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Liveblog -- Akron vs. Eastern Michigan

By mrasor Published: February 1, 2010

Men's basketball
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In minutes, will announce its BracketBuster matchups. If it's not enough for the Worldwide Leader to practically monopolize decent sports coverage, it also gets to choose which games it will cover. Not a bad deal for ESPN.
I have my dad's computer, which has served me well as a backup over the years.
Humpty Hitchens is suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules. So is Alex Sullivan. Both are wearing street clothes. I want to see if Ronnie Steward can run the point. Maybe this is his opportunity.
EMU has three really good players. First is Brandon Bowdry, a 6-foot-6 power forward who leads the team with 16.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. Second is Carlos Medlock, a senior point guard who leads the team with 3.5 assists per game and chips in 14.8 points. Third is Justin Dobbins, a 6-8 center who averages 12.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
The team was picked third in the MAC West because of this trio. The Eagles have struggled to make 3s (27 percent), and they attempt a lot of them. Also, Medlock isn't taking great care of the ball. In conference play, he has committed 27 turnovers and dished only 16 assists. Bowdry's field goal percentage has plummeted since MAC play began. He was once among the league leaders in shooting. Now he's down to 41.3 percent, which is terrible for a big man of his skill.
Akron is in the midst of a three-games-in-five-days home stand. Let's face it; Rhodes Arena is not the castle it used to be. But let's give Keith Dambrot credit for where he's improved -- on the road.
Everyone keeps asking me to update my browser to see if the BracketBuster matchups are announced. Not yet...
EMU's MAC record is deceiving, too. The Eagles played the toughest three MAC West foes on the road (WMU, CMU and NIU), while getting the easier games at home.
Akron's BracketBuster opponent is Virginia Commonwealth, the team of former Akron assistant Shaka Smart. It is one of the 11 televised games, although it's on ESPNU. VCU has some notable wins: over No. 17 Oklahoma, Nevada and Rhode Island. The Rams' RPI is 60.
Akron's starters: Darryl Roberts, Steve McNees, Nik Cvetinovic, Chris McKnight and Jimmy Conyers.
Medlock drained two contested mid-range jumpers to start the game. He is donning a face mask. I can't find any news stories that will explain why.
EMU looks like an energetic, athletic team. Akron has been very good on defense, but the Eagles are making difficult shots.
EMU pressured Akron's inbounds play after a turnover. The Zips lobbed it in to Zeke Marshall, whose height is a great release valve for beating the press.
Eagles forward Jay Higgins and Akron's Brett McClanahan have each made consecutive 3-pointers. The teams have combined for 8-of-10 on 3s.
Softball coach Julie Jones brought her team onto the floor to honor a local girl who has a brain tumor. The AK-Rowdies chanted the girl's name as they left the court to a standing ovation. It was a touching moment. Kudos to Jones and the softballers.
Higgins canned another 3. His career high is five 3-pointers in a game. He has four now, with 27 minutes left in the game. His career high in points is 25.
With five minutes to play in the first half, Dobbins and Bowdry have not scored.
Eastern Michigan is playing zone. I don't understand why teams do that against Akron, which has proven it can beat the zone and which features multiple 3-point shooters in just about any lineup it trots out there.
Dobbins got hit with a technical foul for saying too much to the ref. Roberts cashed in on both free throws. He is still scoreless. Bowdry now has four.
With 6.1 seconds left in the half, Roberts fouled Medlock, who was shooting a 3. Medlock made two of three free throws.
The refs heard a chorus of scattered boos as they left the court.
Halftime stats of note: The teams were a combined 10-for-21 on 3-pointers, which surpassed their numbers on regular field goals. Chris McKnight leads Akron with seven points and four rebounds. Higgins has 12, and Antonio Green scored nine. McNees dished five assists (and no turnovers).
I don't want to be a jerk, but somebody has to say it: These halftime shows have stunk. I suppose it pads your attendance to put a bunch of youngsters out on the court to do a little dance, but come on. It takes away from the overal quality of the product. It's great that the kids participate in this sort of program. Their parents should be proud. But the entertainment value is not Division I-quality.
Cvetinovic plowed over an Eastern Michigan defender for an offensive foul on Akron's first possession of the second half. McNees looked visibly irritated. Chris McKnight had to cool him down a little. That's good. They need more leader-types who will hold their teammates accountable.
Brett McKnight picked up his third foul, and it was a bad call. On the next possession, Chris McKnight was whistled for his second on what appeared to be a clean play. These refs are really pushing the Zips fans' tolerance.
Bowdry attempted a flop. It was an admirable performance -- grunt and all. The refs didn't buy it, and I think its obvious theatrical nature prevented the refs from blowing a loose-ball foul on Conyers a few seconds later. I wonder if refs take it personally when you flop. In essence, your decision to flop is premised upon a belief you can fool the zebras.
Following the flop attempt, the refs blew consecutive fouls on Bowdry. They weren't really retributive. Both were pretty obvious calls. He smeared Brett McKnight on a fast break. That's four fouls on Bowdry.
Dobbins finally got around to scoring. He made a couple of free throws after Mike Bardo foul in transition. Dobbins followed that up with a foul on Marshall's dunk attempt. Dobbins has three fouls. Poor Dobbins just can't win. Marshall swatted him.
Here is an off-the-wall idea: Marshall plays so much better when he's mean. Akron needs to designate a player to "diss" his mom during timeouts and stoppages in play. If it turns out this makes Zeke go postal (and it very well could), forget I said that.
Cvetinovic committed his fourth foul. He is 0-for-4 from the field.
EMU went on a 6-0 run and leads by seven. The fans are finally getting restless. I was preaching in the preseason that EMU is going to be good. I think you'll see the Eagles do things this year they've never done before. Beating Dambrot at Rhodes Areana would qualify for that category.
McNees turned it over by picking up his dribble in the backcourt and having to force a cross-court pass that wound up in the front row.
If you're wondering how EMU keeps Charles Ramsey on board despite his crummy 52-91 career record, it's because he is Mr. Ypsilanti. He grew up there, played his high school basketball there, played for EMU, served as an assistant coach for EMU and is heavily involved in the community.
The Zips have been inept on offense, so they're wratcheting up the defensive pressure. The fans are getting into it, too. The fans' consternation reflects that this is the "don't screw this up" part of the schedule. In fact, this is the quintessential "don't screw this up" game.
Conyers leaped over the Zips bench to attempt to save a ball. It was a tense moment because it didn't look like his one foot cleared the chairback. That's the formula for a faceplant.
Bardo is getting more offensive opportunities than I can remember him seeing all year.
Right in front of us, Conyers leaped to intercept a pass. He flew out of bounds into the scorer's table. The Plain Dealer's writer heard Conyers say "time out" a few centimeters before he touched the floor. I didn't.
Conyers got a big put-back layup. Why was it "big"? It seemed like the crowd needed something. It caused Ramsey to call time out. Akron is back to within two.
The Zips tied the game. Cvetinovic tipped away a pass and was rewarded with the feed for a layup on the secondary break.
For as good as Higgins has been on 3s, he's a rotten free-throw shooter (42 percent in MAC games). Bowdry is another one to foul (53 percent).
Marshall has not looked good defending meatier players. He lets them get great position, then tries to rely solely on timing his jump as a method to defend the shot.
Akron put together a lousy possession, draining the clock down to one second before McNees penetrated and found Cvetinovic with a pass for a wide-open layup. Akron is down one with 4:30 to play.
Brett McKnight made two foul shots to give Akron the lead back. EMU has 10 fouls so the Zips are shooting two from now on.
In other MAC-tion, Kent State won by 30 over NIU at the M.A.C. Center. Western Michigan won by 15 at Buffalo (seriously!?). Bowling Green held home court against Toledo, winning by 11.
Higgins tossed up a 3-point brick that, fortunately for the Zips, went over the backboard. Akron's bigs were not in good rebounding position.
Higgins rattled home a 3-pointer as he fell into EMU's bench. The Eagles lead by two with two minutes to play. Brett McKnight short-armed a 13-footer that barely hit rim. The Zips need to hunker down here. Timeout EMU.
In these situations, it's good to have a go-to guy. I'm talking about someone who KNOWS he's getting the ball -- someone who doesn't fear the wrath of the coach if he screws up. I remember when LeBron James was in his first couple years in the NBA, he was that guy. He wasn't very effective, but it's a role you have to grow into.
Medlock got a free lane for a layup. Ugly defense. At least he didn't run too much clock. Akron has 30 seconds to make up four points.
Akron needs a quick score, then it must foul either Higgins or Bowdry. I'd say work the ball into Cvetinovic for the first bucket.
Brett McKnight found a wide-open Conyers under the hoop for a layup. The Zips fouled Higgins, who made one of two free throws. Rebound to McClanahan. The ball found Brett McKnight for a wide-open 3 pointer, which he short-armed. I can't imagine getting a better opportunity to tie the game. The ball went out of bounds to EMU with five seconds left.
On the inbounds play, the ball went out of bounds. The refs are looking at the replay to see how much time ran off. EMU ball. Another deflection out of bounds. On the next try, McNees hammered Medlock, who needs to make only one free throw to ice the game.
Akron had six men on the floor for a moment, but the error corrected itself.
This game is a tough pinecone to swallow. The Zips broke the only inviolable rule of "don't screw it up" games; they screwed it up.
Final score -- Akron 59, Eastern Michigan 62
Final stats of note: Akron shot 34.7 percent, compared to CMU's 44.2 percent. The Zips missed their final seven 3-point attempts. Brett McKnight led Akron with 13 points. Conyers pulled down six rebounds. McNees tallied six assists. Higgins led four Eagles in double figures with 17. Dobbins grabbed seven boards.
Combined, the McKnights and Cvetinovic were 6-for-23. Roberts and McNees combined were 2-for-9. Bad shooting nights happen. There isn't much you can do. If you want to be an optimist, you can say the Zips should have been blown out after being outshot in the second half, 28.6 percent to 50 percent.
Did the Zips miss Hitchens? Maybe a hot-shooting night would have rescued Akron. He's done it before.
A lot of fans are leaving Rhodes Arena disappointed, but to put things in perspective, we just saw a brave 12-year-old girl with a brain tumor.
Akron is now 5-3 in the MAC, looking up to Kent State (6-2) and Central Michigan (5-2). The Zips don't have much time to sulk. NIU comes to Rhodes Arena for a 7 p.m. game Wednesday. The Huskies have given Akron a lot of trouble the past two seasons. CMU is next facing the MAC East gauntlet, but it will play Buffalo, Kent State and Akron all in Mount Pleasant.
Charles Ramsey
"Everything just came together tonight."
"We're finding that stage in the program where we have some depth. This has been my most cognitive team."
Keith Dambrot
"They're a good team. They're capable of shooting well. When Nikola, Brett McKnight and Chris McKnight play like that, you're not going to win."
"It will be a good check for us. Our fans will all give up on us. We will have to rally ourselves. It will be a good test of character."
"We hustled. We just didn't shoot anything. We played like we had no confidence down in there. We were missing little two-footers. Brett McKnight is a good shooter, but damn, you have to make an open 3 once. He's gotta do better than that. Until those guys play consistently, we're going to have nights like this."
On Cvetinovic: "You can't charge twice. And with two fouls to start the half, you can't charge. That's called discipline. It's bad discipline. I felt like every time we got close, we had bad discipline. Jimmy reached in at mid court. Bardo holding in the post."
"Not having Humpty hurt us. The program is bigger than any one guy. I'm going to discipline guys. I'm going to treat them like my own kids."
"At some point, you have to realize this guy is shooting 3s. You have to run at him."
"We've been down and out before. So we'll see what we're made of. I ripped their ass tonight."
"It's a funny league. Nobody is that much better than anybody else. Do I think they're that much different than Western Michigan? Naw. I don't think they're that much different than Miami."
"I'm going to get on him (Brett McKnight). At this point, that's probably not the best thing to do. He goes 2-for-9 tonight. He goes 2-for-13 at Buffalo. At Kent, he was awful. Every game we lose, there is a common denominator. He's not the best rebounder or defender we have, so we have to get him to play good offense. He's been more inconsistent this year than last year."
"We could not trap them. We tried to trap them some. We couldn't speed them up as much as others."
"They have good inside guys. We did a good enough job on their inside guys. We didn't do a good job on their peripheral guys. They stayed in the zone (defense). We've had very little trouble with it, but we had trouble tonight."
On Higgins' 3: "Jimmy gave help, but he has to run out. He didn't run out as hard as he should. He's made them all night, so you've gotta make him dribble-drive."
"You can't get a better look than that (Brett McKnight's attempt)."
"The whole thing is us. I don't think it depends on anybody else. Right now, we look like an average MAC team. I never bought the hype that we're a great MAC team. If we're not on it, we're going to have issues. It really doesn't matter who we play. We play good enough defense to be in most games. We just have to put the ball in the basket. We have to be good in the low block, because we can't go one-on-one like Carlos Medlock."
"Is it the end of the world? It is for me right now, but it won't be tomorrow. It's easy to coach when things are good."

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