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This game immediately follows the Akron women's 81-67 win over Western Michigan.
You might be surprised to hear the MAC results from today, at least one of them. Eastern Michigan beat Ohio, 68-55 in Ypsilanti, Mich. Yes, the same EMU Eagles who barely appeared capable of tying their shoes last Saturday at Rhodes Arena. This perhaps narrows the race for the top two seeds to three teams.
In other results, Kent State beat Ball State, Bowling Green beat Toledo and Miami beat Central Michigan. The only other game still going on is Western Michigan at Buffalo, where the Broncos hold a small lead early in the second half. I'll be watching the game on my laptop and giving updates on that as the Zips' game progresses. A Buffalo loss would be quite comforting.
Akron's starters: Alex Abreu, Brian Walsh, Nik Cvetinovic, Chuancey Gilliam and Zeke Marshall.
NIU starters: Kevin Gray, Stian Berg, Keith Gray, Abdel Nader and Aksel Bolin.
Maybe I missed it, but I don't think they announced the starters for Northern Illinois.
Pregame - Akron 0, Northern Illinois 0
NIU's lineup features two Norwegians and two twin brothers. It's always good to establish a Scandinavian pipeline, if you're able to. Both Norwegians are sporting long blond hair and skinny headbands.
The crowd is quite large tonight, considering Akron's playing against the jayvee team. (The jayvee team opened up a 3-2 lead for the first couple minutes of the game.)
Marshall has gotten the loudest pops tonight from the crowd with his two blocks and an and-one on a fast break.
14:29 - Akron 10, Northern Illinois 6
Nader, a freshman, is leading NIU in scoring. He was a big recruit, with 10 scholarship offers, including Baylor, Marquette and USC. He committed to New Mexico, but backed out, before settling on NIU.
After taking the league by storm, Nick Harney has fallen off a bit. After scoring 13 in the win at Central Michigan, Harney has scored a combined 13 points in the next three games.
Akron has not scored in several possessions and allowed NIU to retake the lead.
11:16 - Akron 10, Northern Illinois 11
Nader just chucked an air-ball 3-pointer that was wide right. He has a very high release point. At 6-foot-7, he might never have a jumpshot blocked.
This is a one-point game, but if you judged it by the coaches' facial expressions, you'd think Akron was losing by 15. Keith Dambrot has a "WTF" look on his face, as George Thomas put it on Twitter. NIU's Mark Montgomery has the look of a 16 seed that is about to dispatch Duke from the NCAA Tournament.
7:42 - Akron 14, Northern Illinois 15
The refs are getting a lot of grief for fouls called on Akron. After a recent foul, Abreu ran to the media table, smacked it, and shouted at us "Can you believe that?" Elton Alexander looked at him and said, "Yes. I can believe it. It happened right in front of us."
Matt Stainbrook had two free throws to possibly win the game for WMU. He missed both. Instead, Buffalo will hang on for the win.
3:19 - Akron 26, Northern Illinois 20
I see why NIU is a good offensive rebounding team. Their post players are more active than the Zips when a shot goes in the air. The Huskies are leading in rebounds, 18 to nine.
Josh Egner is again wearing street clothes. He has back problems. He might be eligible for a medical redshirt, although he has already played 10 games, which is more than the standard of 20 percent of the team's games.
Western Michigan has lost three straight games to the best teams in the conference, and they had a great chance to win each of them (@ Kent, vs. Akron, @ Buffalo).
Abreu and Harney attempted a trick play to end the half. Abreu drove, reached the paint, and whipped the ball off the center of the backboard, which Harney was awaiting. Harney missed the chip shot putback. Dambrot was not impressed whatsoever. As I type this, I assume he's chewing someone out because of this play.
Halftime - Akron 31, Northern Illinois 24
Notable halftime stats: Akron is shooting 52.4 percent; NIU is 35.7 percent. NIU has 20 rebounds (10 offensive) to Akron's nine (one offensive). The Huskies have 13 turnovers, compared to Akron's seven. Demetrius Treadwell has seven points. Nader has eight points and five rebounds. Marshall has four blocks. Akron has missed its three 3-point attempts.
So NIU got nine extra possessions because of the differential in offensive rebounds. Akron got six extra possessions via the turnover margin. The difference is shooting percentage.
Whitney Houston died today. The cause of death has not been announced. This isn't like the false report of Jon Bon Jovi's death.
Cvetinovic and Tyler Storm fought over a rebound. After, the players faced each other and said some words. Cvetinovic was called for a foul, but Storm was hit with a technical foul. I don't think either was deserved.
Give NIU credit for this: The entire bench of Huskies and coaches is thoroughly engaged in this game.
Marshall got two quick dumb fouls. He'll go to the bench with four. The way he reacts to having a questionable foul called, he is tempting the refs to tag him with a follow-up technical foul. In college, a technical foul is also a personal foul.
15:23 - Akron 39, Northern Illinois 27
NIU has seven freshmen on its roster and only two seniors. So it shouldn't be a huge surprise the Huskies are the worst team in the conference. They do seem to play hard and have a good attitude.
This has been a boring game. I'm waiting for the Zips to make their patented run.
11:55 - Akron 45, Northern Illinois 34
Brett McClanahan will sit down with his fourth foul. The senior guard has two points tonight. This season, McClanahan has averaged 5.4 points per game, compared to 10.0 last season. He is also playing about four fewer minutes per game. Part of that has to be attributed to Brian Walsh, who has a similar skill set to McClanahan.
Treadwell awoke the crowd on a two-handed tip-dunk off a Gilliam missed fast break layup.
Harney followed up with a spinning post move into a swished finger roll. Very smooth. He has 10 points tonight.
After a Gilliam 3 and a Gilliam layup, Akron has made it a 14-0 run. These second-half spurts are the calling card for the 2011-12 Zips.
7:39 - Akron 59, Northern Illinois 34
Marshall checked back in at the 5:39 mark. He's only played 11 minutes so far tonight, or else I think he'd be done for the night.
Abreu led the break, dished a behind-the-back pass to Cvetinovic, who made the layup while being fouled.
Cvetinovic got an easy dunk thanks to a baseball-style outlet pass from Walsh.
It's odd that Dambrot is not giving playing time to Deji Ibitayo. It appeared to one writer that Dambrot walked down the bench to put Ibitayo into the game, and Ibitayo declined. Just speculation, though. Clearly, Ibitayo would be getting on the floor before Luke Avsec and Kyle Peterson, who both just checked in.
2:53 - Akron 71, Northern Illinois 47
Final score - Akron 75, Northern Illinois 51
Notable final stats: Cvetinovic had a game-high 14 points. Treadwell went for 11 and eight rebounds. Harney scored 12 on 5-of-7 shooting. Nader and Keith Gray each scored 13. Akron shot 53.2 percent. NIU was 33.3 percent. NIU had 19 turnovers and four assists, to Akron's 12 and 13. NIU grabbed 35 rebounds (18 offensive), to Akron's 25 (six). Abreu had five assists and one turnover. Marshall blocked four shots.
For the past couple years, we heard about these Prop 48 kids named Treadwell and Harney, and how these guys were real players. They had become some sort of legend before they ever took the floor. It's good that they're living up to expectations in their first year on campus. Harney has the potential to be Dambrot's best scorer ever, and Treadwell could be the best rebounder.
The Zips have won 15 of their last 17 games, after starting the season 4-5. The next game is Wednesday at home against Miami, where the Zips will seek their 19th win. Then Akron travels to Oklahoma to play Oral Roberts on Saturday at 2 p.m. That game will be on ESPN2.
No team has started 10-1 in the MAC since Kent State in 2005-06. It's the Zips' best ever start. Akron has swept the West three times. It's the 10th time an East team has swept the West (KSU did it six times; Buffalo, once). Buffalo, Akron and Kent each did it this year. Akron's prior sweeps were eight-game sweeps (back when the MAC had an 18-game season). Divisional play began in 1997-98.
Dambrot is the seventh coach in MAC history with 200 total wins, and eighth MAC coach with 100 league wins.
"I thought Northern Illinois did a really good job of tempo control in the first half. We really didn't get enough shots up. We probably played our bench too much. It was a good game because we had to work for it. We were able to press a little bit in the first half, which I've been wanting to do. I thought they made some really hard shots in the first half. I thought we did a bad job on the backboards. I only had two guys who rebounded how I wanted them to rebounds, and that's Walsh and Treadwell."
"We're really good at what we call 'spurtability.' That's why we need to get the tempo going. You can win the game with one good spurt. We rode the right horses tonight. Zeke was in foul trouble, so we went with that one group for a long time (Abreu, Treadwell, Harney, Gilliam and Walsh). The question when they're in the game is how well do you defend. We've been on Harney like crazy to defend so we can give him more minutes."
On Ibitayo: "He's got a little bit of a knee problem. He prefers not to play. He's practicing. He's probably a little bruised mentally. He looks at NIU, and they recruited him. He sees he could play some minutes with them. I understand that."
On Egner: "He's had back issues for seven or eight weeks now. There's no structural damage right now. We'll probably try to petition for the redshirt because he hasn't been able to go on a daily basis. At this point, he can't play. There's no sense in playing him. We're so far along in this thing, it really doesn't make sense to play him."
"I think Miami's a funny team. They're capable of beating anyone in the league and losing to anyone in the league right now. When you have a guy like Mavunga.... And they've been snake-bit, and have lost some close games. You can't lose the guys they've lost... If you had the guys they've lost, they're as good as anyone in the league."
"I told them we can't let Nader beat us. Last year, (Xavier) Silas beat us.
When asked if he believed he would have the kind of impact in he and Harney's first season in the program: "Yes." (emphatically).
On his tip-dunk: "They thought they had the rebound on that play. Me dunking the ball sparked a run. We had momentum going. It set the tone even more."
On practice: "We take some parts of practice off. To us, it's probably not as important. Me and (Harney) are putting forth a conscious effort to work harder in practice."
On NIU's offensive rebounding: "In the first half, we were lazy on the glass. People were looking to leak out and get layups instead of crashing the glass. Some lucky bounces too, here and there."
When asked if he believed he would have the kind of impact in he and Treadwell's first season in the program: "Yes." (emphatically).
On the team's spurts: "When we have spurts, it's because everybody is comfortable."
"After Tree's dunk, that was the dagger."
"I think I had it going just a little bit. Coach believes in whoever has it going, to ride him, until he doesn't have it going anymore."
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