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Liveblog -- Akron vs. Central Michigan

By mrasor Published: January 31, 2009

Men's basketball

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    The Zips are 14-point favorites today. I think that spread is likely, but it anticipates that Akron will play its best. Over a thirty-game span, I would take the Chips and the points. On any one game, I would not touch that spread.
    Joe Dunn told me that Akron will unveil new team shoes today. They feature a design of the outline of Akron's city limits. I'm trying to get a good luck at them during shoot-around. Keith Dambrot is also wearing tennis shoes for the Coaches vs. Cancer weekend.
    The poll shown below will close at noon. So far, 93 percent of blog viewers think the Zips will win today.
    The crowd looks embarrassingly sparse. The more expensive seats, in particular, look like an Akron women's game is about to tip off. Ironically, the women's team will play Toledo after the men's game concludes.
    I got a glimpse of the new shoes from a couple feet away. They have a detailed sketch of part of Akron's skyline -- or so it appears. If you're watching the game on TV, you've probably already seen them up close because the TV crew has a pair in front of their spot on media row.
    For the first time I can remember, the players were out on the floor for the national anthem. It appears they did it for the TV broadcast. It should be a regular occurrence, in my opinion.
    Ronnie Steward is still in street clothes and he's not walking fluidly. During the game, I'm going to research the medical redshirt requirements. Burning Brett McClanahan's redshirt should tell you a lot about the coaches' expectations for Steward's health.
    Akron's starters: Humpty Hitchens, Darryl Roberts, Nik Cvetinovic, Chris McKnight and Nate Linhart.
    The Chippewas are also without 6-foot-9 Marko Spica, a Serbian who originally signed with UCLA and followed Ernie Zeigler to CMU. The PD's Elton Alexander said Spica would be one of the MAC's best post players if he wasn't out for his junior year with a knee injury.
    McClanahan drilled a 3 shortly after entering the game at the 15-minute mark. Those were his first points at Rhodes Arena.
    Akron's defense is not giving CMU anything. At 13:52, Jordan Bitzer made two free throws for the Chips' first points. The next possession, Bitzer hit a 3 to shorten Akron's lead to two.
    If Steward is looking for a medical hardship waiver, here are the requirements: 1) Get hurt during one of your four years of competition. 2) The injury occurs in the first half of the season and it results in an inability to play the rest of the year. 3) The player has not played in more than 30 percent of the team's games. See page 138 of the NCAA Bylaws.
    Steward has played in six games. Akron has 30 games on its schedule. That means Steward falls under the rule by playing in only 20 percent of Akron's games. Assuming the Compliance Department can document the season-ending injury with medical proof (and Steward sits out the rest of the year), he can have a THIRD freshman season.
    CMU's Jacolby Hardiman just launched two of the most repulsive free throws I have ever seen -- Ben Wallace, Chris Dudley and Shaquille O'Neal included. Hardiman is shooting 43 percent from the line. In the words of Elton, he's a "butcher."
    Hitchens is getting whatever he wants off the dribble. He has six points.
    Central Michgan's offense looks scared. I've never seen anything like this. They are holding the ball -- just holding it -- near half court while the clock ticks. The Zips have been tenacious, and it looks like the Chips are passive because of it.
    The AK-Rowdies executed a lovely hoax in announcing a false shot-clock countdown. They chanted "three... two... one" when, in reality, there were 13 seconds left. The Chippewa tossed a desperation airball.
    Halftime score: Akron 28, CMU 14. Stats of note: Brett McKnight has eight points. Bitzer has nine. No one on either team has more than three rebounds. The teams combined for seven assists and 13 turnovers. CMU is shooting 21 percent. Akron is shooting 50 percent.
    Central Michigan is still stalling. There is plenty of time left in the game for a comeback, of course. However, the Chips are getting really deep into the shot clock before ANYONE moves. I mean, these players are standing around doing nothing -- literally nothing -- until they have to scramble to avoid a shot-clock violation. I'm excited to hear how Zeigler justifies it after the game. If this doesn't change, CMU won't break 30.
    As you probably know, this game is televised. What you probably don't know is that Kent State students are manning the crew. At least one of them is even wearing Flashes garb.
    In other MAC action, Buffalo is handling Toledo on ESPN2. Miami plays at Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m. Kent State plays at Western Michigan at 2 p.m. Ohio plays at Ball State at 2 p.m. Bowling Green plays at Northern Illinois at 5 p.m. Buffalo, Miami, WMU and Ball State are ahead of Akron by a game in the standings.
    Cvetinovic picked up his fourth foul. Mike Bardo will get a chance to show he doesn't deserve the reduction of minutes.
    We are eight minutes into the second half, and CMU has only managed to add three points to its anemic halftime total. The good news is that Zeigler ditched his stall-happy offense, but it's not much more effective.
    A side effect of CMU's incompetence is a quiet Rhodes Arena. This game is dull with a capital D. I'm tempted to start playing Minesweeper.
    Cvetinovic got called for his fifth and final foul with more than 10 minutes to go in the game.
    Hitchens got called for a technical foul for saying something to CMU's Lawrence Bridges, who fouled him hard. Word is, the MAC and its referees have looked at Bridges for being a thug.
    Bardo had a tussle with Bridges, too. After the refs called Bridges for a foul, Bardo shoved Bridges off of him and onto the ground.
    Last season, Dambrot and Zeigler had a little dispute. Zeigler wouldn't let the Zips practice when they wanted to practice at CMU. There was some sort of scheduling issue, so the floor wasn't available. Then, according to what I just heard, a CMU coach opened the door and looked into Dambrot's practice. In the age of Spygate, that was not appreciated.
    Allow me to put Akron's four-game winning in context (assuming they win this one, too). Akron has beaten Kent State ( RPI of 209), Youngstown State (276), Toledo (310) and Central Michigan (284). The next four games are against Eastern Michigan (336), Western Michigan (239), Ball State (218) and Northern Illinois (330). There are 343 teams in Division I, mind you. So, in a couple weeks, Akron will have an eight-game winning streak, but it will mean less than any eight-game winning streak possibly could. By the way, Akron's RPI is 126.
    CMU has 22 fouls and 29 points. Good game, fellas. It's time for Dambrot to call off the dogs, in my opinion.
    We have a bet on press row of when Steve Sweich will enter the game. Gaffney says at 4:00. Alexander says 3:10. I say never.
    I'll be darned. Sweich walked to the scorer's table at exactly 3:10. I lost 35 cents (my quarter, and I covered part of Gaffney's bet).
    I really want to watch Sweich on defense. I realize he's a spaz, but that doesn't mean he can't be serviceable. Considering what I've heard about Sweich and the amount of playing time he gets, you'd think he's playing with a blindfold and crutches. Actually, he just blocked a shot.
    Hardiman is 4-of-13 free throws. Watching him toss charity shots is a simple pleasure of life.
    Make that two blocks for Sweich. He split a pair of free throws to get in the scoring column, too.
    Final stats of note: Roberts led both teams with 13 points. Brett McKnight (12), Hitchens (10) and Chris McKnight (10) also reached double figures. Hardiman led both teams with eight rebounds. Linhart had seven. McNees had four assists. CMU had five as a team.
    Zeigler slipped out without talking to the media, which is disappointing.
    Final score -- Akron 64, Central Michigan 43

    Postgame quotes Keith Dambrot
    "That was the longest game in the history of mankind. They're a hard-nosed, tough team. You worry about getting lulled to sleep when someone holds the ball on you. We played hard in the last 15 seconds of the shot clock."
    "Our bench continues to improve. We continue to throw the ball inside."
    "It was a very important game for us. Right now, we can make or break our season. We lost those four close games. We have this other opportunity where we can get ourselves into postseason position."
    "You're seeing more consistency in what we're doing. We have a better sense in how to win basketball games."
    "We thought there were some keys in the game. We didn't want Robbie Harman to pop us off and shoot jumpers. Marcus Van, he's only had two assists all year, so we wanted to double team him and make him throw it out. Hardiman, we thought we could keep him off his right hand. We told our guys to take the foul because he ain't gonna make free throws."
    "McClanahan probably struggled the most tonight (of the guards on defense)."
    "We got a little sloppy at the end of this game. But we haven't been in a position like this much. That requires tremendous discipline when you're up 20. Unless you're up 20 with three minutes to go, it's not over."
    "All good teams have competition. It puts me under stress because I have to figure out who's playing well any given night."
    "The biggest reason we're better is that the McKnights have made a jump. And Nikola has given us depth. Bardo is still doing good things. You can't judge him by the stat line."
    Nikola "just loses his mind at times (on the floor). He's one of the lowest maintenance guys we have as far as school work and doing the right thing. He's one of the best freshmen I've had at that position. That includes Rome, Wood and those guys."
    "I don't think the West and the East are that much different. You probably have a few more coaches that have been in place on the East. These guys just beat Ohio U."
    "We have to punch them on the left side, punch them on the right side of the head, then punch them on the top of the head when they come in this building."
    "He tried to keep it within 10 or 12, which is pretty smart on the road, hoping we'd make mistakes down the line."
    "They played on Thursday night. I don't feel sorry for them because we've played four games in eight days. I was coach at Central Michigan and that's the worst travel job in the league."
    On Hardiman's free-throw shooting: "He's throwing bottle rockets up there."
    On Roberts not being on scholarship: "He nonqualified. Didn't graduate high school until summertime. He blew it early. Halfway through his prop year, he wrote me a letter saying he didn't want to play here. About January, I didn't know the guy was still here. He came into my office and said he wanted to play. The guy deserves a scholarship. I worked really hard to get him on the right track. He's done a very good job at solving his problems. He might be the best walk-on in the country. He's got a great mom. That's one of the reasons he turned it around. His uncle is one of the best referees in the country, Mike Roberts."
    "One of the best times I've had was when I was with Coach Ben Braun at Eastern. Everytime you win, it makes the game bigger. When you have a team that has a chance, you can't afford to lose. When we lost the game against Norhtern Illinois, that hurt us."
    Darryl Roberts
    "It was awkward because they slowed it on offense."
    "In order for us to be as good as we need to be, I need to produce."
    "In high school, I shot around 85 percent (from the foul line). At the end of the games, it's good to have a good free throw line. I take pride in that."
    "At the time (I wrote the letter to Dambrot), I just didn't want to play basketball."
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