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I apologize about the blog being down today. You figure, there aren't many more newsworthy days that NLOI Signing Day, but Ohio.com can't plan totally around this blog.
I just arrived at the JAR after attending the football press conference. My notes from the press conference will be posted tomorrow sometime. For now, let's talk basketball.
As I wrote last night, Rian Pearson is the player to watch from Toledo. He is now the reigning MAC West Player of the Week, after averaging 22.5 points and 8.5 boards last week.
Toledo's starters: Pearson, Dominique Buckley, Julius Brown, DeLino Dear, and Matt Smith.
Akron's starters: Brian Walsh, Alex Abreu, Chauncey Gilliam, Nik Cvetinovic and Zeke Marshall.
After the referee cleaned some pom-pom streamers off the floor, Marshall mistimed his jump and lost the tip to 6-foot-9 Dear.
MAC official Ricky Stokes is watching the Buffalo-Ball State game on his iPad two seats away. Pretty slick.
Abreu scored the game's first points -- a 3-pointer -- at the 18:00 mark.
Early prediction: I don't think Gilliam has the defensive will to keep up with Pearson.
15:28 - Akron 7, Toledo 4
Quincy Diggs has nailed consecutive 3-pointers. A Brett McClanahan transition layup gave the Zips a nine-point lead.
Nick Harney juked left, went right, with a behind-the-back dribble. Just like that, he created an easy layup for himself.
11:47 - Akron 17, Toledo 10
If you haven't read Elton Alexander's story on Harney, you should. It's a good feature on how the Zips' hot newcomer got here.
UT's Brown bit on a Diggs pumpfake and wound up draped over the Zips guard. Diggs went up for the shot after Brown made contact. In the NBA, that's a shooting foul, because of the continuation rule. In college, it's not.
An Abreu 3-pointer extends the Zips' lead to 14. Toledo fans must be really worried. After all, if you're going to make headway against Akron, it must be done in the first 20 minutes.
7:22 - Akron 31, Toledo 17
Toledo only has 11 players on its roster. The reason is because the Rockets lost three scholarship (from 13 to 10) because of a poor Academic Progress Rate. In fact, these sanctions forced one player to transfer away from the program. Ouch.
Toledo has gone on a 9-0 run that saw the Zips fumble away several possessions.
A Marshall hook shot at the 3:48 mark was the Zips first points since 7:22 was left in the half. He'll go to the line for the and-one.
3:48 - Akron 33, Toledo 27
Pearson is an athletic scorer with good size. His problem is, he has a hitch at the top of his jump shot. It's an awkward wrist movement that makes his shot look unnatural. Like in golf (my sport), you can't expect much consistency if you deviate from the sports time-tested mechanics. The most obvious exception to that rule is Jim Furyk, who is consistently ranked in the world's top 10 (although he's currently No. 56).
Abreu caught some grief from the fans. He drove into traffic in the paint, left his feet, and had no option but to drop the ball where he was standing. It started a Toledo fast break the other direction.
But not everyone's upset with the Zips' point guard. After a missed Toledo shot, Abreu raced to the corner to save it from going out of bounds. The referee told him "nice hustle."
Demetrius Treadwell caught an offensive rebound with 15 seconds left in the half. Rather than kick it out for the last shot, he took it back up and got fouled. I don't like that at all. You might as well just hold the ball for the last 15 seconds of the clock (without shooting) if you're going to take your shot, and give the ball back to Toledo thereafter. It's all about point expectancies. I've written about this before.
Halftime - Akron 43, Toledo 34
Notable halftime stats: Marshall and Pearson each have 11 points and four rebounds. The Zips have chucked 14 3-pointers and made five. Both teams are shooting well from the field (Akron, 54.8 percent; Toledo, 56.5). Brown has four assists for Toledo. Akron is outrebounding Toledo, 16 to 10. Akron has eight turnovers; Toledo has 11.
Walsh is limping around as if he turned his ankle, but he stayed on the floor.
Pearson is certainly a good MAC scorer. He has 17. He is one of the maybe 10 players in the conference who can truly create a shot for himself through his off-the-dribble quickness. Harney is another.
15:45 - Akron 48, Toledo 44
The Zips are in a funk. The fans are silent. Akron has missed four consecutive foul shots.
Toledo committed its seventh foul with 14:41 left in the half. Akron can keep the Rockets at arm's length by simply knocking down the shots from the stripe. McClanahan just split a pair.
Four people away from me on press row is Steve French, who has twice pounded the table in frustration.
After a Walsh turnover, Toledo has the ball with the chance to tie the game.
Pearson impressed the entire crowd with a tip-dunk in which he soared to the rim from the wing. Well, everyone except the referee, because Pearson smacked the backboard after the dunk. Stokes, the MAC official, says that's an automatic technical foul. Abreu erased the dunk's effect by draining both free throws. That might be your turning point of the night.
After a couple of quick baskets and a McClanahan 3, Akron's lead ballooned from one to 10. Like I said ... turning point. The fans are now into it.
11:58 - Akron 60, Toledo 50
This is a decent crowd, considering: 1) It's a mid-week game. 2) It's against a non-rival. 3) IT's televised.
Pearson broke the 9-0 run with a floater, but McClanahan responded with another 3.
Pearson is a good player, a very good player. I love his athleticism, aggressiveness, and touch. He's only a sophomore.
Cvetinovic almost earned a place on the ESPN top 10 plays. On a fast break, he soared from the paint over Brown and nearly dunked it. If he converted, it would have been a fantastic play.
Pearson now has 25. If Akron runs into these guys in the MAC Tournament, the coaches better have a plan for stopping him. He's the best player I've seen this season in person.
Toledo guard Reese Holliday looks like a linebacker. He's listed at 6-4 and 220, but he's more like 6-2 and 220.
In other MACtion: Buffalo's beating Ball State at home. Bowling Green won by 24 at Western Michigan. Ohio and Northern Illinois are neck-and-neck at halftime. Eastern Michigan and Miami are coming down to the wire.
5:21 - Akron 73, Toledo 64
Abreu had a strong drive to the rim, and with the tiniest window, he snuck the spinning ball onto the glass in front of the defender's arm. His layup might be the clincher, as the Zips lead by 12 with 2:34 left.
My guess is that Keith Dambrot will be upset with his team's defense tonight.
2:34 - Akron 80, Toledo 68
Eastern Michigan and Miami are in overtime.
Akron is losing the points in the paint battle, which is rare.
Kenny Roda is tweeting that Akron is hiring Jim Tressel for some reason. Nobody here is saying anything beyond that.
Marshall punctuated the Zips' win with a dunk. Cvetinovic added another wide-open dunk with 30 seconds left.
Final score - Akron 86, Toledo 72
There was some sort of disagreement in the post-game handshakes between Toledo coach Tod Kawalczyk, Diggs and Dambrot.
Notable final stats: Pearson dropped 29 and had 12 rebounds. Diggs scored 16. Cvetinovic had 10 and 10. Akron shot 60 percent for the game. Toledo was 47.5 percent. The teams had 18 and 17 turnovers. Toledo only had eight assists. Akron made 8-of-19 3-point attempts (Toledo, 2-of-9).
Miami knocked off Eastern Michigan in overtime. If Ohio U beats Northern Illinois, the MAC East will have swept the evening. For Akron, it's good to have the MAC East dominance, because of the new seeding for the MAC Tournament. It's in all of the MAC East teams' interest to see the best MAC West teams lose, so they won't be a factor for the Nos. 1 or 2 seeds. After tonight's games, Eastern Michigan is 5-3 and the other MAC West teams are under .500.
"You have to be careful in this business, to be disappointed when you win. But I was disappointed. It would be easy to make excuses for them, but I think we took a lot of things for granted. It's typical of a young, immature team. Just because you're playing in your building doesn't mean anything."
"They're good on offense. They're really good. They guarded our ball screens better than anyone else this year. They made us play zone. He's a good coach. He's going to get that thing turned around once they get to the (scholarship) limit."
"We knew (Pearson) was going left. We got punked. He just punked us. The gameplan wasn't bad. I've never seen more balls get over Zeke tonight than his freshman year. We told him to get on his left hand. And when Julius Brown gets in there, get on his right hand. They went right at him (Zeke). The next time, Zeke will learn a lesson. We just didn't execute very well. We lacked emotion. We were emotionally so-so."
"There's very few teams that go 31 regular season games and win every night. You have to win the nights you're not good."
"Q was trying to apologize. Q is a really good kid but emotionally he loses his mind. I don't think it was anything."
"Going zone woke us up. They struggled with the zone. Then McClanahan hit those two big 3s. He's made a lot of big shots for us, but this season, he's had a rough season. McClanahan was better than those other guys tonight. I thought Chauncey was pretty good, but it thought McClanahan was better."
"I've cut way back with this team (on practicing). Those were two long trips and that was a long damn month. I took two naps today I was so tired. If I feel that way, they feel that way. I was a little bit juiceless."
"We're fighting for that semifinal bye, which is huge. We know we have to be perfect. Our guys are so young, they might not think about it, but I do."
"They're a very good team. They run their offense very good. They have a very good player on the perimeter."
"We're the MAC Champions, so we're the target."
On Pearson: "Maybe just a little better boxing him out. He was hustling a lot. Coach had a good gameplan for him. He just made every shot."
On the post-game issue: "I was just trying to apologize for talking to the coach. He kept antagonizing me. It didn't work."
"The people that come off the bench can start for us. I think we have the best bench in the night. If they don't get off to a good start, the bench can come in."
"The strength of our team is transition."