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The Zips are three-point favorites today.
Before coming, I made a pit stop at a local establishment for some beverages with some Ohio U graduates, who are friends of mine. Long ago, however, I self-imposed a "no drinking while blogging" policy.
It's to be expected, but the university is marketing Akron football as an opportunity to see "Terry Bowden and the Zips."
Akron's starters: Zeke Marshall, Alex Abreu, Nik Cvetinovic, Brian Walsh and Chauncey Gilliam.
Ohio's starters: D.J. Cooper, Ivo Baltic, Walter Offutt and Nick Kellogg and Jon Smith.
Attendance is pretty good. The chairback sections are almost 100 percent full. Sideline bleachers are filling up. The endzone bleachers are about 70 percent full.
Tipoff - Akron 0, Ohio 0
Cooper has a very quick trigger, which is necessary when you're only 5-foot-11.
Smith picked up his second foul at the 18:05 mark. Reggie Keely from University Heights took his place and quickly got a bucket.
Marshall has gotten the ball a few times with decent post position, but he's been reluctant to attempt a hook shot. This is the time for a weakside cut from Cvetinovic. I think I like Demetrius Treadwell more alongside Marshall because he's better moving without the ball.
15:55 - Akron 4, Ohio 6
The refs missed a blatant travel by Baltic. The ball got kicked out for a Cooper 3.
Nick Harney looks like he has a lot of fun playing.
Baltic has a quick first step. He has blown by Treadwell and Marshall once apiece.
11:58 - Akron 10, Ohio 13
There is a new sign at the back of one side of the endzone bleachers that reads: "The Roo-Zoo Akron Student Section." I'll be darned, students are congregating there.
Harney won some fan admiration. He tipped a pass away at the top of the key, outsprinted a Bobcat, tumbling and sliding on his stomach. He still corralled the ball before touching the opposite baseline. From his back, Harney called the Akron timeout.
Someone lost Keely on defense, and he was under the hoop alone. Upon receiving the ball, Keely nearly airballed an uncontested finger roll.
7:59 - Akron 15, Ohio 15
Cooper has struggled so far today. He's 1-for-5 from the field.
The cheerleaders threw out mini-balls at a recent break. The males' throwing arms range from whipping it to the upper bleachers to barely noodle-arming it to the first row.
Cooper blew a layup on a two-on-one fast break. He looks to be maintaining composure despite his rough start.
A pass sailed over Abreu's head. He caught it as he was falling out of bounds near the Ohio bench. Abreu couldn't find a Bobcat to bounce the ball off, so he spike the ball off the back of Ohio coach John Groce. To his credit, Groce didn't seem upset.
3:49 - Akron 19, Ohio 19
Neither team has put together many good possessions. Akron has gotten some good possessions, but also nine turnovers.
Stevie Taylor is on the floor for Ohio. Akron recruited the Gahanna grad pretty hard. He looks speedy and scrappy, just like Cooper.
Akron took its first lead at the 3:15 mark. Taylor answered with a 3.
Harney glided to the basket, taking only three paces between the 3-point line and the completion of his finger roll. I really enjoy watching him with the ball.
The Bobcats will apply a full-court press for the last minute of the half.
Cooper is one of those players who thinks he never commits a foul.
The final play of the half demonstrated a rookie mistake from Taylor. After a ball screen, Marshall found himself guarding Taylor at the top of the key. Taylor gestured to his teammates to clear out. Taylor got a step on Marshall, going right, but Marshall caught up and smacked the layup attempt into the cheerleaders.
Ohio got the ball back with one second left. Kellogg emerged from a crowd of players to catch a pass on the right wing. He launched a 3 that hit only net.
Halftime - Akron 29, Ohio 30
Notable halftime stats: Ohio shot 39.3 percent; Akron was 50 percent. The Zips had nine turnovers and five assists. Ohio had six and six. Harney has a game-high seven points. Cooper and Baltic have six apiece. Walsh has four rebounds. Cooper has three assists. Marshall has two blocks.
Smith came back on the floor after his first two fouls. Within 17 seconds, Smith picked up his third foul.
Keely also committed an early third foul.
15:43 - Akron 33, Ohio 37
Ohio has gotten five consecutive second-chance points. But Akron responded with three offensive boards on one possession.
11:52 - Akron 41, Ohio 44
Attendance today is 4,661.
I'm having a lot of fun looking at my Ohio U friends in the crowd as they get discouraged at a positive Akron play.
The game has lacked flow or much excitement. The fans are begging for a reason to get loud. I'm begging for something to type on the blog.
Despite that, I think there will be an exciting finish.
Marshall became the eighth player in MAC history to block 200 shots.
7:30 - Akron 50, Ohio 51
Marshall made an athletic put-back off a Diggs missed jumper.
The teams are now both getting fluid possessions.
Smith has played five minutes and now has four fouls. Those are Yinka Dare numbers.
The refs have stopped play to determine the source of a loud noise that went off before a Cooper foul shot. They asked the PA announcer to say: "Per NCAA rules, the use of artificial noise makers is prohibited and may result in a technical foul against the home team." What a joke. It sounded like a balloon.
Smith is gone. His fifth foul in about six minutes of action.
If that noise happens again and they call a tech, I'll start booing along with the rest of Northeast Ohio. All they can do is require the home team to try to stop it. They can't prevent some jackass from pulling something out of his coat. If I'm a Bobcats fan, I'd start doing it to get the Zips a tech.
Abreu drained a 3 to give Akron its first lead of the second half. And this place is loud as can be. Those are Abreu's first points.
3:24 - Akron 59, Ohio 57
With 2:30 left, the fans are on their feet.
Abreu hit a miracle shot in the lane. He was falling backwards, and with one arm, he threw it overhand with perfect touch through the rim.
1:30 - Akron 61, Ohio 57
Keely fouled out. Diggs made both free throws to extend Akron's lead to six.
Offutt slashed to the rim and Marshall touched him. Offutt missed both. The rebound kicked way out to Abreu, who hit Cvetinovic with an outlet pass. Offutt was then called for an intentional foul on Cvetinovic, although it was Offutt who slammed into the base of the hoop.
1:14 - Akron 63, Ohio 57
Cvetinovic split the pair of shots, and it will be Akron's ball with a seven point lead.
Diggs drove to the right with the shot clock running down. Baltic committed his fifth foul on Diggs, who hit the ground hard.
I have to give Cooper a boatload of credit. He stood a few feet from me while Zips fans berated him. Cooper looked at them and just nodded. But maybe it boiled his blood beneath the surface, because Cooper was whistled for a tech on the other end in a minor skirmish with Marshall, who may have gotten a little fresh with his right elbow after catching a rebound. Marshall also got a technical foul for some reason that we're still unsure about. Diggs got a tech for saying something.
The upshot of all this is, Ohio gets two foul shots because of the offsetting techs, plus Akron's extra tech. Marshall will then go to the line based on Cooper fouling him on the initial rebound.
Wait, Marshall won't shoot, because the tech was his fifth foul. Brett McClanahan went to the line instead and bounced in two free throws.
0:27 - Akron 66, Ohio 59
Abreu fouled Cooper on a loose ball. Cooper made the first. Then he chucked the ball off the backboard and tried to catch the rebound himself. Uh, that's not permitted.
Offutt is the third Bobcat to foul out. Diggs is now at the line. He missed both.
Akron must think there is no way they could possibly lose, because they played junk defense. Ricardo Johnson converted a three-point play as a result. It's a one-possession game again.
0:02.4 - Akron 66, Ohio 63
You could play this out 100 times and maybe never give up a 3 with 2.4 seconds left.
Cvetinovic was fouled immediately upon catching the inbounds pass. Baltic fouled out, for what it's worth. Cvetinovic made the first, which was all that was required to seal the game. Then Akron called timeout, likely to remind its personnel that you don't foul under any circumstances. Cvetinovic made the second, and now Ohio called timeout. This one is really a head-scratcher, unless someone wants the Bobcats to cover the spread. Just kidding on that.
With 1.6 seconds left, the Bobcats threw a full-court pass and bricked a 3. It looks like John Groce used that play as experience for when they need a 3 to tie or win in that situation.
Final score - Akron 68, Ohio 63
After the buzzer, Groce ran over to the MAC official and expressed his displeasure with something referee-related. He looked awfully ticked off.
Notable final stats: Marshall scored 17 with six rebounds and three blocks. Cooper had 13, four assists and three steals. Walsh had seven rebounds. Akron shot 45 percent. Ohio was 35.5 percent. Ohio had 10 assists and nine turnovers. Akron had nine assists and 16 turnovers. Cooper was 2-for-15 from the field. Baltic was 5-of-17.
"I think we're trying to break the record for having the lead for less than anyone. We barely led at all. We just struggled so much offensively in the first half, we just ran it to the right, ran it to the left. We just threw it inside and thought that was our best chance."
On Abreu: "I think he gets a little too excited against Ohio U for whatever reason."
"It was a good game, good atmosphere, good crowd."
"I think we're pretty talented. We're pretty erratic. We play through mistakes. We have enough toughness and discipline to win. We can beat a lot of people, but we can lose to a lot of people. Those young kids have been terrific when it matters. Harney just gets in there and scores."
"We very rarely had our whole team, except for the last five games. Harney is probably the best young guy offensively we've ever had. Treadwell is probably the best rebounder."
On the late technical fouls: "We just got to shut up and play. That almost cost us the game."
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ohio U. When I said the teams don't like each other, I was just telling the truth. They work really hard as a staff. They have really good players. I think there's respect there. D.J. Cooper to me is one of the best players in the league. He has killed us. Today was kind of poetic justice that we guarded him a little bit. We told our guys, whatever you do, please don't let him get you from his left."
"This league, everybody recruits the same guys, like we recruited Stevie Taylor. We didn't recruit D.J. Cooper, but Kent did. So we all have the same types of players. The difference between teams is minimal. We still don't have a lot more than Western Michigan has, for instance. We win with the seventh seed. OU wins with the ninth seed. What you have to do is win in the last few minutes. So it all comes down to intangibles. It's just parity. We have a losing record against Northern Illinois."
"This team is going to turn the ball over more than a lot of teams. We only had 18 baskets. They chose to make our big people score one-on-one and not double, because we have shooters."
"At the beginning, I was just trying to follow the gameplan. Coach wanted us to pound the ball in to the big guys. I had a little trouble falling into my rhythm. Finally, I could contribute toward the end."
"I think we made it tough on him (Cooper). We tried to contest passing lanes. I tried to keep him off his left. At the end of the game, he wasn't a factor like he was last year."
"We have a real deep group. We are nine-deep and all of us can honestly start."
"I usually try to keep people's arms off me. The ref said he'll start calling fouls for that."
"As we can get wins like this, we can prepare ourselves more for what's coming in March."
On Buffalo: "I'm always looking forward to a challenge. I take that as a personal challenge to shutdown the best post players."
"Late-game stretches, when the game is close, we're used to that. A lot of teams aren't used to that."
"It feels great, after a long year off and a suspension. I just want to take advantage of this and help my team get wins."
"It felt good to have the fans behind us."
"I thought it was a really competitive basketball game with two teams fighting hard. It was a difficult game to play with 51 fouls being called. There was no flow or rhythm. I was proud of our guys' toughness and our effort. We stuck together. We got Kent Wednesday at home. Our guys played as hard as they have all season."
"It's one of those games that it's a shame someone has to lose. The 11-2 run, centering around the intentional foul... They made some free throws and made some key plays. I give them credit."
"I thought they were a really good team. They got to the foul line more than we did. We did a very good job defending the 3-point line. They have seven players who shoot better than 36 percent from 3. It was a hard-fought game. That's what makes it a great series. They play hard. They're tough. They're a good team."
"Last Saturday, I didn't think we played with a great deal of toughness. Today, I don't think that was the case. They just made a few more plays."
"They did a good job (on Cooper). They had a couple different bodies they were throwing at him. Maybe towards the very end (he was frustrated), when he and Zeke started talking."
"There were six games prior to tonight played in the MAC East. Five of the six were either tied or a one-possession game with three minutes to play. There's a lot of teams in the East right now that could be anywhere from 3-0 to 0-3."
On Marshall: "He got better post position than he had against us in previous games. He's gotten better. When he gets you deep like that, it's a difficult cover. Tonight, he did a good job establishing himself."
"I feel good with Ivo going one-on-one. Tonight might have been the worst-percentage game this year. Zeke was on him quite a bit, and he's long and big. I want him to be aggressive."
Whether Ohio lost its cool: "Maybe a little towards the end."
On the intentional foul call: "I was going for the ball. No hard feelings towards the guy."
"When you call that many fouls, it centers around the free throw line. The most aggressive team usually wins the game. When you get to the free throw line so much, you'll get to the line."
"In one possession, they probably had four or five (offensive rebounds) in a row. That killed us."
"In the Buffalo game, we did a good job of getting points off turnovers. It's something we have to get better at--executing off other teams' turnovers."
"As long as our effort is good, we're going to be fine. I got faith in Coach Groce. He's one of the best up-and-coming coaches in America. We're going to get it corrected."