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I came straight from church this morning, so I'm a little late getting set up. Church and Zips games, by the way, are much needed stress relievers!
Darryl Roberts, Humpty Hitchens, Nate Linhart, Chris McKnight and
I hope you fans are not getting jaded about how much this team is over-achieving. Akron is starting two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and a senior. The first players off the bench are underclassmen, too.
Otis Polk jammed Cvetinovic in the face on a rebound. After writhing in pain for a minute, Cvetinovic got up and he appears OK.
Akron is a 10-point
favorite. The over-under is 123.5. I would take Akron with the points, but I wouldn't bet more than my lunch money on it.
Mike Bardo missed an incredibly easy layup. For two months, he has been an offensive albatross. Watching his reaction to the miss, it's clear Bardo has confidence problems. With
Keith Dambrot's demanding methods, confidence problems are common.
Jimmy Conyers plays well for stretches of time, but his permanent scars are obvious once a game begins with difficulties.
All of this weekend's MAC East action is today. Kent State is at Miami. The loser is in serious jeopardy of getting a bye. Buffalo is at Ohio. A win, and the Bobcats have hope for a bye. If not, cross them off the list.
Yesterday, Eastern Michigan won at Central Michigan, Toledo won a home game against Western Michigan, and Ball State lost at Northern Illinois. The upshot of these results is that there are no MAC West teams with winning records. Check the blog tomorrow morning and I will have broken down the scenarios.
Bowling Green is playing a zone, which the Zips are battling with cross-court skip-passes. The Falcons are contesting the passing lanes and causing turnovers. We are six minutes into the game, and the teams have combined for two field goals and seven turnovers.
If you're sitting at home, you can turn on the Buffalo/Ohio game. It started at noon on ESPNU. The Kent/Miami game starts at 2 p.m. and is not televised.
Akron's defense is really good today. On a few possessions, Bowling Green has been forced to chuck up a desperate shot as the shot clock buzzes. The Falcons are playing tough defense, too. The zone is great if you have aggressive ball hawks.
Cvetinovic must have played point guard at some point in his career. He stole a BG pass and led the break, feeding Hitchens, who gave it back for a layup, on which Cvetinovic was fouled.
A ZipsNation.org member linked to
this story in The Onion about Akron basketball. The funny thing is, I can honestly see my girlfriend writing that exact story.
If you are an optimistic fan who likes to plan trips far in advance, take a look at
the sites for NCAA Tournament. Dayton would be the most advantageous site for the Zips. I will be in Baton Rouge, La., that week. There aren't any venues near Louisiana, and I know the ABJ has no money for a blogger to travel. In other words, I almost certainly won't attend.
Here are some interesting news stories: Sophomore
Kara Murphybecame Akron's all-time season scoring leader on Saturday, but the 10-17 Zips lost to Buffalo. ...
Tom Gaffneypreviewed the BG game, discussing the implications of a win or loss. ... Gaffney also
previewed the spring football season, which begins Tuesday. The story does not mention the change to a 3-4, but my source has never led me wrong before.
Brian Moten has shrunk Akron's lead with consecutive 3-pointers. A steal and layup by
Darryl Clements tied the game with two minutes left before halftime.
Akron is making some awful passes. They are mostly high-risk and low-reward. The problem is, you can't play the same offense against a zone as you do against a man-to-man scheme.
Halftime stats of note: Bowling Green leads 24-22. Clements, Moten and Cvetinovic each have six points. Moten also has five rebounds. Akron is shooting 32 percent. Bowling Green is 40 percent. Bowling Green is leading the rebounding battle, 18-13. The Falcons have made only 2-of-6 free throws, however.
Bowling Green grabbed yet another offensive rebound, the team's sixth. The Zips knew they were up against a challenge on the boards in Buffalo. They might have let down their guard against the Falcons, who are second to the Bulls in the MAC's rebounding
The fans emitted a Bronx cheer for the referees after they called a foul on Bowling Green. This game has been officiated fairly, in my opinion. Both teams have six fouls.
Gregg Bach explained how the second tiebreaker works. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. The second tiebreaker is a team's record against the best teams in the MAC. For example, if Ball State and Western Michigan are tied for the MAC West lead and they split their head-to-head games, then it comes down to which team did best against the No. 1 seed. If they both lost (or both won), then it depends on how Ball State and WMU fared against the No. 3 seed. It keeps going until you have a discrepancy to break the tie.
Moten drilled a fade-away 3 as the shot clock winded down. The fans were getting into the game before that, and Moten's 3 has not deterred them from continuing to make noise.
As the crowd has grown louder, Bowling Green's players have shown facial expressions of concern, despite holding a lead. In these sorts of games, tournament experience is crucial -- for the players and coaches.
Louis Orr has never made it deep into the MAC Tournament. He is inexperienced in calming his players and in making reasoned decisions during extreme-anxiety situations. I'm not saying he can't do it, but these are factors that give Akron, Miami and Western Michigan an advantage because of their tenured coaches.
Cvetinovic is down again after a scrum for a loose ball. He is laying awkwardly on his right arm. He got up and went to the end of the bench so the trainer could examine him.
BG's zone is allowing Akron to have plenty of good looks.
Brett McKnight made a wide-open shot at the elbow. He considered passing. If you are a half-way decent shooter, you have to take that without hesitation. A zone is not going to allow many layups. You have to understand that and use that information to put each field goal attempt into context.
Dambrot is subbing between Brett McKnight and Bardo at every opportunity for offense or defense
Linhart, Hitchens and Polk each have three fouls. Neither team is in foul trouble. If it comes down to it,
Nate Miller shoots only 48 percent from the line.
Erik Marschall wound up in the front row behind the Bowling Green bench through his pursuit of an errant pass. Akron has the ball, down one, with four minutes to play.
Linhart grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed Hitchens' 3. With two Falcons clawing for the ball, he turned around and swished a floater to give Akron its first lead of the half. That might be your play of the game. Linhart has at least three offensive rebounds. I wouldn't call Linhart a great rebounder; he is more of a rebounding sniper. He senses when the ball might carom, and he enters the frey.
Despite the low scores, this has been a thrilling game. Bowling Green has the ball, down one, with 2:45 to play.
Linhart stole an inbounds pass to give Akron the ball with the lead and just over two minutes to play. Hitchens stumbled with the ball and stood up, which is a traveling violation. BG ball. Hitchens is smothering
Joe Jakubowski on defense, though.
Akron is defending the inbounds pass again. It forced Orr to call BG's final timeout. That might be important. Akron has six fouls, so being overly aggressive on defense would only amount to a one-and-one.
Linhart stripped Polk before the 6-foot-9 beast was about to stamp a wide-open dunk. Miller is handling the ball at the top of the key for BG. Moten swished a deep 3 to give BG a two-point lead with 57 seconds left. Ouch.
Hitchens got caught without his dribble and desperately threw the ball for Linhart, who dove on it and called timeout. These are the reasons why Linhart is one of my finalists for MAC Player of the Year. The stat sheet rarely explains his value.
Chris McKnight missed an easy layup. BG grabbed the rebound and found Moten all alone for a dunk on the other end. Roberts missed a 3-pointer.
Bowling Green wins and locks up first place in the MAC. The Zips created plenty of easy opportunities but nothing fell in the last minute.
This was a game the Zips should have won. As I have explained repeatedly, old teams commonly upset more talented young teams.
Buffalo beat Ohio,
68-66, in another thrilling game. Ohio had a chance to take a lead over Buffalo with five seconds left, but Bobcats' point guard
Michael Allen biffed two free throws and committed a critical turnover. The Bulls and Falcons are 9-4, but Bowling Green has the head-to-head tiebreaker. There is also a two-team tie at 8-5 between Akron and either Kent or Miami.
Final stats of note: Moten led BG with 17 points. Miller had eight rebounds. Akron shot 32 percent. BG shot 40 percent. Roberts and Cvetinovic led Akron with eight points. Linhart had seven rebounds.
Final score -- Akron 46, Bowling Green 50
Keith Dambrot "We had a rough game. Never really got in sync. Never got any flow. We tried, but I thought they out-scrapped us early. I thoguht they should have been out of here in the first 10 minutes."
"He controlled tempo. The zone bothered us. I tried to run plays, but we struggled."
"We've got punched in the mouth before. My gut feeling tells me we'll be roaring back."
"You could see in the last six minutes, we really tried to grit up and show that Akron tradition defensively. I wish we would have gritted up sooner."
"Nate made some unbelievable plays, but they made more plays at the end than we did."
"We got it at the front of the rim and didn't make it."
"If you don't make outside shots, the zone is going to bother you. We got average to below-average performances from the McKnight brothers. We had a rough night from our guards other than McNees."
"We let them off the ropes, but I refuse to mope because this team is giving me everything they have on a daily basis."
"There's no adjustment. We just have to put the ball in the basket. Some nights you make it, some nights you don't. We got 2-for-13 from the McKnights."
"I don't overanalyze this thing. Our attack was stinky the first half. We threw the ball away. When teams slow it on you, it becomes a grind. We quick-shot it at the beginning of the second half. You have to understand the time and tempo of the game. If you play 70 percent on the defensive end, you will get tired in the last six minutes of the game."
"We kind of laid an egg tonight."
"The first four minutes, I wouldn't have been surprised if everyone went home."
"It was like we saw the most beautiful woman in the world (on the breakaway dunk for Moten). I don't know what they were looking at. We had Nate Miller with the ball, who's a horrific foul shooter."
"I just want to go home and not jump off a bridge and revitalize myself. I really don't have any hobbies. I just want these guys to win and to get them what they deserve. You're talking about a team that was picked fourth, fifth and sixth in the division. I wouldn't say that it's over yet."
"We're going to have some blips. We're not a dominating team. We've had a good year. It's my job to finish the good year."
Senior Night "will be a sad day. (Linhart) has been a great guy. He had a tough start, but he has that ability to rally himself. He had some unbelievable plays. That's really what he's done his whole career. He hasn't always been great, but you can't doubt the effort. He ain't going to be easy to replace, I tell you that."
Nate Linhart "Their length bothered us."
"We did what we wanted to do (on the possession where Moten's 3 took the lead). They got an offensive rebound, then a timeout, then another offensive rebound."
Senior Night "is going to be emotional for me. I've tried the whole year not to think about it. I'm going to try my hardest to keep it together. I think I'll have a little extra juice."
"This year, I have adopted the role of leader."
Louis Orr "I thank God above for his many, many blessings."
"These guys are a story of perseverance and resilience, all year long."
"We started out winning at OU, six road games ago. That win really turned our season around. I just know how good God is. I'm just really happy for everything they're accomplishing."
On struggles early: "We were playing the game outside-in, instead of inside-out."
"Our defense was the difference. Anytime you hold a team like Akron to 30 percent shooting, that's big."
"We've been blessed being able to close games out, man-to-man. They manned up at the end, and we got stops. We kind of had a feel for what they were gonna run. We came up with big rebounds."
"We've been playing zone quite a bit since
Marc Larson and
Chris Knight went down. It's something that our guys believe in. You don't practice against a zone every day."
"You can't work with Coach
(Jim) Boeheim -- and I played for him, too -- and not learn the 2-3 zone. He taught me a lot about watching, observing the 2-3 zone. It's really been our main defense the last two games."
"B-Mot (Moten) has been making great shots since I got here."
Brian Moten "I thought it was good when I let it go. It felt good coming off."
"It's big for our entire program. For the guys who have been here, it's huge. We haven't really had a winning culture since we got here. Coach Orr tried to change that. I think more than anything, we're taking on the personality of the coach."
"We're definitely going to try to carry it over. We're going to have a defensive mentality and play from the inside-out. We are finally ready to take that next step and win a championship."
Erik Marschall "Every MAC game is physical. We can be physical. I think Akron plays the same way."
"We watch a lot of tape. We know guys' stats, what they like to do, what they're not great at. The last play of the game, they tried to get inside. We were well-prepared, and that plays a major role in how we're able to defend."