashad Woods for that purpose.
Every time Akron gets the ball into Wood, good things happen. Quaintance just picked up his second foul. But getting it to Wood is the problem. The Zips need to surround him with all shooters so KSU can't double down.
I just got very excited!!! The halftime show is "Quick Change." You might remember this from other sporting events. A woman magically changes her outfits by walking through a hoop. It would be nice if Kent State's lead was single digits by then, of course.
Kent State is in the single bonus. If Akron is aggressive on offense, that will help to chip away the lead before halftime.
Brett McKnight just backed down his man and scored. That is the first time I've seen him do that.
A guy from a radio station sitting next to me swears the Zips are done. I keep disagreeing, but the guy is really adamant.
"Quick Change" was fantastic, especially from about 10 yards away. The man walked into a tiny room wearing a tuxedo and came out wearing an Akron jersey. The grand finale was the man tossing confetti onto the woman, who emerged wearing a totally different dress. I have no clue how it's done, but
Steve French says he knows someone who has filmed it and discovered it's not total hocus pocus.
Halftime stats: Kent leads in rebounding, 25-16. Wood has missed four free throws out of six. The Zips are shooting 16.7 percent from the field and are 1-of-12 on 3's. KSU is 39.4 percent from the field and has made 4-of-10 3's. The Flashes' scoring is spead evenly among the starters.
By the way, you don't need to remind me that my prediction was pretty bad. Although I still think Akron will win, the "blowout" prediction is only possible going the opposite way.
Singletary picked up his third foul. It was a ticky-tack loose-ball whistle, but it will affect the Flashes' rotation.
McNees is the only Zip with more than one foul. He has two.
Akron opened the half with a 6-0 run. KSU wisely called timeout.
The Flashes committed their fourth foul with 16:27 left. That could be a problem.
Dials turned the ball over on consecutive possessions. Kent State's long arms always seem to be in the most pesky places. That, added with quickness, makes for the ball pressure Dambrot covets.
Quaintance got his third foul. Wood made both foul shots.
Fisher picked up his third foul. That is six team fouls. Fisher and Quaintance are on the bench, but Singletary is back. He promptly picked up his fourth, which is seven on the team. I know I'm writing a lot about fouls, but this could be a huge factor.
Here is my schedule for Akron's comeback. Checkpoint 1: The Zips need to get within eight points by 8:30. Checkpoint 2: Five points by 4:00.
So much for Checkpoint 1. Kent State is pouring on the defense. Absent a barrage of 3's, this game won't get much closer.
Why hasn't anyone come up with the nickname "Q&A" for Quaintance and Al Fisher, KSU's best players?
The cheerleaders did a nifty routine by holding up a bunch of people at the same time. I'm sure there's some technical name for it, but I don't care enough to ask.
Dials complained to the ref that Kent's guards are holding him. Despite that, the refs have called 10 fouls on KSU this half, compared to eight on Akron. Quaintance just picked up No. 4.
Akron is playing better this half, but not making many more shots.
The Zips committed their 10th foul. That puts both teams in the double bonus.
Stephanie Storm predicts double technicals for Quaintance and Wood. They are throwing elbows around the face.
The Zips are almost certain to score their lowest output of the season, which previously was 52 points against Virginia Commonwealth. Yes, that means Akron probably needs to skunk the Flashes for the rest of this game to have a shot to win.
Quaintance committed another foul, which was only his fourth. Earlier, the scorer gave one of
Jordan Mincy's fouls to Quaintance.
Akron has been a lousy home team lately. Maybe The Q will do them good.
Fisher just buried the Zips with a layup over Middleton and converted the and-one.
Brett McKnight played an active game. He more than eclipsed his free throw total of the entire season.
Dials powerslammed Mincy about three feet in front of me. Surprised that the refs blew the whistle, Dials suggested Mincy was female genitalia, but he used different words.
Linhart nearly airballed a 3. Wood caught the rebound and made it. KSU turned the ball over. Brett McKnight dunked it on the fast break. KSU turned it over again. Singletary fouled Wood on the fast break, so Singletary's gone.
The Zips are still in serious trouble because they'll need to rely on missed KSU foul shots. Oh, and Wood has to make some foul shots.
Wood drilled the free throws. The Zips inbounds pressure caused KSU to call timeout.
"The Final Countdown" is playing on the P.A. You gotta love that song.
Quaintance is at the line. He missed the first and made the second.
Quaintance tipped away a pass from Middleton. Wood saved the ball, but his toe was on the sideline stripe when he did it. Rodriquez Sherman missed both foul shots.
Wood dunked it on the other end. Akron nearly tipped the bal away on the inbounds, but KSU recovered and dunked it on a fast break.
Dials drilled a 3 to cut the lead to three. This is great bleeping basketball! Win or lose, this type of resiliance is a great prelude to the MAC Tournament.
Middleton ripped the ball away from
Mike Scott on the inbounds. Wood drilled a 3 to tie the game. With eight seconds left, Fisher drove the length of the court and swished a 3 with Dials in his face, leaving Rhodes Arena with the win and the MAC MVP award.
Zips fans must be disappointed, but you can't deny this was the best game played at Rhodes Arena in the past decade. The teams are likely to meet again in six days.
Final score -- Akron 58, Kent State 61
Some overall thoughts...
A full-court press is not sustainable for 40 minutes. Still, when Akron applied it, Kent State folded. The Zips need to pick spots to use it more often -- not just in desperation, either. A good time would be following a timeout Akron called to stop the other team's momentum.
The athletic department should be thrilled with this game. Great crowd. Entertaining halftime show. Amazing game. People will come back.
Akron made only 3-of-23 3-point attempts. KSU plays terrific defense, so the opponent should get some credit. However, if Akron shoots its average, the Zips win by 15.
Kent State fans really hate Dials. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's that he has a little cockiness to him. Regardless, they got their wish with Dials being tormented in the final two plays of the game. Fisher made the 3 in Dials' face, then Dials fumbled the ball on a last-second attempt to tie the game.
If Akron faces Kent in the MAC finals, it will be interesting to see if The Q opens the upper deck. I can't remember if it was open last year. Regardless, Dambrot is right to say it would be great for both programs.
Is this the final game for the seniors at Rhodes Arena? Almost certainly. The Zips have a good chance of making the NIT if they advance to the finals. A home game is probably too much to ask for.
The Zips will play against Central Michigan or Northern Illinois in the first round. Both teams have beaten the Zips this year. That's the advantage that Western Michigan and Kent State enjoy. They will face a creampuff on Thursday.
On Friday, Akron fans should dust off their
Bubba Walther jerseys. The Bobcats must shoot better than the Zips did to beat KSU.
Who's going to win the tourney? Kent State must be the favorite, but Akron has been playing well away from Rhodes Arena. Western Michigan has three of the league's best players. Ohio has already won the MAC with
Leon Williams before.
My dilemma: Should I miss my first law school class ever for the game Thursday?