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Deji Ibitayo got the start in place of Alex Abreu, whose surgery was moved up two days.
I was about 20 minutes late showing up. We had our firm's Christmas party today. I shouldn't have to explain much more.
14:12 - Akron 4, North Carolina A&T 9
Demetrius Treadwell banked in a free throw.
Keith Dambrot got rung up for a technical foul after arguing a call. After, Dambrot is telling the refs, "I didn't say anything."
Quincy Diggs has an ongoing wardrobe malfunction. His shorts are on backwards, and it doesn't look comfortable. Add to that, he just took a shot to the groin on a pick.
11:25 - Akron 9, North Carolina A&T 14
Oh, apparently Jon Bon Jovi is alive. Nice try, Internet.
Josh Egner is laying on his stomach on the floor behind the Zips bench. He appears to be stretching something.
In a battle for a loose ball, Zeke Marshall threw a quick elbow jab at the Aggie fighting with him. It seemed like the referee saw it but didn't call anything.
On the next play, Marshall caused a turnover. Often, you see the center slide over to cover for a guard who is being screened at the top of the key, in order to prevent the pick-and-roll. Marshall jutted out so aggressively that the guard was taken aback and coughed up the ball. It led to a Zips score on the other end to cap a 10-0 run. Akron is back within one.
If you missed it, Akron reached a settlement with Rob Ianello, who will be paid a lump sum of $250,000. I find it unusual the the university issued a press release on the matter. Truthfully, I think the media would have forgotten about it. Also, it was sent out by the university's PR department, not the sports information team.
7:48 - Akron 22, North Carolina A&T 19
Marshall swatted a jump shot out of bounds, and he is now eighth on the MAC's all-time block list, passing fellow seven-footer Chris Kaman.
The Aggies have made 6-of-8 3-point attempts. That's how they're leading this late in the first half. They're on a 10-0 run.
Chauncey Gilliam is struggling tonight. He's 0-for-5 with two turnovers. He needs to be more confident that the ball will get back to him if he passes. Gilliam averages 0.7 assists per game -- only eight friggin assists for the entire season.
3:32 - Akron 31, North Carolina A&T 29
The fans are getting really aggravated at the refs now. They badly missed a call against an Aggie who hip-checked Nik Cvetinovic out of position on a rebound. The play before, an out-of-position referee called a hand-check on Cvetinovic. Dambrot seems reserved, possibly trying to avoid getting the heave-ho (aka his second technical foul).
Cvetinovic hit the deck, as an A&T player attempted to draw a charge. Cvetinovic, a top-notch thespian, milked the injury for a few seconds, then hopped to his feet. I've seen enough of Nik's acting that I'm not concerned, unless there a new hinge on his leg or there's a pool of blood.
Halftime - Akron 40, North Carolina A&T 32
This was a half of runs for both teams -- and bad shooting. Akron is shooting 36.7 percent. A&T is shooting 34.5 percent, but has made 5-of-10 3-point attempts. Brian Walsh leads scoring with 11 points (3-of-4 on 3-pointers). Treadwell has six rebounds. Diggs has six assists (although I can't remember any of them). Marshall has three blocks. Akron has nine assists and five turnovers; A&T has seven assists and eight turnovers.
On this day 15 years ago, Jimmal Ball put up 44 on No. 19 Xavier in triple-overtime, which was the all-time scoring output for a Zip at Rhodes Arena.
As I said above, Abreu had surgery to repair the partially torn meniscus in his knee. They say it's a minimum of a 10-day recovery period and maximum of three weeks. Jeremiah Wood had the same surgery and returned in 10 days, but the power forward position does not require as much lateral movement. The VCU game is nine days from the surgery date. It would appear he's likely to be back for the start of the MAC season on Jan. 7 at Miami.
To show how little I've heard about the coaching search, here's a tidbit of news: The university wasn't sure whether there would be an "announcement" today, so they ordered more food for the media than normal.
The food, by the way, was prepared by the Diamond Deli, which has the best sandwiches in Akron--and it's not even close. The guy behind the counter, Brett Magilavy, is a close friend of mine. A lot of late nights downtown have ended at the Diamond Deli.
Diggs got his shorts turned back around.
Dambrot benched Marshall after an offensive foul. Dambrot and Marshall went at it, arguing for a little while on the bench. Matt Futch appears to be the peacemaker.
14:48 - Akron 49, North Carolina A&T 39
Attendance tonight is fair, but it's still a significant improvement over the early Dambrot years. I remember numerous occasions where the post-game press conference would devolve into the coach wondering aloud what he has to do to get people to show up ... buy them hot dogs, etc.
11:30 - Akron 56, North Carolina A&T 42
This game has just slogged along for the past four minutes, with neither team scoring many field goals and the fans not having much to be excited about. Well, some fans are still convinced that two of the refs are secret al Qaida agents.
There's a saying that good shot blockers seek to direct the blocked shot to a teammate -- or at least keep it inbounds. Marshall, on the other hand, seeks to smack every ball through the gym doors. An example of this concept played out at the end of the Cleveland State game. Treadwell hammered a shot out of bounds. Cleveland State splashed a 3 on the ensuing possession, and gave the Vikings a win.
6:23 - Akron 66, North Carolina A&T 50
Marshall is grimacing from getting swiped in the sweets. Joe Dunn, on the radio, described it as a blow to the stomach. Elton Alexander, hearing this, said to Dunn, "I think it was a little lower than that." Hopefully the mic caught that for the benefit of the radio listeners.
A&T keeps hanging around--not in a way that anyone questions which team will win. But they're staying just close enough so fans aren't ready to leave.
Cvetinovic has another double-double. Has he gotten "it" back? I don't think so. Not yet. He still looks a little off with the ball in the post. That baseline post move from Monday was a welcomed sign of life, though. He's not being crafty in the post. That's the best way to describe the problem.
3:30 - Akron 74, North Carolina A&T 50
Dambrot has been touting Ibitayo as a good shooter, but I haven't seen it yet. He's 0-for-3 on 3-pointers tonight.
Akron's starters stayed in the floor until 42 seconds remained in the game, despite a lead over more than 20.
A&T had only three offensive rebounds tonight--and they were all "team" rebounds, meaning a jump ball or ball that goes out of bounds.
Final score - Akron 79, North Carolina A&T 52
Akron's next opponent is VCU next Thursday. The Final Four team is 8-3 this season.
Notable final stats: Marshall had 20 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. Walsh set career highs with 15 points and seven rebounds. Diggs had 10 points (all in the second half) and seven assists. Akron shot 42.6 percent. A&T shot 28.3 percent. The Zips had 19 assists and nine turnovers. A&T had nine assists and 12 turnovers.
"Early in the game, we started off a little sluggish. They left me open. I'm a shooter. That's what I do. The coaches say if you're open, let it rip."
On how he came to Akron: "Coach McFadden did a good job, as well as Coach Dambrot. This guy [Marshall] helped a lot too, coming from Pittsburgh. He gave me the rundown."
"It's extremely important to get these wins under our belt. We still haven't played with our whole team yet."
On his emphatic swats: "Sometimes I do it for a message. They talk a little trash out there. It sends a message to them that they're not going to come in here and get layups. You do that a couple times and they will be intimidated. Other times, it's hard to block a shot without going too hard. It's hard to get that timing right. But that's something I have to learn. When I'm up there, I need to think: 'Keep it in bounds.'"
"We need practice time. That's the biggest thing. I'm telling you, 44 is just saving us. We are not very good defensively. If it was our other teams with our 6-foot-6 centers, we'd be in trouble. But he fixes all of our mistakes."
"We didn't even run anything tonight. Because we can't remember anything. We just threw it high-post, low-post and threw out of it."
"We couldn't make anything early. It was ridiculous. McClanahan was wide open and couldn't make anything."
"We have VCU who is really good. Marshall is really good. Then we have five out of seven on the road. Our two home games are Ohio and Kent State. We got to go in survival mode. We got to get Abreu back. We just can't win without Abreu. Wood came back quickly from the same thing, but it's a different position. Wood could hobble around and still beat people's brains in with his strength."
"With Treadwell, we can't get punked anymore. We're big and strong. Nikola is playing better than he was. We didn't have Abreu at West Virginia. We didn't have Treadwell at Middle Tennessee. So you can throw some of that out. It's hard for me to know [where we are]."
"The old Akron Zips won a lot of close games. Are we smart enough to win those games. Are we tough enough to win those games."
"I'm guessing [Harney] is going to play against VCU. It's about time."
On what he told Marshall in his argument on the bench: "You have to quit retaliating. If you throw a guy out of the way on an offensive rebound. Tonight, he gets two or three like that. We're just mediocre when he's not in there. He's becoming a big-time force. Psychologically, he affects everybody. He psychologically affects me when he's not in."
"It's an experienced league now. Kent's winning on pure experience. They haven't played great. But they're winning close games. OU is playing well. Can they sustain? Right now, they're playing better than anyone else in the league by far. The big prize is in March. Maybe OU will have a high enough RPI to get in, but we're going to end up walloping each other, and there will be no at-large bid again."