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Liveblog -- Akron vs. Toledo

By mrasor Published: January 31, 2010

Men's basketball
Better late than never, right?
My computer and my blog’s Ohio.com server suffered simultaneous meltdowns last night. The server has been running since noon. Unfortunately, my laptop is off to B.F. Egypt for a speaker replacement. My girlfriend's computer will have to do for now.
Here are the game notes I scribbled while sitting frustrated at the media table last night:
It’s a wonder how Toledo got so bad, so quickly. Certainly, they lost some seniors last year, but from what I hear from “One Who Knows,” this isn’t just a young team, it’s a team without even young talent. Eek. Bad combination.
On Friday, I was studying in the law library. Up the stairs walked Zippy. It was really funny to see her in that context. She was with a representative of the athletics department to sell basketball tickets to professors. Hats off to the staff for this ingenious strategy. It also took my mind off of the legal process of clearing checks, which was quite necessary.
The men’s soccer team was honored during the game. There aren’t many occasions when it’s appropriate to clap from press row. I felt this was one. These guys worked so hard and established an airdock full of school pride.
Toledo is having an awful time beating Akron’s full-court press. On the first three possessions, here were the results: steal, timeout (then successful passage), turnover.
At halftime, the score is 27-19. The teams combined for 1-of-12 on 3-point attempts. Toledo has the rebounding edge, 17-13. There is really not much more to report. It was an ugly, uneventful 20 minutes.
The university announced the induction of several new members of its Varsity A Hall of Fame. Among the people accompanying these folks out to the court was my law school buddy Joe Rich, who is a student trustee for the university. (This should serve as notice to my law school friends that if you read my blog and follow the Zips, you might just get a shoutout someday.)
A fan posted a sign reading: “Frenchie and Dunn are No. 1” … I alerted Joe Dunn to this, and the radio guys shared a good laugh. I told Joe he must alert his listeners to such a creative sign. He responded: “Only if we win.”
Toledo’s Malcolm Griffin dashed around two screens for an uncontested layup. Nik Cvetinovic was late on the rotation, and it was clearly his fault. Acknowledging it, Cvetinovic shouted a four-letter word you often hear used in Martin Scorsese movies. It starts with F. I could have misheard him, but I think the second letter was U.
Cvetinovic, I feel, is at a crossroads in his career. He has the talent and drive to be a franchise player, much like Romeo Travis and Jeremiah Wood. But we also need to see more consistent statistics out of him. That’s what separates Wood and Travis from guys like Chris McKnight and Matt Futch, who are good players that never really carried the team.
The same goes for Humpty Hitchens. No one would question his talent or drive. Much like Cvetinovic, he must learn to harness his competitiveness and emotions. That is what Nick Dials was able to do. Hitchens certainly has the same capacity for being a star in the league like his predecessors Dials, Dru Joyce and Cedrick Middleton.
Toledo is hanging around in this game because Akron can’t make an open 3-pointer. The Zips are 2-for-17 on 3s. As I type that, Hitchens drilled a 3 to extend Akron’s lead to nine with 7:26 left. Next possession: Steve McNees canned a 3 with 5:48 to take the lead to 10. Then Hitchens made another 3 to extend the lead to 13 with 5:18 remaining. The next two possessions resulted in steals in the backcourt and easy layups. Akron put this game out of reach in one blog paragraph. The lead is 17.
Hitchens and McNees did a nice job breaking Toledo’s press. Hitchens lobbed a pass over Toledo’s defense to a cutting Cvetinovic, who dunked it. The next possession, Toledo’s 6-foot-9 forward Justin Anyijong heaved an ill-advised 3-point attempt that resulted in a long rebound, which resulted in Hitchens feeding Chris McKnight for a second-straight Zips dunk.
Final score: Akron 59, Toledo 45
I will blog about tomorro's game against EMU tomorrow.

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Oddsmakers expect Zips to win by 25

By mrasor Published: January 30, 2010

Men's basketball
Akron is favored to beat Toledo by 25 tonight, in what must be one of the largest point spreads the Zips have ever enjoyed in a conference game.
What's more, the over-under is 126.5, which means the predicted outcome allows for only about 50 points by the Rockets.
The ABJ's Tom Gaffney did a great job breaking down the Akron-Toledo thriller from last season's MAC Tournament. That game easily could have ended the Zips' season, but it wound up providing the team with confidence it used to propel themselves into the NCAA Tournament.
Rather than asking, "Who will win?", and having it be 92 percent vs. 8 percent (consisting solely of Kent State fans), I want to know...
[poll id="93"]

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Two positive MAC results

By mrasor Published: January 28, 2010

Men's basketball
Tonight, Buffalo lost a home game to Ball State (busting up my hypotheses below). Miami, however, defended Millett Hall by beating Central Michigan.
Both results are good for Akron. This takes Buffalo down a game -- one the Bulls figured they'd easily win. It also reduces the likelihood of two MAC West teams earning first-round byes.
Buffalo has another tough test on Saturday, when the Bulls visit Northern Illinois. Central Michigan plays at Bowling Green. Kent State must hold serve at the M.A.C. Center against Western Michigan. Eastern Michigan plays at Miami. Of course, Toledo visits Rhodes Arena for a knuckle sandwich taste testing.

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Update on recruiting

By mrasor Published: January 28, 2010

Football
It's been several months since I've written anything of substance about recruiting.
During football season, nothing was happening because the Zips were so bad and recruits were hearing that J.D. Brookhart was not going to be around. Consequently, there were no verbal commitments.
Since then, it's been basketball season. I wouldn't want to disrespect his majesty Keith Dambrot by talking about a football team that hasn't done anything in five years.
But here are some updates:
The Canton Repository reported that North Canton running back Erick Howard has verbally committed to Akron, but that he is very open to considering Toledo. The third option is prep school, because Howard's grades are likely to require his status as a Prop 48 player. Scout.com calls Howard its No. 24 running back in the nation. He would be the marquee player of this class, if he commits to Akron.
Akron also added two players from Staten Island, N.Y. You can read about the story here. One is Marvin Staten, a big tailback. The other is cornerback Micklos Blake.
Receiver Keith Sconiers will visit campus this weekend, and it sounds likely that he'll commit, according to the Chicago Tribune. Rivals.com gives the 6-foot-3 Illinois product three stars.
Jon Duckett, a safety from Pennsylvania, is choosing between Kent State, Army and Akron. He likes Akron, but Ianello's defensive scheme changed from 3-3-5 to 4-3 (heavenly angels are rejoicing), so there is a lesser need for safeties. He might also choose to walk on at Penn State.
Rivals.com lists two new commitments:
Richard Hall, weakside defensive end, Wheeling, W.V. Offers: Akron Height: 6-3 Weight: 240 Speed: 4.8 Notes: While Hall only had one offer, other schools were interested: Marshall, Ohio and West Virginia. His coach says Hall is "definitely the smartest football player I've ever coached." Hall liked Akron's facilities and Rob Ianello's staff.
Anthony Holmes, safety, New Berlin, N.Y. Offers: Akron, Temple and Buffalo Height: 6-1 Weight: 185 Speed: Not listed Notes: Ianello told Holmes that he is their No. 1 target on their recruiting board. He decommitted from Temple, because Temple sent him to Milford Academy, then jostled him around on what academic standards the school wanted him to meet. Rivals.com gives Holmes three stars.
Signing Day is Wednesday, Feb. 3. I intend to cover it and keep you updated before then.

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Balanced attack leads Zips past Broncos

By mrasor Published: January 27, 2010

Men's basketball
Six players scored at least eight points for Akron, which won in its first matchup against a MAC West team, Western Michigan, 79-70.
The Zips survived a 30-point explosion from conference Player of the Year candidate David Kool. Akron countered with sweet shooting: 53.3 percent from the field, 50 percent on 3s and 74.2 percent from the free-throw line.
Leading Akron were Brett McKnight (11), Jimmy Conyers (11), Chris McKnight (10), Nik Cvetinovic (10), Brett McClanahan (nine) and Steve McNees (eight).
WMU beat Akron on the boards, 35 to 26. The Broncos also forced 19 Akron turnovers. But they couldn't keep up with the Zips' shooting, particularly on 3s, where WMU was 4-of-15.
The Zips return home for a Saturday game against Toledo at 7 p.m.

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WMU a tough opponent in Kalamazoo

By mrasor Published: January 27, 2010

Men's basketball
As Tom Gaffney writes, WMU is much stronger at home, where the team is 8-1, as opposed to 1-5 on the road.
Broncos coach Steve Hawkins admits:

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Gearing up for crossover games

By mrasor Published: January 26, 2010

Men's basketball
Fans of MAC East schools psych themselves up for games against their rivals (i.e. Kent/Akron, Miami/Ohio, etc.).
In reality, it's these crossover games that make or break a team that seeks a first-round bye at The Q. I call it the "don't screw it up" part of the schedule.
First, beating up on the West teams helps to ensure that the West only gets one of the four byes. Heading into tomorrow's games (Kent @ Toledo, Miami @ Ball State), two West teams (CMU and NIU) are leading the conference at 4-1. If both of these teams can escape crossover play at 7-4 or better, then the competition in the divisional games becomes a lot hotter. Without a bye, one of the three favorites (UB, UA and KSU) must win four games to earn a MAC Championship.
Second, it's a chance to catch your breath. The MAC East is a gauntlet. It's not quite so bad with Ohio having a down year, but would it really surprise anyone to see Buffalo to lose at Ohio? (Check.) Or for Kent to lose at Miami and at home against Bowling Green? (Check. Check.) Conversely, Toledo and Ball State should be wins, regardless of the venue. And, despite their pre-crossover records, the West teams should not come into Buffalo, Kent or Akron expecting to win.
Third, the parity makes a season sweep in the East unlikely. If you're going to pick up games, you have to look to the crossover schedule.
The good news is, I think the 4-1 teams are not the best two West teams. If I'm right, they will fall off, and Western Michigan (my favorite to win the division) will rise.
The Zips will face off against the Broncos tomorrow at 7 p.m. Then Akron will return home Saturday to play the hapless Rockets. Beating WMU at Kalamazoo would be a great start to the "don't screw it up" games.

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Liveblog -- Akron at Kent State

By mrasor Published: January 23, 2010

Men's basketball
Keep refreshing your browser during the game for updates...
Heading to the M.A.C. Center is one of my two annual blogging road trips (the Q being the other). I look forward to it. There is almost always something unusual. Two years ago, it was fans throwing things onto the floor. Last year, it was Chris Singletary's sucker punch. Of course, it goes back way longer than that, as the older fans can catalog.
The Kent State athletics folks do a great job for the media, too.
The Flashes' athletic director job will be filled soon with Laing Kennedy's successor. I know of two very, very worthy candidates. Of course, if I endorse them, it won't help one lick. So I'll just publicly congratulate one of them after he/she hopefully gets the job.
With eight minutes before gametime, it looks like we'll have a full house. The student sections are exchanging chants. From Kent: "Screw the roo." From Akron: "What's a Flash?"
The downside to covering this game is that I won't get to hear the sweet, sweet voice of Michael Reghi on ESPNU.
Kent State is favored by between two and 2.5. The over-under is 133.5.
Akron's starters: Brett McKnight, Jimmy Conyers, Zeke Marshall, Steve McNees and Humpty Hitchens. Hitchens also started Wednesday in place of Darryl Roberts, whose ankle isn't 100 percent. Kent's starters: Frank Henry-Ala, Justin Greene, Rodriguez Sherman, Tyree Evans and Chris Singletary.
Hitchens scored Akron's first five points off a layup and a 3-pointer.
Kent State is doing a better job than Akron on the boards. They have three offensive rebounds by my count.
The refs called a technical foul on Conyers for extracurricular shoving. They will certainly be more apt to call the tech considering the shenanigans of years past. Evans made one of two free throws.
Since 2005-06, the MAC has scheduled Akron and Kent to play in the last conference game of the year. That contest has alternated between Rhodes Arena and the M.A.C. Center. It's good they rotate it, because having such an emotional game right before the MAC Tournament probably has a different impact based on who hosts the game.
Sherman stole the ball and dunked on a fast break. Kent State is on a 6-0 run, thanks to some Zips turnovers.
Nik Cvetinovic drove past Brandon Parks for an easy layup. Cvetinovic didn't necessarily get the first step on Parks, either. It was more of just being faster. On the next possession, they called Parks for a blocking foul. That is a matchup the Zips will try to exploit in the next potential 110 minutes of basketball against Kent this year.
Akron already has six team fouls with 12:45 to play in the first half.
McNees drilled a deep 3 to retake the lead for Akron. That is a 7-0 Zips run. Someone told me during the Cavs game on Wednesday that NBA basketball is a game of runs. I told him, "Have you ever watched college basketball?" It seems like the adrenaline of a surge carries a team much further. Having said that, I don't care if Akron mounts a 20-point lead in the first half. This rivalry has proven repeatedly the power of momentum to surmount any lead.
Tom Gaffney made a good point. As we looked out over the Kent student section, he said, "This is what Akron needs." He's right. The Zips student section is only about one-tenth the size of Kent's in terms of area. I'm sure Kent doesn't fill the section during the run-of-the-mill weekday game, but the large area is inviting to students who have not attended a game before and perhaps don't know the protocol for student attendance/participation. The small sections behind each basket at Rhodes Arena suggest they are exclusively for a special club -- and they are.
Mike McKee has run off five straight points to regain the lead for Kent.
After another put-back bucket, Kent State has 12 second-chance points.
So what's the solution to Akron's student problem? I feel that a lot of students do attend Zips games, but they are dispersed among the bleacher sections. Therefore, they don't get into the group atmosphere. Therefore, they probably might not develop the attachment to the team. Therefore, you're leaving a lot of fanbase development on the table. You have heard a lot of chatter about a new basketball arena. The inadequate student section -- along with insufficient concession stand capacity -- are two driving forces toward finding a new home for Zips basketball.
Akron hasn't made a bucket since McNees' 3-pointer -- almost four minutes ago. Neither team is shooting well, but Kent has attempted eight more free throws, as well as two more field goals.
McNees is looking quite comfortable running the point. It might be that Kent's premier backcourt pest of the past four years, Jordan Mincy, is no longer on the roster.
Brett McClanahan is responsible for consecutive field goals. The first looked like a set play, where Zeke fed him a bound pass from the high post to the base line. Then McClanahan faded away for a 10-footer. The second shot was a finger roll off the dribble drive.
Singletary is scoreless on five missed shots and two missed free throws. I guarantee that will change by my next post.
Marshall swatted a Greene layup attempt. Cvetinovic made a layup while getting fouled to extend (what has now become) a Zips lead to four. McClanahan drilled a 3 to make it seven.
Marshall rejected another Green layup, but the Kent sophomore grabbed the loose change and put it back in.
McKee scored his 10th point of the half. Keith Dambrot is doing a great job defending Evans and Singletary (six combined points), but the team keeps losing McKee on the fast break and secondary break.
Halftime stats of note: Akron is shooting 44.8 percent; Kent is 37.9 percent. McKee leads Kent with 10 points; McClanahan has seven for the Zips. Evans, Greene and Marshall each have five rebounds. McNees has three assists. Marshall is responsible for two of the game's five blocked shots. Both teams have committed five turnovers.
There is only about a foot separating the out-of-bounds line and the scorer's table, which leaves very little space for a player to occupy when waiting to check in. Seems dangerous.
The Flashes are starting to work the ball through Singletary, who scored his first basket. They are on a 9-0 run.
Sherman stole the ball from McNees. Roberts tracked Sherman down and, rather than going for the ball, wrapped him up. That made for an easy "intentional foul" call from both refs who were in position.
That makes a 13-0 run. It's getting dangerous now. Akron needs to chip it down to six, rather than let it get up to 15.
Dambrot's teams over the years have suffered from droughts in notable games. It is probably the downside of never allowing the offense to become beholden to a "go-to" player. We haven't seen an Akron field goal in more than 6:30. With a go-to guy, you know who's getting the ball when you really need a bucket. Who is that player on Akron ... Brett McKnight? I don't know.
After a breakaway layup, Kent leads by 18. And it's getting ugly, too, with turnovers, monster swats, etc.
McNees graciously ended Akron's seven-minute futility session. The Zips followed it up with a full-court press that Kent State easily passed around and finished off with an uncontested Parks dunk. Then the Zips went to a zone, which Evans beat with a 3-pointer. It doesn't seem like Dambrot can win with his variations.
Akron got a quick 5-0 spurt from a Hitchens 3 and a Conyers steal that resulted in a McNees transition layup.
After Sherman swished a 25-footer with the shot-clock expiring, I realized it's Kent's night.
Kent's student section revealed a 10 foot-by-4 foot banner reading: "Akron chicks ARE FAT!!" It is now circulating the section, being passed back and forth. After a few minutes of fun for the hippies, a Kent official confiscated the sign. Akron's student section returned the foul play by colluding a chant: "Look at your dance team." ... I thought this was a basketball game, not a swimsuit contest.
Akron is working hard to trap on defense. The problem is, Kent seems to keep getting off the hook, and Akron is unable to capitalize when the Zips do force an error.
I like how Akron is pressing and trapping. It makes me wonder, why doesn't that become a more frequent look? If any team can do it, it's Akron -- a deep team with smart players. The Zips have chipped the lead down to 11 after a three-point play from Chris McKnight.
The game is a sellout, with attendance at 6,204.
Greene is having a fantastic game. He has 21 points and 11 rebounds. While Marshall was in the game, they were having a nice duel. I expect the two to have a nice individual rivalry over the next few years.
For most of the game, the Kent fans in front of me have been more occupied with staring at the AK-Rowdies section than the actual NCAA basketball contest on the hardwood floor. Now that the result is secured, it's really annoying. That goes both ways, of course.
Singletary went down under the hoop after a missed layup. He played possum while Akron took the ball to the other side of the court. He cherry-picked an easy hoop after the Zips scored.
Final stats of note: Greene led both teams with 23 and 13. A total of five Flashes scored in double figures. Singletary had seven assists. Chris McKnight had 13 points and Cvetinovic and Marshall tied for the team lead with six boards. Kent State shot 65.5 percent in the second half. They also outrebounded Akron, 38 to 28.
Now that the first third of the MAC season is complete, I can't say I'm surprised by anything -- except maybe Ohio being 0-4 (and potentially 0-5 after today's game vs. Buffalo). Akron won the game it should have. It lost the games it should have. It would have been nice to compete better at Kent and at Buffalo, but it's just as likely that Akron blows them out at Rhodes Arena. The key will be sweeping the West to secure the first-round bye. Lose a game to one of the MAC West scrubs, and you might have to play on Wednesday at The Q.
Final score -- Akron 70, Kent State 87
QUOTES
Justin Greene
"It was great. To be on national TV and get a big win, it's good for us."
"He's 7-foot with long arms. I have to get my body into him to get a good shot. He blocked a couple of my shots but I didn't lose any confidence. I wanted to keep attacking him."
"I didn't think I'd be doing this well."
Chris Singletary
"I thought I didn't show my emotion enough in the first half. I was too afraid to get too hyped up. Second half, I just let loose and played with emotion and energy, and that's why I had a better second half."
"Coach told us to look ourself in the mirror and ask how we want to end the year and how we want to be remembered. We know that when we defend, we can beat just about anybody in the nation. The offense keeps getting better. The chemistry keeps getting better."
"We did a great job tonight letting our defense help our offense. In the huddle was walking about getting it (the lead) to 10, then getting it to 15."
"When we play defense for 33 seconds, it's tiring. We almost want to slow it down. Making the other team play defense for 30 seconds helps."
"It was really important. Just having that energy. When somebody hit a big 3, the place went crazy. It was easy to feed off the energy and play defense."
"Having Mike (McKee) step up like that, allowed me to just focus on the defensive end, seeing that Mike had it going on the offensive end. We have five or six guys who can put up double figures on a given night."
"Every big man I play with, I try to get him easy baskets because that helps on the defensive end. Justin's a great player. He knows how to adjust to the game. He's going to find a way to score. He knows how to use his body, finish right hand, finish left hand, using the rim to block the defender."
Rodriguez Sherman
"We've just been focusing on going inside-out. Coach wants us to push the ball, but he also wants us to be smart. We've been sharing the ball, playing smart. We want to make them play defense as well."
"We had to have pressure at all times. We wanted to make them drive. We wanted to be out on their shooters."
"Our bench gave us a lot of energy."
Greene "stepped up to the challenge. He stayed with it. We trust Justin."

Chris McKnight
"We just didn't guard as well as we should have. They had too many easy buckets. We knew it would be hard coming in here. It always is. The crowd is always great here. We didn't handle that well in the second half at all. They converted. We didn't convert as well as we should have. We have to do better when everything hits the fan."
"Greene got going early. When the monster's hungry, you've gotta be able to feed him. That's what they were doing."
"We knew we had to stay composed. They have great shooters. You have to be able to make plays, finish and play defense. Being up seven is not that big of a margin."
Keith Dambrot
"I think they physically manhandled us. Really from the get-go. They physically gave it to us. I didn't think we handled adversity well. I've said it many times, they have some of the best talent in the league."
"I thought they had a good gameplan. Our guys tried to play hard and come back. I'm not going to play to play close. We pressed, and that's not really our cup of tea."
"We're not going to win many games when it's 35-35 at halftime. I thought we did a very poor job of keeping it out of Singletary's hands. They played through him exclusively in the second half. That put pressure on us because he's a terrific passer."
"We have to do a better job at handling adversity. We have shown tendency to multiply mistakes."
"We're 9-0 when we hold people under 60. We just don't have capability to score like that. We took the easy way out. We reached. Usually the tougher team wins. It's not surprising. They're good in here. Both teams played with some class tonight. Instead of fighting each other, we decided we are the best two teams in the league in the past five years."
"I didn't even know it was 19-0. I just knew they were kicking our behinds. It's a game of spurts. They got the spurts. We didn't handle adversity, and they handled prosperity. We have to become fighters when things go poorly."
"Justin Greene can't get 23 points and 13 rebounds, and you can't expect to win. It's just like Brett McKnight getting 29 in our place last year."
"Jimmy's technical foul. Not very smart. We can't have him get three rebounds."
"In the second half, Zeke tired a little bit. He was terrific in the first half. But he's going to be good. He showed me he has no nervousness."
"He (Greene) has not shown he can go to his right shoulder, but we kept letting him go to his left shoulder."
"We built the program on toughness. Toughness can be described two ways. Physical toughness, they took it to us around the rim. We generally have held our own in the post. They got 13 offensive rebounds. We got nine. They got more easy ones around the rim. And then, mental toughness. We came at their throat early, they handled it. When they came at our throats, we couldn't handle it. It's something that's hard to work on. It's something that this team has to do better."
"When 6,200 are in this building, Kent's not going to lose too often. When we get 6,200 in our building, we're not going to lose often. When it gets loud, we puckered up."
"This is the same team that we had that was 9-8 last year. This is the same team, without Linhart. We're going to have nights that, despite what people think, we're not the best team in the league. It's not the best team we've ever had. But it's a team that can develop, because the big boy is gonna get bigger."
"If we get hit in the mouth a couple times, then we get hit in the mouth a couple times. It's not going to kill us. I've coached too long to let one game affect me."
On Geno Ford changing up his lineup: "Sometimes you've gotta be hard on your guys to get better. They played tonight like the best team in the league."
"We have inconsistencies, but they do, too. We're trapping them, and they're struggling. You know who saved them, right? Singletary. They're in trouble. They ball went through Singletary. Zips are in trouble. The ball went through Wood. The ball went through Rome. The ball went through Brett McKnight. He wasn't too good tonight."
"When things went bad, we tried to do things on our own. We tried to play one-on-one. I'm not worried about not having a go-to guy. I'm not disappointed losing here. I just wish we played better in the second half."

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24 hours until rivalry game

By mrasor Published: January 22, 2010

In fewer than 24 hours, Akron and Kent State will tip off at the M.A.C. Center.
The ABJ's Stephanie Storm wrote about the uncertainty of Geno Ford's starting lineup.
The game starts at noon and will be televised on ESPNU. Here are the game notes from GoZips.com.
I expect the line to be Kent State minus two or three.
[poll id="91"]

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48 hours until the rivalry game

By mrasor Published: January 21, 2010

Men's basketball
The Zips will tip off against hated rival Kent State in just under 48 hours.
Last night, coach Keith Dambrot had something interesting to say about Kent State:

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Poll: Who will win, Akron or Kent?

By Dan Published: January 21, 2010

Liveblog: Akron vs. Miami

By mrasor Published: January 20, 2010

Men's basketball
Keep refreshing your browser for updates:
I said I wasn't going to blog tonight. And I shouldn't be. I got out of a council meeting at 7:30 and busted it up to campus. Earlier this week, I was wondering: "How much longer do I want to keep blogging?" I think I answered my question by ending a crazy day at Rhodes Arena: "As long as I physically can." This stuff is enjoyable and relaxing to me. You can't fight new taxes all day without some outlet.
The Zips are up 38-20 at the half, thanks in part to a great first half by Chris McKnight, who tallied a game-high 12 points and seven rebounds. Miami is shooting 26.7 percent from the floor, but the RedHawks have started a lot of games poorly. The big advantage for Akron is 18 points in the paint, compared to Miami's four.
As for McKnight, this is a guy who must get it going. If he can play this well, and Jimmy Conyers maintains his new persona, the Zips have the best frontcourt in the conference. And I don't think it's very close.
Adam Fletcher started the second half by backing down Zeke Marshall and executing a textbook layup. I think it was Elton Alexander who predicted that the wide centers of the MAC East would give Marshall fits.
I was really hoping to come to this game for another reason: You never know when Charlie Coles will call it quits. I don't want to pass up an opportunity to hear his final press conference at Akron.
Marshall tossed in a beautiful sky hook against Fletcher. If there's a theme to Marshall's season, it has been the rapid ups and downs. In a way, Marshall creates the problem for himself when he shows such great potential before making a mental error or allowing his lack of weight affect him.
LeVon Morefield was honored at the 15:40 mark for winning the Rudy Award. When someone rebounds from such severe strife, it's really special. He worked almost 70 hours a week to pay for school as a walk-on football player. That's not to mention growing up without parents (they were crack addicts).
Humpty Hitchens only has five points, but he has been playing solid defense against Kenny Hayes, who has nine. Hayes is probably one of the best five guards in the league.
In other MAC-tion, Kent is beating up on Buffalo at the MAC Center; Ball State is pulling off an upset over Western Michigan in Muncie, Ind.; Ohio and Bowling Green are neck-and-neck in the second half; Central Michigan has a big lead at home over Eastern Michigan; NIU and Toledo are close.
Antonio Ballard went up high to complete an impressive alley-oop from Hayes. With the athleticism that Coles has, you have to wonder if the slow-it-down style suits his personnel.
Chris McKnight has a double-double now with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Unlike at other times this season, he seems to be in the right place more often.
If the photographers were in the right place, Marshall just made Fletcher famous. Marshall finished a dunk over Miami's center and drew a foul. It was a welcomed show of aggression. Oh my! On the next play, Marshall pinned the ball against the backboard on a Fletcher dunk attempt. Fletcher probably won't his parents about that sequence when he calls home after the game.
Julian Mavunga drove from the 3-point line with a dunk in mind. Marshall entered the picture and rejected him -- one of those blocks where the offensive player's elbow is locked, so he feels the force of the block personally. The referee made a bad call by whistling Marshall for a foul. Still, it was a brutal rejection.
Marshall sprinted out to the perimeter to swat a 3-point attempt. When this kid gets a burst of confidence, it's really fun to watch because you can tell he's playing with different attributes than anyone else in the conference.
I do hate to see him abuse Fletcher, who has possessed the MAC's best beard for years now. He's a senior, and he will be sorely missed by facial hair aficionados around the Midwest.
The AK-Rowdies struck up a "Kent State sucks" chant with 2:30 to play and the Zips holding a 22-point lead. The student section has been OK tonight. Just OK. Probably filled to capacity, but not as loud as I've heard them in the past against "The Sweaters" as they nickname Miami.
Conyers dropped some jaws with a sweet reverse layup.
The reserves came in with a minute to play. That is a group that includes the Tim Carroll, Steve Swiech, Alex Sullivan, Ronnie Steward and Mike Bardo.
Final stats of note: Marshall had 13 points and three blocks. Chris McKnight finished with game highs of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Steve McNees had six assists and only one turnover. Hayes had 15 points. Fletcher logged a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. The Zips shot 48.1 percent, compared to Miami's 32.2 percent. The RedHawks made only 2-of-16 3-pointers (12.5 percent).
Final score -- Akron 69, Miami 49
QUOTES
Zeke Marshall
"I don't know what triggers when I play like that. Maybe it's the big games."
"I'm starting to post harder. I wouldn't say I 'demand the ball,' because I don't like yelling. I'm starting to score a little more."
On back-and-forth with Fletcher: "We were just joking around. That's a possible friend I could have after basketball, if that ever happens."
On Kent State: "I haven't been introduced to that rivalry, but I have a good feeling about the game. I don't know why I do, but I play better in big games. In high school, it was the same exact thing. That's how I'm going to approach it on Saturday."
Chris McKnight
"I didn't feel good coming into the game. My body is tired."
"In Buffalo, we didn't play well enough together. We didn't guard enough. If we guard like we did tonight, we're really hard to beat."
"We know that [Nick] Winbush is an unbelievable shooter. He had eight 3s against Kentucky."
"We wanted to jump on them early and get out to an early lead."
On Kent State: "This is my last go-around. And it's Kent State. If we play like we did tonight, we're going to win."
"Now, we just have to stay consistent. Coach references last year a decent amount, for the simple fact that we'd win a couple games, then lose one. We just have to be consistent."
Keith Dambrot
"Unbelievable congratulations to Coach Coles and what he's done. His toughness and longevity, and what he's overcome. It's motivational to me."
"I thought we played our best game of the year. Maybe one of the better games I've been here. It reminded me about what Buffalo did to us. We did everything went right and everything went wrong for them."
"When the McKnights play well, we're hard to beat. When they don't, we're hard to win."
"We ran better. We decided we were too conservative. We had to call less sets. I think they like playing that way more, too."
"We took Monday off, which was the best thing we did. We didn't do anything different. Same attack, but we ran more. We tried to play less in the half-court."
On Marshall: "I thought he played like he did in that two-week stretch when he was really good. We need for him to play good when he hits adversity. We need to stick with him. He changes the game. Even if he doesn't block some of them, he's in their head."
"Kent's good. And Buffalo's good. They just caught them on a bad night. If Kent wants to play, they're pretty good. They've got two high-major guys in [Chris] Singletary and Tyree Evans. The teams that are old in this league win. It's a man's league. It's a mini-Big Ten. It's not a finesse league. It's not like the Horizon. It's not like the Ohio Valley."
"They have a guy they can play through. Chris Singletary is probably the best passer in the league. They can overcome ball pressure. They remind me of the old OU teams with Jeremy Fears and that. When they want to play, they're great. When they don't want to play, they're just OK. Sometimes Kent doesn't feel like playing."
"They have some guys who are really good who don't get credit like Mike McKee. Chris Singletary probably doesn't think I respect him, but I think he's the best player in the league. To me, Singletary and [David] Kool are the best two guys."
"I didn't think we came out in the second half very good, but we made enough baskets to overcome our bad defense. We made a lot of shots in transition that helped us."
"When Zeke plays, we go from a good defensive team to a great defensive team. When he feels like playing ... That's why he needs to play."
"I'm not going to say a word (to Zeke about Kent). They're trying to bully the guy. He has to be ready. If he's good, he's good. Fine. What we have to do is develop the guy. He might not get to where he's consistent this year. Zeke can talk about all those big games he played in high school. He has no idea. He has no clue when it comes to big games. Nervousness has never been his problem. He has been unemotional at times."
Charlie Coles
"We got beat by a very good basketball team. The team that I think, right now, is the best team in the league. I don't think anybody compares to these guys. To get nine or 10 players to play, like he gets them to play ... Let's face it, Chris McKnight on another team would be playing 30 minutes. If he was on my team, I'd never take him out."
"It used to be, we'd come up here. We were better. Now we come up here, we don't have a chance. They did a great job. They move the ball. They don't miss their 3s. We miss our 3s. Our senior guard Kenny Hayes missed a 3. I called a timeout. I said, 'Kenny, I thought I'd mention to you that this would be a trade-off. You hit the 3; he [Hitchens] hits the 3. You didn't hit the 3. They started keeping score this year.'"
"But seriously, they have a good team. I don't know how good we are. I don't know how good we are. We don't play particularly hard. We don't play particularly smart. They got Marshall. I can see him getting better."
"The good team never gets confused. The bad team does. That was most of it. I don't think they did anything in particular. In the beginning, we were getting good shots. We just couldn't make them. Then we couldn't stop them. Then we lost our confidence."
"Mavunga couldn't get much done. The McKnight boys, when they see him, they say, 'Ah ha! Here you come. OK.'"
"Conyers is the wild card for them. At 6-5, he sneaks in there and gets things done. Last year, they had [Nate] Linhart who gave [Michael] Bramos a lot of fits. This year, Conyers is more offensive. I think he and Marshall are the wild cards for them. If you look up and see them in the [NCAA] Tournament, you'll see Conyers and Marshall making a difference. I see Akron as an almost-Butler team. Oh, they're smart."
"They have a great pace to their game. They'll go fast and then slow. Slow and then fast. The trick is, knowing how to use the speed you have, when you need to use it."
"Akron, if we played them tomorrow, you'd see the same outcome. If we played them Saturday, you'd see the same outcome."
"To be honest, you're going to think I'm joking when I say this: I have a ball coaching them, except when we play. I hate games, man. It seems like the worst comes out in us."
"Let's face it, I enjoy going different places and playing. I've always enjoyed that. That's the reason I've stayed in coaching so long. I wouldn't just miss my team. I wouldn't just miss Miami. I would miss sportswriters, the fans, going different places. Last year, I wasn't ready to give it up. I haven't thought twice about it.
"I met Mr. McKnight tonight. I told him a story about last year. He came in the locker room before our game. He and Brett embraced and he kissed Brett on the cheek. I told him how that touched me. I called a friend, and he started crying on the phone. You don't see that kind of love and guidance. I have the highest respect for them. I think Akron is lucky to have them. You miss those things. They all tell a story."
"I'll leave you with this: A former teammate of mine called me. He used to guard me in practice. I reminded him that he was second-string, and I was the starter. And forgive me, but he's always been an ass. He called me, and said, 'Congratulations on the record. You're not only the winningest coach at Miami, but you're the losingest coach at Miami, too.'"

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Zips favored against Miami

By mrasor Published: January 20, 2010

Men's basketball
Akron is a nine-point favorite to win tonight against Miami at Rhodes Arena.
The ABJ's Tom Gaffney wrote a great story about the significance of former Zips coach Wyatt Webb to the current coach Keith Dambrot, who surpassed Webb last week to become third all-time in the program for wins.
Pete Conrad of the Oxford Press did a nice job previewing the game. Miami, which has the nation's No. 2 strength of schedule, feels that the prior course has helped the team come together once the MAC season began.
[poll id="90"]

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Dambrot sounds off about scheduling

By mrasor Published: January 19, 2010

Men's basketball
In the Buffalo News, Keith Dambrot discussed his scheduling philosophy.
As usual, Dambrot talked about how he has been "whacked up and down" for his strategy. I think he's talking a little about me, and probably a lot about Elton Alexander. Following tradition, let's go point-counterpoint:
Dambrot: In the history of the MAC, which is 60 years or whatever, we've only had six multiple-bid years. So until we prove we can get multiple bids, we're a one-bid league. And that's as simple as I see it. So you might as well win.
Rasor: It very well could have happened two years ago with Kent State. The Flashes played a rough, yet manageable schedule, which included only one true "buy game" against No. 1 North Carolina. For a mediocre team, it doesn't make a ton of sense to play the big boys, because you're not going anywhere without winning the MAC Tournament, regardless. But for a team that is consistently at the top of the league, a shocker win (or just the improved RPI from playing on the road at Duke, UNC, etc.) could take a team from the run-of-the-mill MAC Champion status (see Akron '09) to elite mid-major status (see Miami circa Wally Szczerbiak). It all depends on your goals for the program, I suppose. One who is "thinking bigger than the MAC" would want to go for it all, particularly when it doesn't affect the ability to win the MAC, as well. If you want to cause a stir around town, beat a top-25 team on the road. If it happens only once out of 10 games, so be it.
D: I think we should play mid-majors and not get bought. That's my opinion. I think our league will be better for it. We'll get more people in the postseason [such as the NIT] ... Until we show we're a two-bid league we're a one-bid league and we shouldn't even talk about it.
R: Is there something so awful about getting "bought"? Isn't it true the program pulls in a truckload of money? Isn't it true the college athletes get a unique experience that, heck, might even be valuable come March? Isn't it true that, even if the referees completely screw you out of the gym, your players learn the lesson that life isn't fair, and it won't be fair in athletics, either? Isn't it true that getting "bought" generally results in an RPI boost, win or lose? Dambrot must consider whether the downside of taking bruises 90 percent of the time in a hostile gym that he is concerned about is really an ego thing.
D: I think that's who we should play, like the Missouri Valleys, the Colonials, sometimes the Mountain Wests. Mix in some A-10s who will play you home and home. I think those are the best schedules we can get rather than going to all these high majors where you're going to lose. Most times even if you're better, you're going to lose.
R: I agree. However, I've been hearing about this plan for five years. When will we see the upper-echelon mid-majors coming more frequently? Why are we still caulking our schedule with the Midstate Upstairs B.S. Universities of the world? That's acceptable to fans as a warm-up game. But in December, they serve no purpose. People don't want to pay to see Akron dust up the Washington Generals -- not with their time or money. These games are a big reason attendance is low until the MAC season begins. The other is effective marketing, but that's another story...
D: Look at Davidson last year. They had a lottery pick [Stephan Curry]. They lost every one of them. Do you think they're going to let you win consistently in the Big East? You may win one but you ain't winning many. That's how I see it. I've been whacked up and down for it but I believe I'm right. And I think most everybody in our league now is doing it that way. Not everybody, and Miami [of Ohio]'s an example. They're pretty good. They're 4-11 but they're pretty good.
R: Davidson did what it needed to do to prepare itself for a national title run. They wanted experience against the big boys. They lost by four at Oklahoma and by 12 at Duke. Not bad. Unfortunately for them, they also lost early in the conference tournament and barely missed the NCAA Tournament. Just think if Davidson played nobody and lost in the Southern Conference tournament. They wouldn't have been a high seed in the NIT; that's for sure. As for Miami, Charlie Coles takes the gamble that he can catch a big boy off guard and possibly steal a win that could propel consideration for an at-large bid. Year after year, we see his teams catching momentum once the MAC season begins, so it's hard to argue the schedule is detrimental to Coles.
Regardless of how you come out on this issue, there are good arguments on both sides. I disagree with the coach, but I don't think there is a wrong or right here.

Akron will play Miami on Wednesday at Rhodes Arena at 7 p.m.[poll id="89"]

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Zips drop grudge match at Buffalo

By mrasor Published: January 17, 2010

Men's basketball
Buffalo exacted early revenge for its loss in the MAC Championship with a 78-65 win over Akron.
Bulls senior guard Rodney Pierce tied a career high with 31 points. The big difference in the game was 3-point shooting, where Buffalo was 9-for-14 (64.3 percent) and Akron made only 4-of-18 (22.2 percent). The Zips also missed 12 free throws (55.6 percent).
Heading into the game, the teams were tied at 2-0 for the division lead.
Jimmy Conyers led Akron with 17 points and seven rebounds. Sean Smiley added 21 points for Buffalo.
"We've been waiting for this game since last year," Smiley said in the postgame TV interview.
Buffalo built its lead in the final minutes in the first half, when the margin quickly grew from three to 13. The run included a technical foul on Keith Dambrot. Akron whittled Buffalo's lead down to six with six minutes to play, but Buffalo responded with a 7-0 run to put the Zips away.
Akron's next game is Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Miami at Rhodes Arena. I have a council meeting, so unfortunately I won't be able to make it.

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Video available for Buffalo game

By mrasor Published: January 17, 2010

Men's basketball
You can watch Akron's game at Buffalo by clicking the link on this page and having RealPlayer installed prior.
The Zips are one-point favorites to win today. Winning, of course, is the primary objective, but I would like the Zips to get Zeke Marshall more involved.
During a timeout, I'd recommend reading about Keith Dambrot's contract incentives, which Tom Gaffney wrote about in today's paper.
Football
You can also read about the new revenue that InfoCision Stadium made possible.

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Porter named NSCAA National Coach of the Year

By Michael Beaven Published: January 15, 2010

University of Akron men's soccer coach Caleb Porter received the highest collegiate coaching honor Friday night.
Porter was named the NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America awards banquet in Philadelphia.
‘‘I'm humbled to receive this award,’’ Porter said in a statement. ‘‘Truly, it is a reflection of the work of our team and success they had this year. The credit should go to my players, assistant coaches and support staff, who all played a part in our program's accomplishments this season.’’
UA had a 23-1-1 overall record in 2009 and finished national runner-up in the NCAA Tournament.
The Zips led all 203 Division I teams in goals per game (2.32) and goals-against-average (0.27), and were the consensus No. 1-ranked team for the final nine weeks of the regular season.
UA had 19 shutouts, which is the second-highest total in NCAA history. Their goals-against-average and .760 shutout percentage are each third all-time.
Porter has a 68-12-8 overall record and a 20-1-1 mark in the Mid-American Conference since being named Zips coach in 2006. He has led the Zips to four consecutive MAC regular season championships, three MAC Tournament titles in a row and appearances in each of the past three NCAA Tournament's.
Porter has also earned the past three MAC Coach of the Year honors.

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2010 MLS Draft Update

By Michael Beaven Published: January 14, 2010

The 2010 Major League Soccer Draft started at 2 p.m. and was televised live on ESPN2 from Philadelphia.
The University of Akron men's soccer team had two players selected in the top 10; sophomore forward Teal Bunbury was selected fourth by the Kansas City Wizards and junior midfielder Blair Gavin was selected 10th by Chivas USA.
Zips senior midfielder Ben Zemanski was selected in the third round by Chivas USA with the 47th overall pick.
Chivas USA is a franchise located in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, Calif.
Former Zips sophomore forward standout Steve Zakuani was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 MLS draft pick by the Seattle Sounders FC, an expansion team that recently completed its first season.
The Philadelphia Union, an expansion team, made the No. 1 overall draft pick. They also made the sixth and seventh picks in the first round after working some trades.
Check out Friday's Akron Beacon Journal newspaper and/or the ohio.com website for a story about Bunbury, Gavin and Zemanski getting drafted.
Below is a list of the top 10 picks as they happened: 
First Round (Top 10 Picks)
2:06 p.m. No. 1 -- The Philadelphia Union selects Danny Mwanga, a forward from Oregon State University, with the first pick. He is 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds and is from the Republic of Congo, which is also where Zakuani is from.
2:12 p.m. No. 2 -- The New York Red Bulls selects Tony Tchani, a midfielder from the University of Virginia, with the second pick. He is 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds and helped the Cavaliers win the national championship.
2:15 p.m. No. 3 -- The San Jose Earthquakes selects Ike Opara, a defender from Wake Forest University, with the third pick. He is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds.
2:21 p.m. No. 4 -- The Kansas City Wizards selects Teal Bunbury, a forward from the University of Akron, with the fourth pick. He is 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds and recently won the Hermann Trophy after helping guide the Zips to a national runner-up finish. His father, Alex Bunbury, played for the Kansas City Wizards during his professional career that spanned 15 years and included stints in England, Portugal, Canada and the United States. Teal is the first son of a former MLS player to get drafted. Alex also played on the Canadian national team.
2:26 p.m. No. 5 -- FC Dallas selects Zach Loyd, a defender/midfielder from the University of North Carolina, with the fifth pick. He is 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds.
2:29 p.m. No. 6 -- The Philadelphia Union selects Amobi Okugo, a midfielder from UCLA, with the sixth pick. He is 6-foot and 175 pounds.
2:36 p.m. No. 7 -- The Philadelphia Union selects Jack McInerney, a forward that did not attend college, with the seventh pick. He is 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds and has experience playing on the U.S. U-17 Men's National Team. Several of the earlier picks also have youth national team experience.
2:41 p.m. No. 8 -- The Columbus Crew selects Dilly Duka, a midfielder from Rutgers University, with the eighth pick. He is 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds.
2:46 p.m. No. 9 -- The New England Revolution selects Zack Schilawski, a forward from Wake Forest University, with the ninth pick. He is 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds and is a native of Cary, N.C. where the Men's Soccer Cup was held this past December.
2:51 p.m. No. 10 -- Chivas USA selects Blair Gavin, a midfielder from the University of Akron, with the 10th pick. He is 6-foot and 165 pounds and helped guide the Zips to a national runner-up finish.
That concludes the top 10 selections of the MLS Draft.

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Zips beat Flashes in women's basketball

By Michael Beaven Published: January 14, 2010

Here is some addtional information regarding the University of Akron's 62-55 win over rival Kent State on Wednesday night in a Mid-American Conference women's basketball game:
Postgame Stats and Notes
-- The Zips (8-8, 2-1) had four players score in double figures and also held an advantage over the Golden Flashes (9-6, 2-1) in shooting percentage and rebounding.
-- Junior forward Kara Murphy led the Zips with 16 points and two assists. Senior guard Ayla Guzzardo contributed 14 points and seven rebounds, senior forward Jolene Tamboue had 13 points and 14 rebounds and sophomore center Kyle Baumgartner had 12 points and five rebounds.
-- Golden Flashes junior forward Taisja Jones scored a game-high 23 points and junior center Ellie Shields contributed 12 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Jamilah Humes had eight points and six assists before fouling out with 26 seconds left in the game.
-- The score was tied 47-47 with 6:55 to go. UA then went on a 6-0 run with a jumper by Tamboue and two layups by Baumgartner to lead 53-47 with 5:17 left. KSU got no closer than three points the rest of the game.
-- Tamboue helped the Zips to a 38-28 advantage in rebounds.
-- UA made 47.1 percent (24-of-51) of its shots from the field, and KSU converted 35.7 percent (20-of-56) from the field.
-- Junior guard Amber Witt (four assists), sophomore forward Jasmine Mushington (four points) and freshman forward Rachel Tecca (three points) also contributed for the Zips.
-- The Zips have won two of their past three games against the Flashes. UA and KSU next meet on Feb. 24 at Kent for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
Postgame Quotes
Akron coach Jodi Kest
''I am just very proud of my young ladies. The coaches did a terrific job of preparation, but ultimately it comes down to our young ladies executing and I thought that we did a great job of that, especially in the second half.''
''Tonight we finished. We shot 47 percent [from the field] and we made the plays down the stretch. Kara made great plays. I thought Kyle had a great second half, Jolene gave us great energy with her offensive rebounding and Ayla made some key 3-pointers that we needed.
''It was another great team effort. It was nice to have four players in double figures. That is one thing we have talked about all year. It is not just about one player. Anyone on this team is capable of scoring in double figures.''
on Tamboue: ''The great thing about Jolene is what you see in the game is how she practices every day. She is always the first one on the court and the last one to leave. She has high energy and works hard every practice and every game.''
''I think our kids did a terrific job of preparing for this game and taking care of business.''
Kent State coach Bob Lindsay
''I was disappointed with the way we rebounded and the quality of our defense. Give all the credit to Akron. They outplayed us in the second half and that was the difference in the game."
''I think Jodi and her staff deserve a lot of credit. She has gotten this team to play hard.''
Akron senior forward Jolene Tamboue
''I know I started off a little bit slow [this season], but I feel I have stepped it up, especially with my rebounding. That is one of the main things I focus on. I know that is what I do and what my role is.''
Akron junior forward Kara Murphy
''It's good [to win this game], but I want to get them twice.''

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Conyers' rebounds pay off at Ohio

By mrasor Published: January 13, 2010

Men's basketball
The most unlikely star in the conference led Akron to another win, this time on the road at Ohio.
Jimmy Conyers scored 16 and grabbed 14 rebounds in 36 minutes, giving the Zips a 67-62 win over the Bobcats.
Ohio won or tied almost every statistic except offensive rebounds, where the Zips led 17-8. Those 11 extra possessions were the difference in the game, however. Conyers was responsible for six of the offensive boards.
The Zips' road trip continues Sunday at 2 against Buffalo, who plays at Bowling Green tomorrow night. If the Bulls win, it will be a matchup of the only unbeaten teams in the MAC East.
Women's basketball
The Zips beat Kent State tonight at Rhodes Arena, 62-55.
Kara Murphy scored 16 and Joline Tamboe grabbed 14 rebounds for Akron.

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Zips name Mallory as defensive coordinator

By mrasor Published: January 13, 2010

Football
Curt Mallory
will be Akron's next defensive coordinator, according to the Associated Press.
Mallory had served as co-defensive coordinator at Illinois the past three seasons. He was one of three finalists for the head coaching job at Central Michigan, which eventually went to Michigan State's Dan Enos.
The new coordinator lettered two years at Michigan (1989-90) and served as an assistant coach at Ball State, Central Michigan and Indiana.
The other finalist was rumored to be Vince Okruch, Akron's linebackers coach last season under J.D. Brookhart.
Men's basketball
Ohio is favored by two tonight against Akron at The Convo.
As Tom Gaffney writes, this game begins Akron's most difficult stretch of games this season, with four of the next five coming on the road.
[poll id="88"]

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Ianello adds to staff

By mrasor Published: January 12, 2010

Football
Rob Ianello
hired a former Syracuse defensive line coach to fill the same position on his staff.
Akron's coach calls Derrick Jackson an energetic recruiter and teacher. An earlier report said Bryant Young, a former San Francisco 49er, would take the defensive line job, but whispers began to surface that wasn't accurate.
Other notes...
Ianello also hired Mike Cochran as strength and conditioning coach. Cochran served in that role at Marshall. He also has experience working under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State and Ohio State.
You absolutely must read the story of LeVon Morefield, an Akron player who won the national Rudy Award, given to the walk-on who best demonstrates character, courage, contribution and commitment. What a great accomplishment! It's also nice that Morefield's professional career is looking up.

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Looking forward to the MAC season

By mrasor Published: January 10, 2010

Men's basketball
I apologize for missing the last couple home games. Michael Beaven, as always, did a great job filling in.
Here are some observations as we enter the meat of the MAC season:
The surprise of Saturday was Kent State's win at Ohio. The Bobcats (8-6), with a strength of schedule (SOS) at 128, probably would have done the same against Akron's competition as the Zips have. Their freshman point guard, D.J. Cooper, is going to be a marquee guard in this league for a long time (see Dru Joyce, with even gaudier numbers). So this win validates a Flashes team that, in my opinion, has never found its swagger under Geno Ford. No matter how we paint Chris Singletary (hoodlum on and off the court), he is my frontrunner for MAC Player of the Year. Add in All-MAC caliber guards Rodriguez Sherman and Tyree Evans and high-ceiling big man Anthony Simpson and you have a team that must be considered--at a minimum--the co-favorite to win the division.
Whoa! Toledo is really, really bad. Central Michigan won by 11 at the Rockets' place. Will Toledo go 0-16? It should be a morbid sidebar for the conference's rubberneckers.
With the Carlos Medlock and Brandon Bowdry inside-outside combination, Eastern Michigan was poised to be a top-two team in the MAC West. Well, the division favorite, Western Michigan, gave them a little dusting-up in Kalamazoo. Don't expect that to be a trend. EMU shot 26.4 percent from the field on Saturday, and WMU has shown decent improvement on its defense. I see the West to shake out like this: WMU, EMU, NIU, BSU, CMU and (far behind) UT.
As for the Zips, I didn't see the game, but it seems like the Zips really tortured BG, forcing 21 turnovers and allowing 27.7 percent shooting. You can make a great case for Jimmy Conyers being another favorite for MAC Player of the Year, as well, if the voters only consider conference play. Other candidates must include EMU's Bowdry, WMU's David Kool, one of Buffalo's two seniors (Calvin Betts, Rodney Pierce) and, as stated, KSU's Singletary.
Speaking of Buffalo, the Bulls stamped an 18-point embarrassment on Miami. Buffalo, given its run in the 2009 MAC Tournament, must be considered a favorite. The team to watch is Miami. Will the RedHawks, as protocol, start slowly and build momentum toward March? This is the Charlie Coles method. It would be a short-sighted error to write off the RedHawks as an inconsequential team.
Akron plays at Ohio on Wednesday. Can the Zips match Kent State's win at The Convo? I think so, as long as the Zips play an inside-outside game. The Bobcats play solid perimeter defense, so chucking 3s won't work in that hostile environment. Ohio is also the conference's second-worst shooting team. A solid effort on defense by Akron should merit a victory.

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Zips defeat Falcons 71-45 in MAC opener

By Michael Beaven Published: January 9, 2010

The University of Akron men’s basketball team overcame a slow start Saturday night to emphatically defeat visiting Bowling Green 71-45 before a crowd of 3,028 at Rhodes Arena in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.
The Zips (11-4, 1-0) had to adjust to the 2-3 zone that the Falcons (7-6, 0-1) presented them. UA faced an early 6-0 deficit in the first half and then responded with a 10-0 run. BGSU then answered with a 13-0 run to lead 19-10 with about seven minutes to go in the first half.
UA then took control of the game offensively and defensively. The Zips missed their first 10 shot from beyond the 3-point arc and then made 9-of-11 3-pointers after that.
Senior forward Jimmy Conyers led the Zips with 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and one block. He made 3-of-3 attempts from 3-point range.
Junior guard Steve McNees (11 points), sophomore guard Anthony “Humpty” Hitchens (10 points, five assists) and senior forward Chris McKnight (10 points, five rebounds) were the Zips other key players Saturday.
UA led 32-28 at halftime. The Zips extended the lead to 54-37 by going on 22-9 run in the first 11:27 of the second half.
The Zips made 42.9 percent of their field goal attempts (24-of-56) and the same percentage from 3-point distance (9-of-21). The Zips defense limited BGSU to 27.7 percent (13-of-47) from the field and to 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from 3-point range.
UA also held an advantage in rebounds, 36-31.
BGSU junior guard Joe Jakubowski scored a game-high 17 points. Falcons senior center Otis Polk was limited to 2-of-11 from the field for eight points.
UA has two MAC away games coming up, at Ohio on Wednesday and at Buffalo on Jan. 17.
Postgame Quotes
Akron coach Keith Dambrot
“I thought we got good shots against the zone in the first half, but we made nothing. But that zone is hard. If you don't make shots from the outside, it becomes difficult.”
“We did the same things in both halves. We just made a few shots in the second half.”
“We are a good defensive team. There is no doubt about that. We have based the whole program on that end.”
“We care about offense, but we know if we are going to win big games, we have to play good defense.”
Dambrot on Conyers: “He is becoming one of the best players in the league. He is a tough son-of-a-gun.”
Bowling Green coach Louis Orr
“You got to stay grinding and stay on the shooters. We didn't do enough of that. You play a team like Akron, you have to grind it out, especially on defense.”
“We hurt ourselves. We missed too many shots around the basket and you can't beat a good team like Akron when you have 21 turnovers.”

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Football team gets verbal from offensive lineman

By Dan Published: January 9, 2010

New Akron head coach Rob Ianello has received what is believed to be his first verbal commitment in 6-foot-8 offensive lineman Micah Lio.
Lio attends Knoch High School in Pennsylvania. He was a member of the All-Greater Allegheny Conference second team for his play at offensive tackle. He also lined up on the defensive line.
The 265-pound Lio also had interest from Indiana, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Purdue, according to Rivals.com. Lio is not rated by Rivals.com and unlisted by Scout.com.
Pittsburghlive.com reports that Lio also received scholarship offers from Eastern Michigan and New Hampshire.
"He was bound and determined to be a force on the offensive line, and he really did that," Knoch coach Mike King told the paper. "In some games, I saw him taking people 6 and 7 yards off the ball and putting people on their backs."

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Teal Bunbury wins Hermann Trophy

By Michael Beaven Published: January 9, 2010

University of Akron sophomore forward Teal Bunbury concluded his collegiate men's soccer career by winning the sport's most prestigious award Friday night in St. Louis.
Bunbury won the Hermann Trophy, a crystal soccer ball that is college soccer's version of football's Heisman Trophy, at the Missouri Athletic Club.
''I'm feeling really good right now,'' Bunbury said Friday by telephone from St. Louis. ''It is a great feeling to win this award. I have to give a lot of credit to all my teammates; without them I could not have won this award. I also have to give a lot of credit to my coaches and the university. I am really excited and happy.''
The first runner-up was Harvard senior forward Andre Akpan. Wake Forest junior midfielder Corben Bone was third.
Bunbury previously was named a National Soccer Coaches Association of America first team All-American, received national Player of the Year honors from Soccer America and Goal.com and was chosen as the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year.
''It is a tremendous honor for Teal and certainly for our program,'' UA coach Caleb Porter said Friday by telephone from St. Louis. ''We accomplished a lot this year and this is icing on the cake. This has never happened in the 54 years of the program. It is really a credit to how hard Teal has worked.''
Bunbury led all Division I players with 17 goals in 2009 and had five assists.
Bunbury and junior midfielder Blair Gavin each decided to turn pro and pursue a career in MLS this past month after helping the Zips (23-1-1) to a national runnerup finish in the 2009 NCAA Tournament and MAC regular-season and tournament titles.
It is the second year in a row that the Zips had a finalist for the award. Former Zips star forward Steve Zakuani finished second last year.
Check out Saturday's Akron Beacon Journal newspaper and/or the ohio.com wesbite for more on this story with additional comments from Bunbury and Porter.

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Rams overcome deficit to defeat Zips

By Michael Beaven Published: January 6, 2010

The University of Akron men’s basketball team committed too many turnovers and shot poorly from the free throw line in a 68-63 loss to visiting Rhode Island on Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena.
The Rams (12-1) made a rally in the second-half after the Zips (10-4) held a 36-29 lead at halftime. The loss snapped UA’s six-game win streak and also ended their string of seven victories in a row at home. The Rams, who are receiving votes in both national polls this week, won their eighth game in a row.
Rams senior forward Lamonte Ulmer finished with game highs in points (20) and rebounds (11) and junior forward Delroy James scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Ulmer (6-foot-6 and 215 pounds) and James (6-foot-8 and 220 pounds) were each a difficult matchup for the Zips because of their length and quickness.
Senior guard Keith Cothran finished with 12 points and five rebounds for Rhode Island.
Junior forward Brett McKnight led the Zips with 13 points and had eight rebounds and two assists. Zips sophomore reserve forward Nikola Cvetinovic played with a lot of energy and finished with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Senior forward Jimmy Conyers grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds and scored eight points.
Rhode Island trailed 48-39 with 14:35 remaining in the second half, before outscoring UA 17-6 over the next 7:48. James scored 11 of his 19 points during the Rams run. He made two layups, a jump shot, two free throws and a 3-pointer before capping the run with a layup with 6:47 remaining, to give his team a 56-54 advantage and its first lead since being ahead 19-18 with 9:02 left in the first half.
The Zips overcame a 14-6 deficit in the first seven minutes of the game by putting together a 22-5 run to lead 28-19 with just over four minutes to play in the first half.
UA made 38.7 percent (24-of-62) of it shots from the field and Rhode Island made 35.9 percent (23-of-64) of its shots from the field.
The Zips held a 45-39 advantage in rebounds, but had 16 turnovers to the Rams 10.
Rhode Island shot 80 percent (16-of-23) from the free throw line and UA converted 61.1 percent (11-of-18).
UA was unable to consistently handle Rhode Island’s full-court pressure after successfully facing a full-court pressure in an 85-76 win over host Wyoming this past Wednesday night in Laramie, Wyo.
McKnight and sophomore guard Anthony ''Humpty'' Hitchens each scored 16 points to lead the Zips in that victory over the Cowboys. Conyers had 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds in the Wyoming win and junior guard Steve McNees contributed 14 points.
UA opens Mid-American Conference play on Saturday against Bowling Green at Rhodes Arena for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Postgame Quotes
Akron coach Keith Dambrot
“There's no doubt, turnovers were the difference tonight. We made mistakes in the half court, but we didn't make them in the full court. We prepared heavily for the full court pressure, but I thought a lot of them were unforced. We just made bad decisions. I feel bad for our kids. We competed very hard in the first half. I thought we did a much better job rebounding the ball in the first than in the second. I think they hurt us when it really mattered, we didn't rebound when it really mattered and we didn't guard when it mattered and we certainly didn't make shots when it mattered.”
“We tried very hard and you can tell Rhode Island has won some games, that one's a heartbreaker for us because we probably played good enough to win. Defensively, especially the first half, we just did not make enough plays. We got the ball point blank, had a hard time scoring over them and then we missed free throws and open 3-pointers when it mattered. They made their shots and we didn't make ours.”
“We made some bad plays too, a combination of catching and passing. We did a poor job of that. Rhode Island is long and athletic, they've got a good team, not necessarily a good half court defensive team, which is probably what disappointed me the most. When it mattered, they played better defense than we did.”
Rhode Island coach Jim Baron
“It was a hard-fought game. It went back and forth. The difference was we were able to rebound the ball in the second half.”
“I told our guys we had to step it up and rebound the basketball on the defensive end, and, on the offensive end, we needed to get second and third shots. Our guys did a great job of doing that.”
Akron sophomore forward Nikola Cvetinovic
“We had them on the ropes. In the second half, we got anxious and didn't execute the plays.”
Note: For the record (and responding to a comment below), I did attend the Zips/Rams men's basketball game Tuesday night. I sat in the crowd with some family and friends and watched the game. After the game ended, I had to go back to the office to work on high school sports stuff. I posted this information in the early morning hours based on what I witnessed and by reading the box score. I also corrected the first sentence and adjusted the height and weight references regarding players.

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Okruch a finalist for defensive coordinator

By mrasor Published: January 4, 2010

Football
A source tells me that Vince Okruch is among the two finalists for the defensive coordinator job.
Okruch coached the linebackers under J.D. Brookhart in 2009. That unit was one of the team's most productive, including stud freshman Brian Wagner. Okruch has served as defensive coordinator at four schools, most recently being Illinois. FootballScoop.com says Okruch planned to interview at Florida International.
The other candidate for Akron's defensive coordinator job is Curt Mallory, who just finished his second season as co-defensive coordinator at Illinois.
From what I hear, many players really enjoyed working with Okruch. He would bring some continuity to the 2010 team.
This news comes a week or so after Akron hired former San Francisco 49er Bryant Young as its defensive line coach and Charlie Camp as linebackers coach.

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Dials begins coaching career

By mrasor Published: January 2, 2010

Men's basketball
When I watched Nick Dials play -- particularly in rivalry games -- I could picture the feisty guard one day becoming a fiery coach.
Dials took the first step in that route, taking an assistant coaching role with at a leading Division II school from West Virginia, Alderson Broaddus College.
His alma mater plays Tuesday at home against Rhode Island at 7 p.m. Akron is riding a six-game winning streak, but this win would be a marquee notch on the nonconference schedule.

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