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Akron vs. Niagara -- Liveblog

By mrasor Published: November 29, 2009

Men's basketball
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I will never take wireless connectivity for granted again. Glad to be up and running for this game.
Niagara plays only seven players with regularity. Four of those players average more than 30 minutes per game. They are Bilal Benn (a 6-foot-5 senior forward who averages 14.7 points and 11.8 rebounds), Rob Garrison (a 6-2 senior guard who averages about 13, 4 and 4), Anthony Nelson (a 6-1 junior guard who has about the same stats as Garrison) and Demetrius Williamson (a 6-5 senior forward who averages 10.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game).
Benn transferred from Villanova after playing sparingly for two years. Garrison is much the same, except he played two years at UConn. Williamson played one year at Bakersfield C.C. before coming to Niagara. Three other Purple Eagles have transferred from other Division I teams.
Another player to watch is Kashief Edwards, a 6-5 sophomore who blocks 2.8 shots per game.
All told, Niagara isn't a very tall team in the post. It has two 6-8 freshmen, but they combine for only 18 minutes per game. The Purple Eagles do present matchup problems on the wings, where they feature three players who are 6-5.
Dad, if you're reading this. Yes, I do have your laptop. And yes, I'll have it back to you sometime tonight.
Akron's starters: Darryl Roberts, Humpty Hitchens, Jimmy Conyers, Nik Cvetinovic and Zeke Marshall. Conyers starting is a result of Niagara's size at swingman.
My buddy Scott Garnick came up with a great idea for the AK-Rowdies. They should chart Marshall's blocks, like fans do for strikeouts at baseball games. Maybe they tape a giant hand to the wall behind the student section everytime Marshall swats one. (I don't think Garnick wanted me to use his name, because it will show up on Google searches. Tough luck, pal.)
I don't think any of the Zips guards, maybe with the exception of Steve McNees, has the guts to throw an effective lob pass into Marshall. This is something to practice.
Akron is a one-point underdog today. When was the last time Akron was not favored at home? It shows how much respect this court has lost over the past two years.
Marshall got the crowd excited early with a swat.
Like on Friday, Chris McKnight, Brett McKnight and Mike Bardo subbed in at around the 16:00 mark.
Marshall has a mismatch in the post against Edwards, who is four inches shorter and just as thin. They must be aggressive in feeding him down there. On the other side, Marshall can't settle for 10-foot jump shots when a dribble and drop step would give him an easy layup or dunk. Niagara is starting to double-team Marshall in the post with the other post player, a technique that is not used often.
One of Akron's most reliable plays has been an isolation for Cvetinovic. He drives from the top of the key and goes high off the backboard for a layup.
Niagara is on a 11-2 run. Akron's shots just aren't falling. The team is 6-for-21 with 7:44 left in the first half. With eight points, Roberts has more than half of the Zips' 15 points.
Conyers just nailed a 3. I think he needs to get at least 25 minutes tonight for defensive purposes. Any offense is a plus.
Ronnie Steward entered the game for his first appearance at home this season. He looks comfortable running the point.
Marshall, on the other hand, has had a series of miscues. Maybe one day he'll be a decent shooter from 15 feet, but that day is not today. It seems he picks the wrong times to be aggressive and the wrong times to be passive. The stat sheet has him at 0-for-4 from the field with two turnovers -- but also four blocks (of which I can remember only two). He is influencing a lot of Niagara's shots, either way.
Finally, Akron guards have fed the ball above Niagara defenders who are fronting Marshall. McNees and Roberts executed successful passes.
Benn hit a 3 just before the halftime buzzer. Halftime score: Akron 23, Niagara 31. The Zips shot 27.6 percent from the field, compared to Niagara's 41.4 percent. Roberts leads both teams with eight points. Garrison and Marshall both have five rebounds.
Marshall basically powerslammed a Niagara player solely through blocking a shot. The Purple Eagle hit the floor through the force of Marshall's swat.
As soon as Akron get some progress on Niagara's lead, the Purple Eagles hit a 3. They have made 7-of-15 3-point attempts.
Roberts and Conyers hit back-to-back 3s to tie the game.
The teams traded four-consecutive 3-pointers. Akron's came from McNees, who is 3-of-4 today on 3s. Hitchens is 1-for-10 from the field, so McNees counteracts that. Whoops. There's another 3 from McNees. Keep feeding him!
Niagara already has seven fouls with 10 minutes still left in the second half.
Marshall just smacked a Niagara shot into the band. He has six blocks. On the other end, Chris McKnight fed Marshall a nice entry pass for an easy five-footer. Niagara traveled, giving the Zips the ball with an eight-point lead. This is the scenario at which Akron has failed in the past two games. Will the Zips look to extend the lead, or will they let Niagara creep back?
Benn has four fouls. He is on the bench with 12 points, five assists and four rebounds.
The ref called a double-foul on Marshall and Scooter Gillett. That gives Marshall four fouls.
Chris McKnight is sleepwalking through another game. He has two points and three rebounds. Keith Dambrot must demand more out of the senior.
I must give credit for the improvement Akron has made in making the lob entry pass to Marshall. You won't find an easier basket if you can execute the pass. Marshall has 11 points, six rebounds and six blocks.
I made a bet with the PD's Elton Alexander, who believes Niagara coach Joe Mihalich will get a technical foul. As I typed that, Mihalich got not only one tech, but two. The second came after Mihalich slammed his clipboard to the floor. The referee signaled for a UAPD officer to escort Mihalich out of the auditorium. Mihalich went, but only after getting a few more choice words at both officials. Akron will shoot four free throws, then get the ball. With a six-point lead and 3:46 left, that's a death knell for Niagara. Roberts made all four free throws to give him 15 points. Akron leads by 10. Nice job, coach.
Niagara is pressuring the ball as the Zips try to run clock. It's smart to get an extra 15 seconds on each possession at this point in the game. The Purple Eagles eventually fouled Hitchens who split the pair. Akron grabbed the offensive rebound after the second one missed.
Marshall fouled out after crashing the boards on a free throw. He finishes with 12 points, six blocks, six rebounds and five fouls.
Niagara has stolen the ball from Akron on consecutive possessions. This is the jitteriness that Dambrot was talking about. It looks like the Zips will hold on because Niagara isn't taking care of the ball, either.
If you take away those four points from the technical fouls, this is a one-possession game. I understand wanting to make a point to the refs, but Mihalich neglected to control himself at the detriment of his own team.
Conyers has a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He has quietly played well today. He drew an offensive foul that will seal the game.
This is a big win, considering Akron's leading scorer was 1-for-13 from the field. Hitchens had one of those games. He needs to cool down a little bit. I don't know what's making him so high-strung, but it's affecting his game.
Marshall tied a school record with six blocks. A couple years ago, Larry Sanders of VCU had nine for the Rhodes Arena record. Marshall played a career-high 29 minutes.
Other stats of note: Conyers finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Tyrone Lewis of Niagara led both teams with 21 points. Akron finished with a 43 percent shooting clip from the field, after being 28 percent in the field half. Both teams shot 41 percent on 3-pointers.
Final score -- Akron 80, Niagara 68
QUOTES:
Niagara coach Joe Mihalich:
"That's our seventh game, sixth on the road. We're going to try to get better on the things we can control."
"It's a shame that the circumstances weren't different. It would have been nice to have a neutral site or a neutral something or other."
"They're a good team. This is the type of team that we like to play that will make us better."
"I'm just going to fight for my team. I really thought obviously that some fouls should have been called. I thought there were a lot not getting called. I'm going to fight for my guys. They fight for each other."
"I thought it was an Ohio State football game for a minute."
Akron coach Keith Dambrot:
"I thought we played well the first half, we just didn't make any shots. It was the best defensively we've played all year. I felt we could get good shots in the second half. I thought Elton [Alexander]'s guy played really good -- Jimmy Conyers. He deserves it. He has fought, battled. I thought McNees played really well."
"Zeke was terrific. You can look at the line, and that's pretty good. But it's way deeper than that. Every time we drove in there, there was hesitation. Nobody likes to get their shot blocked. They turn it over. They travel."
"Every time we got up on them, we gave up a 3 ball. I thought we tried much harder."
"That's kind of like how Humpty is. He's homerun, then strikeout. I didn't like his turnovers at the end. I thought he tried much harder defensively."
"It was much more encouraging than our first five games. I thought it was a much better performance than any we've played this year. That's a good team. They'll win their share."
"Having that big guy at the basket changes the dynamic. You can play out. You don't have to sink in when the ball hits the post. He's only 40 percent of where he's going to be. When he's in the game, you don't want to suck in at all. When he's not in the game, you have to collapse because we're small."
"Ben can beat you like LeBron can beat you. He came in averaging four offensive rebounds per game. He can beat you inside, he can shoot it, he can pass. He got a quiet 17."
"There's two dilemmas at the end of the game with Zeke. One, he has to make free throws. Two, he is inexperienced. The dilemma is how much do we play him at crunch time now so that when we need him, he can play?"
"We need to throw him the ball. One, for his development. Two, so we can throw it outside. He's difficult to front because you can throw it over the top. When he gets 25 pounds on him, it won't be so hard. If you watch, they beat the crap out of him all game. They're shoving him the whole game. We have to keep talking to the referees that they can't let him get mugged. Because he's going to get mugged. When you play in our league, they'll beat the poop out of him."
Soccer prediction: "3-0 the Zips are going to win. Mark it down."
Steve McNees:
Difference in the second half: "We got some shots to fall."
"We felt like it was a matter of time. It was like getting a monkey off the back."
"We used our defense to get us going. Anytime we get out on the break, we look good."
"We have come out flat to start most of our games. If we can start the game how we're coming out of halftime, it would help."
Darryl Roberts:
"We were playing good D. We knew we were missing some easy shots. We'd be in the game."
"He [Marshall] is a big target. We definitely want to go to him more. Once we saw he was scoring, we went to him. We weren't surprised (they fronted Marshall), we just took advantage of it."

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