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Akron vs. Miami -- Liveblog

By mrasor Published: February 18, 2009

Men's basketball

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    They moved my spot on press row. I'm sitting directly at midcourt. Coincidentally, it is where the radio team keeps its court microphone. I better watch my language.
    Akron walk-on Kyle Peterson just walked by. I forgot to mention this, but I played against him on Sunday at the Rec Center. I demanded to D' him up personally. As you might expect from a high school star point guard, he had great court vision. He was a little careless with the ball, throwing a bounce pass right into my chest. Peterson possessed more athleticism than I expected. He could dunk fairly easily. He also has a sure stroke from 3.
    I just ran into new offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery. He is a nice, down-to-earth guy. He ran a scheme with multiple looks at Miami, and he intends to do that at Akron, "with a few wrinkles." Here is the university's press release about Montgomery and quarterbacks coach Walt Harris. J.D. Brookhart highly praised their ability, knowledge and people skills.
    The first 100 students to arrive tonight will receive a free Chipotle burrito. I was tempted to use my Zip Card to get in tonight, so I could take advantage of that. I just finished reading two hours about legal ethics. I took the high road, which is the burrito-free road.
    Akron is now a 3.5- to 4-point favorite (gaining 0.5 points since this morning). I won't say it's because of my prediction, but I won't say it's not, either.
    I also ran into ABJ photographer Phil Masturzo, who is (along with Ken Love) one of my favorite journalistic photographers. Pick up a hard copy of the ABJ tomorrow and check out his work. He has never failed to impress me.
    I wrote two weeks ago that Gary Pride was considering a transfer. As it turns out, Pride is staying put.
    Steve McNees, Darryl Roberts and Eric Coblentz are not wearing the new LeBron James Nike shoes. Ingrates! (They probably just prefer a different shoe.)
    Akron starters: Humpty Hitchens, Roberts, Nik Cvetinovic, Chris McKnight and Nate Linhart.
    Miami center Adam Fletcher has the best look in the league. His beard is pure lumberjack.
    Chris McKnight made the game's first point at the 16:56 mark. This is why I will never take an "over" that is higher than 95 during Charlie Coles' and Keith Dambrot's joint tenures. Tonight, the over-under is 119. The defense is too good and the pace is too slow.
    Here is a caveat to my praise of Peterson's shooting ability. When I played against Jimmy Conyers four years ago, I thought he was a phenomenal shooter. Conyers just air-balled a wide-open 3, which reminded me of my scouting deficiency. In his defense, he does have two offensive rebounds already.
    Eric Pollitz was whistled for a 10-second call -- you know, the violation that only happens uncontested once or twice a season. It goes to show just how methodical Miami is.
    Akron has missed several open 3s. The team is 1-for-17 from the field. It took a break-away dunk by Linhart to bust that snide. Still, we are one-fourth of the way through the game and Akron only has five points to its name.
    Carl Richburg is guarding McNees. Ironically, their career games have both come against each other's teams. McNees drilled 6-of-6 3s in last year's Akron win at Rhodes Arena. Richburg hit a game-tying layup to send this year's matchup to overtime in Oxford.
    Brett McKnight had a favorable matchup when 6-foot-8, 255-pound Julian Mavunga was guarding him. Sensing that, Coles sent Mavunga to the bench. With Akron's usual rotations, it will be difficult for Coles to find time for Mavunga and Fletcher to be on the court together. The lanky Tyler Dierkers is now guarding Brett McKnight, whom McKnight promptly burned, as well.
    Miami is shooting 21 percent from the field and has 10 turnovers, but the RedHawks are 40 percent on 3s. Akron is shooting 28 percent on field goals.
    A lot of people got a kick out of my wild night last Wednesday. I almost had a repeat tonight. When I got out of class, my car wouldn't start. I popped the hood, MacGyver'ed the battery receptor, and it worked. I'm looking at an '06 Saab as a replacement. With the stress of law school, the last thing I need is an undependable vehicle.
    Hitchens ripped the ball from Michael Bramos at the top of the key and took it to the other coast for a layup. At least twice this season, that very play has swung the momentum.
    Re: The over-under. I told you so. This game is 17-14 at halftime. Akron is shooting sloppily. Miami is stalling, turning it over and not shooting well, either. You can say it's a bad offensive night, but these games always seem to happen when the Zips' and RedHawks' defenses ram horns.
    Halftime stats of note: Chris McKnight and Antonio Ballard each have five rebounds. Brett McKnight has seven points. Eric Pollitz has three turnovers and one assist. The teams are shooting 21.7 and 21.4 percent from the field; it doesn't matter which is which. Akron is 1-for-11 on 3-point attempts.
    Bruner-Cox, the team's official accountant sponsor, tried to pay $1,000 to a student for making a half-court shot. Generally, they pull an unathletic guy and a girl out of the stands for that contest -- both of whom can barely heave it to the foul line. This time, the students were unsuccessful, but closer than normal. You know what? I'm a student. Give me a shot. I promise it won't be like the last time they pulled me onto the floor at halftime.
    The news about Adreian Payne surprised many of you. However, the more I hear about him, the more I think the Zips have a legitimate shot. Like Zeke Marshall, Payne is not a spotlight seeker. He wants to stay near his home in Dayton. The coaches are confident that Akron will be a finalist if Payne visits campus. My honest opinion is that the Zips have a 20 percent chance at landing the five-star center.
    Fantasize about a frontcourt that includes a senior Brett McKnight, sophomore Marshall and freshman Payne. As an opponent, my only strategy would be to attack the post on offense and hope to draw fouls against the pillars. You know that two stud big men would profit from each other's presence in NBA scouts' eyes.
    Miami has not scored in a long time -- at least three minutes. They have only four points in almost eight minutes this half. Nick Winbush converted a three-point play to cut Akron's lead to four. Winbush has nine points.
    Every time I see them shoot T-shirts out of that cell phone-shaped cannon, I think about poor Maude Flanders, who succumbed to such a device at a NASCAR race.
    Forty-one is the fewest points Akron has surrendered to a Division I team this year (Farleigh Dickenson). Miami will need a fantastic final 10 minutes to beat that.
    Bowling Green is winning by 12 in the second half at Buffalo. The Bulls seem to have secured a bye, but anytime an inexperienced team suffers an upset loss, it risks a confidence meltdown. The rest of the MAC East would be pleased to see that.
    If this game is close down the stretch, Akron will have several players to foul: Winbush (47 FT%), Ballard (59 FT%), Fletcher (57 FT%) and Mavunga (63 FT%). Akron has 10 fouls, so that will be relevant sooner than you think.
    Akron broke Miami's press, and the Zips surged a two-on-one fast break. Conyers fed Brett McKnight, who circumvented Fletcher with a graceful reverse layup.
    Pollitz just hit the most amazing shot I have ever seen in my life. No exaggeration. With the shot clock at 2, he dove for a loose ball. On his back, he threw a hook shot that somehow went in. They originally called it a 3, but I think his leg was laying on the line. Regardless: WOW! If this game is filmed in any way, that deserves to be the SportsCenter top play of the night. (And here, I was about to compare Pollitz to a hobo's Nick Dials. I apologize!)
    Miami was called for a lane violation on Chris McKnight's first of a one-and-one. McKnight made the first and missed the second. Akron leads by four with four minutes to play.
    Hitchens pulled up for a slight fade away in front of Pollitz, then stole the ball and converted a layup. That extended Akron's lead to eight and probably earned Hitchens the game ball. They're playing the "Humpty Hump" song in his honor.
    Miami double-teamed a Zip off the ball, leaving Hitchens wide open to make a 3. Akron didn't even need a skip pass to find him. Coles looked quite agitated during the RedHawks ensuing timeout.
    The referees have treated Kramer Soderberg like a Faberge Egg. Each time someone breathes on the Miami guard, he gets a whistle. Soderberg has been quite aggressive on defense himself, but the refs aren't calling it against him.
    Bramos was fouled on a 3 and made all of his free throws to bring the lead to seven with 1:45 to play.
    Akron sealed it with a Chris McKnight 12-footer after an offensive rebound off a missed free throw. It will be a foul fest for the next minute.
    Bowling Green has pulled off the upset of Buffalo. The Falcons won, 59-48. BG shot 19 percent better from the field.
    Game leaders: Chris McKnight scored 18. He and Cvetinovic each had seven rebounds. Miami had 19 turnovers and nine assists. Akron had 12 turnovers and eight assists. Miami shot 28 percent. Akron shot 40 percent (making 17 of their last 35 attempts). Akron was 3-of-17 on 3s. Attendance was 3,710.
    Final score -- Akron 53, Miami 44

    Keith Dambrot
    "It's a typical Miami-Akron game, really. It's such a grind. Our guys hate what they do to us. Their guys hate what we do to them."
    "We missed a bunch of open ones early on the break. We just shot some bottle rockets up there. Part of it is the expectation level. Every time Miami and Akron play, it's going to be 4-2. Whoever scores 40 wins."
    "Humpty made some unbelievable plays for us."
    "Probably a little psychological. Nate (Linhart) is really long. He's had some success with Mike (Bramos). Psychologically, he has in the back of his mind that Nate gives him a hard time."
    "They asked me on the radio if it reminded me of the MAC Tournament. But I was thinking to myself: 'We're in trouble.' Then I thought to myself, 'He had to travel.'"
    "You gotta love Charlie (Coles). You can tell, he just loves to be here. I have so much respect for him. When I saw that (Pollitz shot), I said, 'This is unbelievable.'"
    "When shots like that go in, that's what I would call 'unfortunate.' You play an unbelievable possession on defense and that takes the air out of you."
    "I've been really proud of our team the last two years. We go to Miami without Wood and win. We go to Ohio and win. We won some games that really shocked me. This team here surprises me. We looked tired. I thought we were fading a little bit. Then they come out tonight. Maybe we're fading on offense, but we gave a lot of effort."
    "I'm happy about it. People don't understand, that's a good team. It's hard to shoot over them. They're bigger than us at every position. They're bigger inside, bigger outside. We had six or seven new plays but they were still ready for them. Tyler Dierkers is so smart, we have to use his smartness against him. He knows what we're running."
    "What pleases me most is 33-32 on the boards. When we do that, we win. We have been mauled on the boards."
    "I'm concerned with getting our team better. I can't control what the other teams do. If we win the regular season, what does that really mean?"
    "I don't mind the (BracketBuster) game. I don't like driving then having to go to Buffalo. People thought the Youngstown game was tough, but it was worth it. It's going to be a hard game there. They played Butler very well. They just waxed Loyola the other name. That guy is one of the best offensive coaches in the country. Anytime the MAC can play the Horizon I like it. The Horizon is a good league. It is an underrated league."
    "They (Cleveland State) won't play. I think economically it makes sense. I would play because it's the right thing to do. When he first got there, they weren't very good. It's time for Akron, Kent, Youngstown State and Cleveland State all play."
    Charlie Coles
    "I thought it was great defense by Akron. Akron did to us what we did to Western Michigan on Saturday. Once again, they did a great job on Bramos. The only thing is that Bramos graduates with Linhart. Linhart has been a thorn in his side."
    "We made about three big mistakes. Our last chance was when we trapped at half court in the middle of the court. Anthony Hitchens hit that 3. That ended all hopes of us getting things going. The other time was when the ball slipped out of Winbush's hand. The third was when Hitchens stole the ball from Fletcher."
    "I thought we kind of gave in. Although Hitchens played a great game, I figured Chris McKnight would have a big game. I thought our big guys were not as fast as him. I couldn't see us guarding him."
    "He (Bramos) is a kid that -- except for three games -- he hasn't shot the ball well all year. It doesn't make sense not to play him. I don't know what it does to his confidence. I don't have any confidence, I'll tell you that. Akron just stayed on him. I want to send an e-mail to all the coaches. I want to say, 'This guy is shooting 20 percent from the 3 and please stop guarding him.' We don't have anyone who can break the defense down."
    "In the end, we just didn't have it. We didn't get much out of our inside games tonight."
    "It's getting real interesting now. We got so much balance. We got other teams in other leagues wanting in our league so they can tie for second. We got 40 teams at 8-4. This is gonna get real good. I'm gonna act like we won on the way home. I'm afraid if I scream and rant, we'll miss our blessing. This is something else now."
    "If folks don't get them this year, it's going to be hard to get them next year."
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