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Akron vs. St. Francis - Liveblog

By mrasor Published: December 28, 2008

Men's basketball

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    There is no spread on this game, but I'd put mine at Akron minus 15.
    It looks like a pretty good crowd if you don't count the AK-Rowdies. Both end sections are almost completely vacant. With two minutes before gametime, I count 25 people in the endzones. Only about 10 are AK-Rowdies.
    While you're sitting at your computer, read Tom Gaffney's feature on Humpty Hitchens. Good stuff.
    Akron's starters: Steve McNees, Humpty Hitchens, Jimmy Conyers, Nate Linhart and Mike Bardo.
    The PD's Elton Alexander wrote an interesting column about transfers playing at local colleges.
    Akron's offense is playing well, but it's feeding off the defense. McNees just played the passing lane and got a steal. He ran the break with Linhart and fed him a bounce pass. Linhart made the contested reverse layup. He leads the team with eight points. The Zips have four steals.
    There is a recruit sitting with his family in the area where AK-Rowdies normally populate. I can't see the name on his letterman jacket, but he's from Dublin Koffman High School. Maybe someone else knows more. Rivals.com and Scout.com do not list anyone from Dublin.
    Akron is getting sloppy on offense. They have turned the ball over three times since the last timeout. Meanwhile, St. Francis is closing the gap by nailing some 3s. Stefan Perunicic has hit three 3s himself. He has been pushing off, too, but the refs are calling a hands-off game.
    Akron is not getting good shots. The Zips are either squandering the ball with a poor pass, or they are not moving the ball, then settling for a low-percentage shot. St. Francis does not have the defense to beat Akron, but Keith Dambrot's offense is showing an ability to stop itself.
    Two players are conspicuously absent from the offense: Chris McKnight and Hitchens. Neither of the McKnights started, but I'm a strong believer that the Zips will score more when Chris McKnight is a focal part of the offense.
    I suppose that if you look at the numbers, the Zips' defense is struggling, too. St. Francis is shooting 59 percent at halftime. At the 11-minute mark, the Terriers had 11 points. That means they scored 30 points in 11 minutes. That is a pace for 109 points in a game. Not good.
    Three Zips are in double-figures at the half: Brett McKnight (10), Conyers (11) and Linhart (10). Perunicic leads St. Francis with 12 points.
    For the first time in his career, Conyers scored quietly. Often, you look at the stat sheet and you could've sworn he scored more. Tonight, I can only remember one of his field goals. That is a good thing. I can notice Conyers being more aggressive with the ball. His first impulse with the basketball is to look at the rim, rather than to freeze, look around and pass the ball back from where it came. Conyers also is tied for the game high with three rebounds.
    Back to the AK-Rowdies... I understand why the turnout is poor tonight. It's a low-level opponent. The students are gone for Christmas break. I get it. What I don't get is how the clan has regressed. From an outsider, it appears that the athletics department has too much influence. If it's going to be a "cool" student group, it won't be anything over which an administrator has final say. Oh, how far we have fallen from the Kent Stark hoax.
    It looks like the Browns fired Phil Savage. Romeo Crennel gets a meeting with Randy Lerner before he discovers his fate. I think Savage is a good GM. It was one e-mail that cost him his respect, and later, his job. Crennel I always have thought to be a poor head coach, but he lost his two good quarterbacks, and his personnel could not stop the run. I think this bad season was not his fault, but he certainly did nothing positive to help. He deserves to get the slip, too.
    A lot of people have asked me what I've been doing with my time, now that school is on recess. Well, I've been reading a lot. One phenomenal book was "Moneyball." If you are a baseball fan, you've probably already read it. It is a journalistic gem chronicling the changing of the guard in baseball. The new important hitting statistics are on-base percentage and slugging percentage. In pitching, it's home runs, strikeouts and walks. All other statistics -- including errors, steals and batting average -- are darn near irrelevant.
    St. Francis has taken a five-point lead. Akron looks like John C. Reilly sleepwalking in the movie "Stepbrothers," putting pillows in the oven. St. Francis has outscored the Zips 34-16.
    I have also been reading the "Left Behind" series. It is wholly captivating if you believe the Bible's prophesies about the end times. Even if you're not a believer, it will make you do some thinking.
    If you haven't noticed, I'm blogging to stave away the boredom of this game. If feel bad for Joe Dunn and Steve French, my neighbors on press row, who cannot digress to talk about something more interesting.
    Chris McKnight made two free throws and Darryl Roberts hit a 3 on the secondary break to tie the game.
    Before the game, Alexander pointed to the Zips bench and said, "There's the MAC Champions." He laughed when I just reminded him of his prediction. Part of his reasoning was that Miami lost senior point guard Kenny Hayes for the year with a broken hand. However, Hayes will get to use a medical redshirt and come back next year.
    As St. Francis has cooled off, Akron has rebuilt a decent lead.
    The Terriers were picked 10th out of 11 teams in the Northeastern Conference. However, they are coming off a win over the NEC's top team, Robert Morris. The Terriers made a run tonight, but they don't have the defense to beat a good mid-major on the road.
    Gaffney is trying to pay me to write his game story. Not a chance. This is the type of game where the result was just about what you expect, and what you expected was not noteworthy. If I was him, I would pull Conyers aside and try to get inside his head. I don't think Gaffney's deadline would allow it, though.
    Akron is trying to play keep away and run clock, but the result is turnovers and easy buckets for St. Francis. Conyers, however, drilled the coffin shut by rebounding his own missed layup and dropping it in. He has 17 points and eight rebounds.
    Since halftime, the Terriers have shot 2-for-11. If they continued their hot streak and made, say, five of those 3s, then the Zips might be in trouble. Also consider that Kayode Ayeni, the Terriers' top scorer and rebounder, did not play because of his bum knee. The Zips have been uncharacteristically cold from 3 all game, shooting 7-of-27 for 26 percent.
    Hitchens scored nine points. It was not a poor game, but you expect more from someone if he's your premier scorer. The freshman has to consistently give Akron 15 points for me to jump on the MAC Championship bandwagon.
    Akron was shooting 70.5 percent on free throws coming into tonight. Against St. Francis, the Zips made 26-of-34 (76 percent).
    Final score -- Akron 77, St. Francis 70

    Quotes...
    Keith Dambrot --
    "It was a perplexing performance in that in the first five minutes of the game, we played very good defensively, then we just 'pffff.' It was pretty typical of what we get every day."
    "They can say what they want about Bob (Huggins), but the one thing you have to say about his guys is that they're tough, tough, tough. We are so inconsistent and erratic. It all relates to toughness. It's very simple and we have to work on it. It's very frustrating to me, because I know that is how we have won a lot of games here."
    "Bardo is a really good defender, but in the last four minutes, he was terrible. It was like against VCU, we scored enough points to win, but we didn't guard."
    "They're a team that has been in the bottom of their league. It is a game we should win easily, rather than struggling to win. It reminded me of Walsh College. They spread us and made shots."
    "I said, Jim (Conyers), I have confidence in you. He has had a rough time here. We have an opportunity to play here. Now he is starting to score. ... He's not a senior. He'll be back."
    On putting people in the doghouse -- "I always come back to guys."
    "Every day, for (Brett) and his brother, we chart loose balls, offensive rebounds (etc.). He is going to score 14 points in his sleep, but it's about the other end. He has to be a better defender for us to win."
    For the last four years, "we have had the best inside game of anyone in this league, really. The two best guys we have (now) are Chris and Brett, and Chris is jittery."
    Brett "has got to get in better condition. That is going to keep you from being as good as you can be. (talking directly to Brett) This guy is like a son to me. This guy should be much better than he is."
    "Our one biggest problem is that we don't know where (scoring) is coming from. Humpty is going to have to cope with the tiredness. The other guys haven't scored consistently in double figures." He said Roberts and McNees have been inconsistent.
    On not having one dominant scorer -- "It's a bad thing. We have always had five guys on the floor who could get double-figures. I'm not so worried about that end. We can play with anybody in the league if we play defense. The problem with this team is that we have not been able to play small yet. None of our small guys are tough enough to guard that three man. We've been very good when we can play small because it gives us another skilled guy in the game."
    "I guess if it's going to be a year to have the schedule the way it is, this is the year to have it. This is going to be a difficult January for us." Alexander chimed in to say that a lot of these road games are coming at a time when the fans/students are gone. "That's a good point," Dambrot responded.
    "We have lost very few games that we should have won." (Northern Illinois being one)
    On the road trip -- "We will be able to spend time together. The key in all of this is spending time with your guys. You're going to yell and scream and holler and tell them they're no good. If you don't spend time with them, they'll hate you."
    On UNC-Greensboro -- "That is a catch game. They have not won, but I don't think they're bad. They were dead even with Kent at Kent. I think that will be a difficult game for our team."
    "Niagara might be the best team we played. They might win 25 games. The key for us is, can we get better?"
    "I think Ronnie Steward is going to help us. The problem is, the longer he's out, the harder it is to get him back in."
    Jimmy Conyers --
    On being in the doghouse -- "It felt terrible. But it's not about the past."
    "Mid-range game is where I'm at right now."
    Brett McKnight --
    On shooting woes -- "I'm still going to be in the low block. If I have a little guy on me, I'll go inside. If it's a big guy, I'll use my quickness."
    "Coach has never demanded too much (on defense). I have more years here. I have to get better at moving my feet. I think it's just having to get to know the rules a lot better than I do now."
    St. Francis coach Brian Nash --
    "I was happy about our effort playing without our best player and rebounder. They're a very good defensive team."
    "When we're good, we're making 3s. We're starting to get more inside presence. We've played a very tough non-conference schedule. I think that schedule will prepare us for our conference."
    "They stepped up and made plays when they had to. They turned up the heat. They started running at us and pressing us."
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