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This isn't your typical Eastern Michigan team. The Eagles lead the MAC West. Oddsmakers still give Akron a 14.5 point spread. Yikes. I'll take EMU against that line.
EMU has the best scoring defense in the league, but also scores the fewest points. That's additional cause for this being a wild spread.
EMU starters: Da'Shonte Riley, Austin Harper, Jamel Harris, Anthony Strickland and Darrell Lampley.
Akron's starters: Brian Walsh, Alex Abreu, Nik Cvetinovic, Chauncey Gilliam and Zeke Marshall.
EMU's coach is Rob Murphy, who was an assistant at Kent State and responsible for bringing in Antonio Gates.
Pregame - Akron 0, Eastern Michigan 0
Akron is wearing its blue road jerseys. EMU countered with a cream-colored outfit.
Riley's first shot was a turn-around airball. It will be fun to watch these seven-footers square off tonight.
15:31 - Akron 10, Eastern Michigan 3
EMU has another big man on its roster. Six-foot-10, 285-pound Matt Balkema just entered the game. As George Thomas pointed out, he looks like he should be playing defensive line.
Akron put together a nice defensive stop. EMU was forced into a 35-second violation, with the ball near the halfcourt logo.
Demetrius Treadwell already has a couple offensive rebounds. As Terry Pluto just told me, Treadwell is a "monster" on the offensive glass because of his lateral movement.
They brought out about 40 Akron basketball alumni. It's impressive they can assemble so many of these guys. The large crowd gave them a nice ovation.
Nick Harney is sporting yellow socks, worn to the calves.
10:32 - Akron 17, Eastern Michigan 9
Some weird stats: Akron has made more shots (eight) than EMU has attempted (seven). EMU has almost as many turnovers (six) as shots attempted. Eight Zips have a field goal, but each has only one. Harney's the only Zip without a point among those who have played.
Watching EMU's defense is entertaining. They run a match-up zone. The best way to describe it is that the basketball is a magnet, and the Eagles are iron pellets.
Big Balkema just popped Marshall in the jaw with an elbow. The refs are conducting a video review of the play, as required. They ruled it flagrant, so the Zips got two shots and possession.
7:21 - Akron 29, Eastern Michigan 9
EMU went on a 5-0 run, and it required good play by the Eagles and sloppy offense by the Zips. I think that fact is enough to declare this game as over, despite 24 minutes remaining.
The ball got smacked into my hands. Despite my position on press row, I don't recall that ever happening before. The hardest part was playing it cool when I caught it.
3:41 - Akron 32, Eastern Michigan 14
EMU made a sad mental error. Coming out of a media timeout, they had six seconds left of the shot clock. I heard the referee even remind the teams of this. But the Eagles still looked surprised when the buzzer went off.
Like I said, I've never been more certain of a game being over so early. Akron has only scored two points in the last five minutes, and they're still up 20. The score is currently 34-14.
Eastern Michigan is leading the MAC West. This isn't the sad-sack team of the conference. But they're playing like trash.
Akron isn't having a great offensive game, either. Harney hasn't scored. The Zips are 10-for-20 on free throws. But that's like complaining of your stubbed toe to an amputee.
Offensively, EMU has made terrible play after terrible play. The most recent was EMU's "point guard" having the ball bounce between his legs, and it led to a four-on-nothing fast break which Gilliam finished with a two-handed dunk.
Halftime - Akron 39, Eastern Michigan 16
Notable halftime stats: EMU is shooting 20 percent, making only four field goals the entire half (Akron, 44.8 percent). The Eagles have 16 turnovers, compared to Akron's eight. Akron has 19 points off those turnovers. Cvetinovic has eight points. Walsh has six rebounds. Abreu has three assists. Lampley has three assists, and no other Eagle has even one.
Start of second half - Akron 39, Eastern Michigan 16
Riley, the seven-footer, played only seven minutes in the first half.
EMU appears to be playing a faster pace on offense. Clearly, they cannot eat up 25-30 seconds of clock each possession and make up a 23-point deficit.
15:05 - Akron 47, Eastern Michigan 24
11:37 - Akron 50, Eastern Michigan 29
As you'll see, I posted scores without updates in between. That means I have nothing to say. It's been a ho-hum second half.
The way to beat EMU's match-up zone is to swing the ball; get all of the Eagles on the wrong side of the floor.
Lampley fouled out at the 9:37 mark. He is one of the few Eagles who has put the ball in the hoop tonight.
Harney got hit for a technical foul. I think he was selling wolf tickets.
7:23 - Akron 59, Eastern Michigan 39
Big Balkema stroked a 10-footer. He now has 11 points. Watching him with the ball, I would have told you his scoring in double figures was not possible.
Josh Egner is wearing street clothes tonight.
Marshall is now sixth all-time in MAC history with 223 blocks. He has four tonight.
3:43 - Akron 69, Eastern Michigan 41
C.J. Oldham and Kyle Peterson entered at the 2:36 mark. It's been awhile since the Zips' reserves were used. The Zips players stood up to cheer the entrance of walk-on Luke Avsec, who took the roster spot of the departed Michael Green.
Avsec looked confident leading a fast break. But the poor kid doesn't even have a name on the back of his jersey.
Harney and Treadwell are still on the floor, for some reason. Harney finally made his first field goal in the last minute of the game.
Treadwell gave the fans a final cheer with a flashy one-handed dunk. I don't like spiking the football against a fellow MAC team, but whatever.
Final score - Akron 77, Eastern Michigan 47
This is a big-time statement to the rest of the conference. Akron took the best MAC West team and made them bite curb.
Notable final stats: Gilliam scored 13. Balkema had a game-high 15 points and also six rebounds. Treadwell had nine rebounds. Abreu and Lampley had five assists apiece. Akron shot 44.8 percent. EMU as 32.1 percent, including 2-of-13 on 3s. Akron had 16 turnovers. EMU had 18 (only three in the second half). Akron outrebounded EMU, 46 to 29.
In other MACtion, the MAC East swept the MAC West. That makes it a 12-0 week for the East. Surprisingly, Kent State needed overtime to win at home against Western Michigan. It's looking more and more likely that the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the MAC Tournament will come from the East.
This was Dambrot's 178th win at Akron, and he's now tied with Tony Laterza for second in school history.
Attendance was 4,234.
"I was a little bit concerned going into the game. People have struggled against their zone. We just kind of came in with a simplistic approach to it. We wanted to just play and occupy their blocks. I thought our guys did a good job sharing the ball."
"We do the basic things. We play pretty hard and we share the ball. We're a handful in certain spurts. We can hurt you. We're big."
"Bowling Green didn't play us zone this year. We're probably the only team that they didn't. A lot of teams look at our shooting percentages and choose not to play us zone. I knew Eastern was, because they haven't played any man-to-man."
On Zeke: "He's always played better against bigger people. It's hard on a seven-footer to guard 6-7 guys. I thought he played pretty well tonight. He's been fairly consistent. He has some things he has to continue to work on. He's a guy that's going to continue to develop into his mid-20s. Is he great every night? No. Probably his weakest area is rebounding the ball."
"This team does not pressure the ball as some of our other teams. Some of that is Abreu rests at times on defense. He wasn't very good tonight. When he and Diggs play well, we're hard to beat."
"I didn't know much about Treadwell or Harney. But he's ferocious. His work ethic in practice has improved dramatically. We've had to learn how to coach him a little bit. He's played hard in every single game. He's come a long way in a short period of time. He only played one year of high school basketball. He's a fun guy if you really get to know him. Part of being a better player is having better trust with your coaches. That's something we've worked on with those guys."
"We've cleaned ourselves up immensely. We only have five guys who have ever played."
"I give the fans credit. It's been better. The only bad crowd we had was last game. I think we're fun to watch. Might not be fun to coach all the time, but fun to watch."
"We weren't missing in the first half. We came out ready to play. We had been sluggish in the first half, so that's good for our morale."
On the seven-footer matchup: "He definitely loves when he sees somebody else his height. I think he plays hard every game, but when he sees someone else his height, he says, 'Oh cool.'"
"They're zone focuses on the outside, covering the outside shot, more than Bowling Green. Bowling Green is built in a little bit more, to prevent layups."
"We never lose faith in this program. We were 12-10 at one point (last season). Never in our minds did we think we would not win the MAC Championship. It trickles down. Coach Dambrot never gives up. He never sits down. They don't even have a seat over there for him."