Akron will conclude its wild, four-games-in-eight-days streak when Central Michigan struts into town Saturday at noon.
The polling function is finally up and running. Here is a tough question...
The MAC signed a new eight-year contract with ESPN.
The deal requires ESPN to broadcast 11 regular season games in football and six in basketball.
Akron won its first game at Toledo's Savage Hall since January 8, 2000 when Dan Hipsher roamed the Zips' sideline.
The Zips kept scoring down the stretch to hold on, 70-61.
Steve McNees provided the play of the game. He stole the ball with 1:30 to play and drove coast-to-coast for a layup. That gave Akron a six-point lead. Jonathan Amos responded with a field goal. Chris McKnight drilled a mid-range jump shot to restore the lead to six.
McNees blocked an Amos shot, which Nate Linhart rebounded. Linhart handed it to Darryl Roberts, who drained two free throws to ice the game in his home town. Roberts scored 12.
After a 5-4 deficit, Akron never trailed. The Zips shot 50 percent from the field. Toledo shot 47 percent.
"That was about the worst defense we played all year," coach Keith Dambrot said on the radio postgame show. "We were a half-step slow all night. ... When a young team plays three times in five days, you're going to get a little slippage."
True freshmen Nik Cvetinovic and Brett McClanahan each scored career highs with 11 and nine, respectively.
"I've been telling you all along that McClanahan is a weapon for us," Dambrot said. "He's gonna be a good player. I'm tellin' ya. ... I'm just glad we de-redshirted him."
Brett McKnight led Akron with 12 points. Tyrone Kent led Toledo with 19 points. His counterpart, Amos, scored eight. Akron outrebounded Toledo, 34-24.
Akron improved to 3-3 in the MAC. You will hear me say this a lot over the next few weeks: A first-round bye in the MAC Tournament is what this team needs most. Only four teams get a bye. Currently, the Zips are sixth.
Three of Akron's next four games are at home. The Zips will play a struggling Central Michigan team on Saturday at noon at Rhodes Arena. I will preview the game on Friday.
Akron held Youngstown State to 33 percent shooting en route to the Zips' second consecutive 14-point win, 67-53.
Nate Linhart played an active game, and it showed statistically. He scored 15, grabbed nine rebounds and volleyball spiked one Penguin shot into the scorer's table.
The Penguins tied the game at 33, but the Zips responded with a 7-0 run.
Akron will play at Toledo on Wednesday. I will preview the game tomorrow.
I went back and forth about whether this game was worth previewing.
On one hand, I've done it most the season. On the other, this game is darn near irrelevant, win or lose. The tiebreaker was that Keith Dambrot said he's glad his team is playing today, rather than just practicing.
Ohio's top quarterback chose Akron last night.
Six-foot-4 Patrick Nicely of Willoughby South is the No. 20 pro-style quarterback in the nation, according to Rivals.com. As a senior, he threw for 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. ESPN.com's scouting report suggests that Nicely is a threat to run, as well.
Nicely turned down offers from Ohio University, Toledo, Bowling Green, and Central Michigan. He originally committed to Bowling Green, but he decommitted once the Falcons changed coaches.
Nicely visited campus over the weekend. He was impressed with the football facilities, the campus overall and how J.D. Brookhart was up front with him. It also helps that Nicely's high school teammate and offensive lineman Joe Vidovic committed to Akron, too.
"In the end, it just felt like it was a place where I can start early, and I loved everything about it," he told the Plain Dealer. "Their program is going up and I'd like to be the one that carries them to another [Mid-American Conference] championship."
Despite being the most prominent recruit of this class, Nicely has expressed a desire to redshirt.
It had been 10 years and five days since Akron beat rival Kent State.
Using that as motivation, the Zips snapped that streak last night by beating the Flashes, 64-62.
Akron sophomore Amber Witt scored 19. The Zips won the rebounding battle, 42-27. Akron improved to 7-11 and 2-3 in the MAC.
But for a string of poor decisions, Akron would have completed one of the most unbelievable comebacks in team history.
The young Zips faced a 47-31 deficit well into the second half, but they clawed back to force overtime, where Ohio eventually won 70-65.
Akron led 62-58 with three minutes left in overtime, but quickly squandered it. Nate Linhart had the ball stolen, then fouled Ohio's DeVaughn Washington on a fast break dunk. After his three-point play, Washington made two free throws on the next possession. Jerome Tillman's put-back on an offensive rebound gave the Bobcats a three-point lead. Humpty Hitchens heaved a desperation 3 that would have tied the game, but it was an airball.
Putting that aside for a moment, it was a real accomplishment to fight back. At the end of regulation, Akron had the ball, down two. Chris McKnight missed a free throw but his brother Brett McKnight was there to tip it in as the buzzer sounded, forcing overtime.
Jimmy Conyers scored another key basket to help force overtime. He rebounded a missed Brett McKnight free throw and put it back in. That layup brought Akron within two points with two minutes to play.
By my count, Ohio scored only three field goals in the second half. The Zips were equally impotent for the first 30 minutes of the game. Momentum swung in Akron's favor as Tillman tallied fouls.
Ohio shot 31 free throws compared to 14 for Akron. Chris McKnight led Akron with 14 points and six rebounds. Bobcats point guard Michael Allen scored 17 points, including several shots that helped Ohio build its early lead. Tillman scored only 12, eight fewer than his season average.
The Zips were slightly better than their last overtime game -- a loss at Miami. However, all it takes is a couple mistakes for an inexperienced team to lose its confidence in front of a raucous crowd.
A few weeks ago, Keith Dambrot lamented that his team was not tough enough. Certainly this win should put that fear to rest. You don't come back 16 points on the road against an experienced team without a wheelbarrow full of guts.
Akron will play before another rowdy crowd on Saturday at noon when Kent State visits Rhodes Arena. I will preview the game in the next few days.
Ohio is favored to win by four tonight in Athens.
The Convocation Center is a tough place to win. I would take Ohio with the spread, but it should be a close game. Akron's defense ensures every MAC game will.
A young Akron team might have finally got the hint tonight: They have to be tough to win.
The Zips traveled to an experienced Bowling Green team's gym and won, 62-52. Akron's team defense was nearly faultless. Aside from some penetration issues in the first half, the individual defense was air-tight, as well. Bowling Green shot only 28 percent from the field.
The Zips also benefited from offensive toughness I have never seen before from Chris McKnight. On a few possessions, he became a bull with the ball. Rather than settling for a mid-range fadeaway, he used his power and footwork until the rim was within sneezing distance. Humpty Hitchens led the team with 15 points.
I was surprised to see Brett McClanahan enter the game and melt his redshirt. Knowing Keith Dambrot, this move was just as much about motivating his team as it was adding a shooter to the floor. Whether it was complacency or a string of bad shooting nights for Steve McNees and Darryl Roberts, I don't know. But neither has made much of an impact in the last month. If McClanahan plays, one of them will not. Hopefully they got that message.
It would be premature to say Akron is any better than tonight than Tuesday against Buffalo, but this win might be a turning point in terms of confidence.
Next up is a trip to Athens on Tuesday. The Bobcats have played well this season. I will preview the game on Monday.
Steve Zakuani became the first pick of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft today.
The Zips forward is heading to Seattle to be a part of the expansion Sounders.
It has been a whirlwind few months for Zakuani. After several weeks ranked at No. 2, the Zips forfeited their home-field advantage in the Sweet Sixteen. They traveled to Northwestern and lost. Within a week of the official announcement to leave school, Zakuani became the first pick in the draft.
This is some vindication for the often-overlooked Akron program. The NCAA has had no qualms about seeding the Zips lower than the polls and RPI suggest and stripping the team of its hard-earned home-pitch advantage. However, when a businessman, Sigi Schmid, had to choose where to invest his money, it did not matter the conference or the name of the institution. He bet on the best talent, and that was a Zip.
This is also a boost for the Zips program. Coach Caleb Porter undoubtedly will tell recruits that they can come to Akron, and after only two years, they have potential to be the nation's most sought-after player.
Zakuani led the nation with 20 goals and 27 points this season as a sophomore. He was Soccer America's player of the year and was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, given to the top NCAA Division I player.
Experts believe there is a strong possibility that Akron forward Steve Zakuani could be drafted first overall in today's MLS SuperDraft.
The Seattle Sounders hold the first pick, and team owner Sigi Schmid told the ABJ's Michael Beaven that Zakuani is on his list.
ESPN2 will televise the draft, which starts at 2 p.m.
These photos of LeBron James have turned up on the Web. As you can see, the photo shoot is taking place at Stile Field House.
I assume it's for a commercial, but why don't you close your eyes and imagine a 6-foot-8 receiver with lightning speed, agility, hands, field vision and power. Or how about a defensive end with the quickness of a running back and strength of a linebacker.
Despite losing Steve Zakuani, Akron will have another international striker on its roster next season.
Yoram Mwila was a key player on Zambia's under-17 team. He was selected to continue playing for his country on the under-20 team. Although it is silly to think an incoming player can replace Zakuani, the coaches are excited about Mwila.
Remember the 2005-2006 school year for Akron athletics? The football team won the conference. The soccer team made it to the elite eight. The basketball team won its first postseason game against Temple in the NIT.
This was a good year. And it put the Zippers on the national radar for a little while as an upstart program.
The Buffalo Bulls are in that place right now. Coming off a surprise MAC championship over an undefeated No. 12 Ball State, the UB athletic program has never been more prominent. Now the basketball team is threatening to shake up the conference.
With an 8-5 record, Reggie Witherspoon's Bulls will play the Zips at Rhodes Arena Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Akron and Miami played the game that most people would expect for the first 40 minutes. There was plenty of defense and minimal scoring.
Then Miami started overtime with a 8-0 run, which was enough separation to give the RedHawks a win in the MAC opener, 64-51.
The Zips had two opportunities to win in regulation. As the clock dwindled with a tie game, Humpty Hitchens missed an off-balance short jumper and the ball squirted out of bounds, giving Akron only 1.2 seconds with which to score. Brett McKnight air-balled a 3 and the game went to overtime.
On a positive note, Nate Linhart held Michael Bramos to 10 points, seven fewer than Bramos' season average. Carl Richburg, however, scored 12 points, including Miami's final five points in regulation.
The Zips play next against Buffalo Tuesday at Rhodes Arena. The Bulls have shown signs of improvement since last year. I will preview the game in the next couple days.
Having already received a monumental screwjob this season, Akron Soccer took another.
Steve Zakuani finished second in Hermann Trophy voting. The award is college soccer's most prestigious and coaches vote on it. The winner was Marcus Tracy of Wake Forest.
As an underclassman, Zakuani led the nation in scoring and points. Only two sophomores have ever won the award. Tracy is a senior and also a member of the national runners-up Demon Deacons. He scored 13 goals and had 10 assists, compared to Zakuani's 20 goals and seven assists.
Akron will play Miami at 4:30 today.
The Zips are 8.5-point underdogs. If you want to make some quick money, put $20 on the Zips (legally). I intend to go sled riding and come back to liveblog. Edit: Liveblogging might not happen.
Akron's star forward Steve Zakuani has signed a contract with Generation adidas, which means he will enter the MLS Draft, according to the ABJ's Michael Beaven.
Several publications project Zakuani to be selected first overall. If, indeed, the Seattle Sounders draft Zakuani, it would be a great boost for recruiting. For next season, though, coach Caleb Porter has an international player he hopes will take Zakuani's place.
With no Zips player reaching double figures and the team shooting just 35 percent, Akron was not going to beat any Division-I school, much less Rhode Island, which is one of the nation's best offensive forces.
Even worse, offense wasn't Akron's only problem. The Zips fell 79-50 after a poor effort on both ends of the floor.
The Rams shot 56 percent and buried Akron with 29 field goals off 24 assists. From the Zips standpoint, it was like watching a toddler trek his three-wheeler through quicksand. From the Rhode Island standpoint, it was a beauty that did not even require a huge effort from Jimmy Baron, who only scored 11.
Akron will have six days to think about its crime against basketball before the team travels to Oxford for the beginning of the MAC regular season against a favorite to win the conference.
I apologize for not writing a lick about the win over UNC-Greensboro. Whenever I neglect my duty, just check out ZipsNation.org, where fans are intelligent and, for the most part, level-headed.
I was in Columbus for New Year's Eve. It was quite an evening. Here's photographic evidence.
Anyhow, Akron conquered the Spartans, 75-53. Like I predicted, the Zips dominated the boards and forced a lot of turnovers. Oh, and only 735 people showed up. (However, it is refreshing when schools tell the truth about attendance.)
Next up is Rhode Island on Saturday at 2 p.m.