I will be blogging live from the game at Rhodes Arena tonight. Keep refreshing your screen for updates...
If you're looking for soccer news, scroll down. The ABJ's Michael Beaven has you covered below thi post.
My guess is that the crowd will be sparce tonight. Malone is an NAIA team. A lot of fans are in North Carolina for the soccer extravaganza. The remaining students have gone home for the semester.
I had some friends over last night to watch the soccer game. We discussed how, if you're a soccer fan of any sort, you're getting into Akron soccer at this point. No question about it. Can the Zips do that in basketball? And, more important, what would it take? A top-25 ranking? A long run into the NCAAs? I think it might take both.
I rewatched the end of the soccer game last night, starting with the second overtime. I completely underestimated the header save by Ben Speas. The ball was already past goaltender David Meves. Speas literally saved the season. Like I said, it takes a lot of those plays to win a national championship -- I don't care how good you are. I am very excited for tomorrow's game. Very excited.
Malone's top scorer is former Zips guard Eric Coblentz. He averages 13.8 points per game and averages 42 percent on 3s. The team's second-leading scorer Kyle Higgins can also stroke the 3. He averages 10.9 points and shoots 40 percent on 3s. Vaso Aleksic, a 6-foot-6 native of Montenegro, leads the team with 7.3 rebounds per game.
Akron starters: Darryl Roberts, Humpty Hitchens, Jimmy Conyers, Brett McKnight and Zeke Marshall.
The athletic department installed new screens on press row. They will allow Elton Alexander and me to toggle through a plethora of stats. I don't think Elton's here tonight, though.
Attendance is pretty good tonight. I like how someone decided to fill one endzone student section with fans. When the Rowdies can't turn out, it's embarrassing to have those seats empty.
Press row is very empty tonight. A lot of reporters are in North Carolina. Even Joe Dunn is running solo on the radio. There is a headset in front of me, and if I'm called to service on the mic, I'm definitely doing it.
Malone brought its cheerleaders, which seems unusual to me.
Malone's 6-5 forward Mark Young is giving up seven inches on Marshall, whom he is guarding. I still don't see Marshall being very aggressive on rebounds. A player with a real competitor instinct would aim to grab 20 boards against a team whose tallest player is 6-6. I don't see that happening.
Coblentz scored Malone's first basket. He received a warm reception during player introductions. During warmups, Nik Cvetinovic seemed very astounded to see his former teammate wearing a different uniform. It's not like he turned heel or anything, Nik. He just wanted some playing time.
Congratulations to Turner Gill, who accepted a job at Kansas. I think he'll do a great job.
Although I criticized Marshall's rebounding tenacity, he has five boards with 7:52 left in the first half. The ball just seems to find those long, long arms. Now if only we could get his feet moving so he is also working to find the ball.
It hasn't sunk in with me that Akron is playing for a national championship tomorrow. That is crazy! The elephant in the room is Caleb Porter's status as head coach. Is he going to Indiana? Is he going to D.C. United? Is it possible he stays in a location where he has little roots and will make the least money? I've been through enough of these situations in Northeast Ohio sports to be skeptical. If he wins the national championship, I don't think anyone will be upset if he leaves for a salary that is much higher or for his alma mater. That can be an issue for Dec. 14.
Coblent and Brett McKnight got tangled up for a loose ball. McKnight helped his former teammate off the floor afterward.
Malone is on a 5-0 run. It's not much, but it's something. The Zips are shooting only 4-for-15 on 3s.
The Zips lead 31-17 at halftime. Brett McKnight and Marshall both have seven points. Marshall and Conyers have six rebounds apiece. No Zips has more than two assists. Higgins leads Malone with eight points.
The halftime show consists of young people twirling flags and fake rifles to a modern version of "Don't Stop Believin' " by Journey. I'm such a sucker for Journey that this is entertaining me.
I am longing for MAC season to begin. These early season games are mismatches, which means either 1) Akron is playing poorly and it's a close game or 2) the Zips are playing how they should, and it's a blowout. In either case, it's not much to watch. When the game has ramifications on MAC standings, however, you usually have a different atmosphere in the arena.
I'm going to Vegas on Thursday, so I'll miss a couple home games. I will still follow them, however, because I plan to spend plenty of time at the sportsbook.
Hallelujah! They fed Chris McKnight on a secondary break, and McKnight executed a quick dropstep and easy layup. You're not going to have a whole lot of success isolating a 6-6 power forward 13 feet from the rim. They have to sneak him the basketball and let him work. McKnight has two points and one rebound at the 12 minute mark in the first half. I feel confident McKnight will come out of his funk, but the coaches need to give him the ball in the position in which he's most effective.
Malone is triple-teaming Marshall when he gets the ball in the post. With Akron shooting only 6-of-21 on 3s, it's a strategy that is paying off.
I'm trying not to assess how the Zips look. Aside from effort-related critiques, it's a waste of everyone's time. Malone has a 2-6 record as an NAIA team. Realistically, Akron's best rec league team can beat Malone. I'm not saying that to ridicule the Malone players, who surely work hard. But let's keep Brett McKnight's 16 points, for example, in perspective. Brett McKnight is an impossible guard for a team without a player taller than 6-6. In the MAC, he won't be able to beat guys his size off the dribble quite so easily. With that said, it is much better for Akron to have an aggressive Brett McKnight. Maybe this game serves to build his confidence.
I have a couple explanations for the higher-than-expected attendance. First, Malone seems to have traveled with a decent amount of fans. Second, there is at least one youth basketball team with its families. Third, the people spinning things in the halftime show brought friends and family. It doesn't matter how you do it, really.
Cvetinovic drove baseline and spun a reverse layup off the glass. Nifty.
Marshall grabbed defensive rebounds on three consecutive possessions. Keith Dambrot is about to sub in the reserves. Steve Swiech, Mike Bardo and Tim Carroll entered. They are joined by Ronnie Steward and Alex Sullivan. Apparently, Bardo graduated today. Good for him. That's a semester early, too. It almost sounds impossible for someone playing Division I basketball.
I wish Swiech played more often, just so I wouldn't have to keep looking up how to spell his last name. The "i before e" rule should be easier to remember. He just missed two foul shots.
Oh man. Thank you, Steve Swiech. You just pumped his fist running down the court after a layup. I love the passion with which he plays. I just wish Dambrot didn't him in the doghouse and melt the key.
Akron is 6-for-17 on free throws. That's 35 percent for you people who need to induce vomit. The team is 6-for-24 on 3-pointers.
Bardo swatted a shot and shook his head, in the same manner Dikembe Mutumbo wags his finger.
Swiech is working very hard to get open. He's a real piece of work -- in a good way.
I was having a hard time listening to the soccer announcers last night. They were exhausting the list of sports cliches: 1) It is what it is. 2) Don't sleep on [some team or some aspect of a team]. 3) You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. ... This alone made me wish I drove down to North Carolina for the games.
Oh, the game ended. Final stats of note: Brett McKnight led both teams with 18 points. Coblentz led Malone with 12. Marshall had a game-high of 11 rebounds and two blocks. No player on either team had more than three assists. Akron shot 40.3 percent. Malone was 20.4 percent, which makes the shooting percentages almost directly proportional with the final score.
The next game is Friday at 7 p.m. at home against UNC-Greensboro. Like I said, I won't be there, nor for Sunday's 2 p.m. game against St. Francis.
Because of the lack of media today, Dambrot won't be having a press conference.
Akron 62, Malone 30 -- Final score