Keep refreshing your browser or smartphone for updates live from the M.A.C. Center...
I showed up a little late for this game. I was getting inoculated for communicable diseases, as is standard practice before this game. It was either that, or I got caught in Cleveland traffic.
Akron hasn't scored a field goal since the 14:41 mark. They trail 18-10. They are shooting 26.7 percent from the field and have nine turnovers. That's about as bad as it gets.
7:23 - Akron 10, Kent State 18
The elixir the Zips needed was ... well, me. It's an 8-0 run since I sat down, capped by a "how the heck" transition layup from Alex Abreu.
I have never, never seen a game with so many traveling violations. Harney, alone, has three, according to George Thomas, who is now taking a whiskey shot for every future traveling call (not really, but I'll see if he goes for it).
3:35 - Akron 18, Kent State 20
I think I've seen enough of Brett McClanahan. The storybook senior redemption story isn't coming. His shot selection is that of a guy who has been making everything. Rather, he is shooting 31 percent from the field this season. The SG-SF minutes should go like this: SG - Chauncey Gilliam, Quincy Diggs. SF - Brian Walsh, Nick Harney. McClanahan should no longer be getting significant minutes.
Kent State is on a 9-0 run. Everything Akron is putting up is broke. Kent's offense hasn't been anything special, but it's better than nothing (Akron).
It was appropriate that Abreu ended the half with a pass to no one, out of bounds. This was a ridiculously ugly first half for the Zips.
Halftime - Akron 18, Kent State 27
Notable halftime stats: Kent State is shooting 50 percent; Akron is 29.2 percent. The teams are combined 0-for-11 on 3s. Akron has 14 turnovers and two assists (!!#$%@#$). Carlton Guyton has nine for Kent. Michael Porrini has eight. Abreu has four, and seven other players have two. Zeke Marshall has five rebounds and one block.
After winning 16 out of 18, Akron appears headed for a 4-of-5 stink streak. If Keith Dambrot can get these guys playing at a high level again on Friday, it will be perhaps his greatest feat. The Zips are playing with no confidence.
I didn't think Akron was in much trouble until Dambrot's presser after the Buffalo game. It was the strangest press conference I've ever seen. He seemed to be talking himself into feeling good about the how the team is looking and the Zips' prospects. Normally, after a loss, Dambrot is at least a little ticked. On Wednesday, you couldn't tell if he was the winning or the losing coach. I told him that after. ...
So that's why I think this situation is dire. He's afraid the Zips will completely forget they're a good team. Dambrot will have six days to correct the team mindset. Then again, he could always do it in the locker room at halftime. If Akron wins this game, it will be HUGE for bringing the swagger back. No time like tonight for a little spurtability.
To be clear, I'm not losing faith in the team. I'd still take this team over any other in Cleveland, and this game definitely isn't over.
They honored Julian Edelman earlier. Here's a funny story about him ... My friend was wearing a Zips hat at the Kent bars one evening. Edelman told him to take it off. My friend politely declined. Edelman dumped a beer on my friend's head. Class act. ... Since then, of course, a more interesting bar story than that has since emerged.
Holy spurts, Batman! Akron dropped eight points before the Flashes knew what hit them. It's back to a one-point game.
16:40 - Akron 26, Kent State 27
Porrini hit the floor and left some sweat behind. A 6-year-old (or thereabouts) girl came out to mop the hardwood. Abreu took the mop from her and started using it himself. The fans booed. Abreu got the better of the situation by stealing the ensuing inbounds pass and scoring a layup on the other end. Akron took its first lead since the 18:07 mark on that steal-layup.
One basket has seen 18 points scored (7-for-32 field goals). The other has seen 39 (17-for-32). Probably just a coincidence.
No, it's not a coincidence. Nik Cvetinovic just hit a 3 on Akron's end. That rim must be an inch wider.
For the first time in a couple weeks, Marshall unleashed on offense. He dunked something fierce with Guyton fouling him--three-point play. Akron's on an 18-2 run and has a seven-point lead.
Kent State has begun pressing Akron. The first possession of the press worked out poorly for the Flashes. Diggs squirted loose and converted a layup while being fouled by Justin Manns, who has committed three fouls now.
Justin Greene is having a miserable night. He's 0-for-8. Marshall really seems to have Greene figured out.
As bad as Akron was in the first half (see my ranting above), Kent State is twice as bad. Shots you think normally would fall, aren't falling. KSU is 1-for-13 in the second half (7.7%). It doesn't take a prophet, however, to tell you that the Flashes will eventually pull close.
11:15 - Akron 40, Kent State 29
The Zips already have eight fouls, so part of Kent's ability to come back will depend on the Flashes' free throw shooting.
It just dawned on me that Akron is nine minutes away from winning the "little prize."
Demetrius Treadwell converted a stunning tip-dunk. He was so high, he could have headbutted the rim. But what do I know? I'm way up here in Kent's media rafters with a lousy sight line.
Greene is waking up. He has scored six of Kent's 10 points this half.
Marshall shot a 3-pointer -- a brick. Apparently, this is a skill he'd like to develop for the next level.
7:36 - Akron 44, Kent State 37
Akron is now in the bonus. Kent's has been in the double-bonus for a few minutes.
Akron and Kent State traded big-time swats. Abreu had a layup attempt punished. Marshall returned the favor on the other end.
You get the sense that things are going to start snowballing in Kent's favor. I hope I'm wrong. The media timeout was well-timed, because the fans are getting amped.
The teams have shot a combined 2-for-22 on 3-pointers.
3:49 - Akron 47, Kent State 41
Gilliam spun home a big-time 3 to bring Akron's lead back to eight with 3:10 to play.
On the next possession, Abreu shot a fall-away 3 with the shot clock running down. It looked like it hit the rim and karemed out to Gilliam. The refs stopped play to ensure it hit rim. Somehow, the end result was one second left on the shot clock.
2:38 - Akron 50, Kent State 42
Cvetinovic fouled out. No one else has more than three fouls. Chris Evans split the pair.
Kent waited until the two minutes left to make the team's first 3 (Porrini).
Wow. Your play of the game ... Abreu drove to the lane and tossed the ball high off the backboard. Marshall crashed the boards simultaneously, took the pass/rebound and dunked with two hands.
Akron got a long rebound and immediately went to run the floor. Dambrot is jumping up and down waving his arms and yelling "no." Now's the time to eat up clock.
0:52 - Akron 56, Kent State 49
Diggs ended Kent's hopes by blocking a Guyton 3 attempt. Guyton, perhaps a little peeved, hip-checked Abreu to stop the clock.
Gilliam ran over to Dambrot and gave his coach a big hand-slap. It's unusual to see Dambrot celebrate on the court.
The AK-Rowdies are chanting: "We are ... MAC Champs." Now they're looking at the Kent students and chanting: "You don't know what to say."
Kent subbed out its three seniors to a warm ovation. Greene is one of the best MAC players since I started covering the conference.
Randal Holt, who was a nonfactor tonight, ended the game with a deep 3. Holt was 2-for-9 from the field for five points.
Final score - Akron 61, Kent State 55
Notable final stats: Akron shot 40.4 percent (51.9 percent in second half). Kent was 37.5 percent (28.1 percent in second half). Porrini scored a game-high 14. Gilliam and Marshall had 12 each (and had the Zips' two biggest buckets). Green had 13 rebounds. Marshall had four blocks and seven rebounds. Abreu dished five assists. Akron finished with nine assists and 18 turnovers (KSU had 14 and 18).
That was an incredible spurt. The Zips just poured it on. And Kent State had no recourse. That was the Zeke Marshall we are used to seeing.
I'm convinced that the rim nearest Kent's bench is smaller. Teams shot 16-for-57 on that rim (28 percent) and 26-for-59 on the other (44 percent).
This was Akron's 500th win as a Division I team.
It was Akron's first sweep of KSU since 06-07.
Abreu set the Akron sophomore assist record with 128, passing Dru Joyce.
Dambrot passed Jim Larranaga (Bowling Green) for seventh all-time in MAC wins.
"In the first half, they had to score everything in the half-court. In the second half, it was in transition."
"I could care less if (Greene) didn't score in the first half. We were up nine. He shot 2-for-7 in the second half and 4-for-8 from the free throw line. It's hard to win when you're all-conference player does that. We're going to struggle when he struggles."
"When you keep giving up transition baskets, your defense isn't real good. And your offense doesn't look good because you have to play in the half-court each possession."
"We're going to have to play very well, and very together, and very determined and very focused. You're not going to be able to allow your offense to dictate your defense. We've always had to play three to win it. Instead of eight teams to be in Cleveland when we play, there will be six teams. I have all the confidence in the world in our team. We just have to play better. If we don't, then the season will end on Thursday."
"I don't know if we relax or get selfish. We have had times where we struggle to put 40 minutes together, where we haven't allowed our offense to dictate our defense and we haven't allowed the scoreboard to dictate our defense."
On a rematch with Akron: "We have to play better. We certainly can do it. We just have to do it."
"There's two different prizes in this league. There's the little prize and the big prize. Tomorrow, Ohio State and Michigan State play and the winner wins the Big Ten Championship, and that's a big deal. In this league, it comes down to The Q."
"Hats off to Akron. It's a great accomplishment for them, just like last year, it was a great accomplishment for us. We'll have to win three games. They'll have to win two games. That's it."
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kent State and their basketball program. To win the game here means a lot to me. They have been the best program in the MAC for a lot of years. We're trying to get there. They're kind of the brand name."
"I would be remissed not to talk about those tragedies. I'm thinking about those people (at Chardon), and also the Bowling Green students. While I'm happy, I'm sick to my stomach about all of that. We need to work on our system to make sure that doesn't happen anymore."
On halftime: "I've been pretty mild on this team. I told them you have to play and trust your instincts. Stick your nose in it, and battle. We got in trouble defensively because we turned the ball over and got jittery. I decided I was going to shorten up and play my older kids more. Our young ones didn't respond well in the first half.
"We got terrific play from our point guard -- probably the best defensive game he's played. Our big man dominated the action in the paint."
On stopping Greene: "[No.] 44 is seven-foot with a 7-5 wingspan. When he plays disciplined, it's hard for anyone to get it over him."
On Marshall: "He's a guy who, when he feels good about himself, he plays well. I felt having Dr. Carr here really helped [referring to a sports psychologist]."
"We were so bad offensively in this game. We were just rotten. It wasn't like we weren't trying. We were lucky we were down nine. The only reason we were only down nine was 44. The one thing I knew, their team is very similar to our team. We're streak-aholics. Spurt-aholics. They hit the same problems in the second half."
On Gilliam: "I thought he did a good job on Guyton. I thought that was one of his best games. We played him more because Quincy wasn't good. He's a guy who averaged 13 points a game at UMBC but came here because he wanted to win. I thought he was good. I thought the little guy was really good."
"I think this is one of the best groups they've had. They're good kids. I like them. I'm probably closer to their group than any they've had here. I have a lot of respect for those guys. Justin Greene to go out there, you can tell he's hurt."
On this week: "I talked to Shaka [Smart] a little. We'll probably take a day off. Take another day where we just do the skill work and shoot. I don't really like it. I'm a guy who wants to play. The thing I like about these three days, we had to put up or shut up. We got smashed at Ohio U. Tonight, whoo. I didn't know what I was going to do for a minute. I was thinking, 'Can we do any worse than this?'"
"I'd rather play them in the championship. They've got some talented guys. We know we're going to play a good team on Friday. We have to be more consistent. The one thing we have is, we know how to win. It all comes to who plays good on that particular night."
"I just want them to play together and play hard, and if that's not enough, then so be it."
"It's going to be hard to beat Kent (on Friday). We're not better than Kent."
"How many teams can win the tournament? Probably five. I don't think more than five. I know Kent can win it. I know Ohio can win it. I know Buffalo can win it. Maybe Bowling Green. Maybe Western Michigan."
"We're going to cut the nets down in Akron (tonight)."
On halftime: "At halftime, Coach McFadden emphasized the guards. We wanted to go out there and let it rip."
"What can you say about Zeke. He's one of the best defenders in the nation. Justin Greene is a great player, but Zeke did a great job. He really helped us on the offensive end too. Great all-around game by Zeke."
On second-half runs vs. KSU: "It's not our plan. We have a great group of guys. There's no quit in us. We just had to come out and rally ourselves."
On Dambrot's halftime speech: "He just said keep your head up; play your game. Execute. I feel like we came out much more focused, determined."
"It was a really good defensive game."
"They're a great team. In the last seven years, these have been the best teams in the league."
"You still have to go to Cleveland. We're going to take this win. We're going to celebrate."
"Usually we play at least three games, and we're in Cleveland the day after the regular season. It's a new experience [getting the double-bye]. It will be challenging, but we'll be ready for it. It all comes down to two games."
On halftime speech: "He said we were a little timid. He reminded us that we needed to play like we were the No. 1 team, and not the other way around."
On defending Porrini: "I was trying to keep him off his right hand."
On Gilliam: "He comes to practice every day and works hard. I'm just really happy things turned his way. He has a lot of heart. He's a team player."
"They just played better than us in the second half. We played better than them in the first half. That's all it was."
"Teams have been trapping Justin a lot lately. I know there will be an opening in the middle for me to cut. We didn't get the win, so none of that matters. We have to come back on Thursday, and we'll see Akron on Friday."
"We won't lose three times in a row (to Akron). I promise that."
"It's win or go home. If you lose, everything you worked for in your career at Kent State is out the window."
"We have a game Thursday, but I'm ready for Friday. I'm ready for Friday right now."
"I take 110 percent blame for this. If I play at all the way I know how to play, we win the game. I struggled. Everyone else saw that and it messed them up. It definitely is my fault tonight. Everybody came to play except me. By the time I got a little rhythm it was too late."
"Last year, we won the regular season championship and it got us nowhere."
"The next time we lose, it's over. I'm going to do what I need to do to get ready for Thursday."
"The tale of both games is that we outplayed them for 28 minutes and they outplayed us for the last 12. It hurts because it's my last game in this building. Sitting here beating myself up about it won't do anything."
"All credit to them. They had a good game plan."