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I said I wasn't going to blog tonight. And I shouldn't be. I got out of a council meeting at 7:30 and busted it up to campus. Earlier this week, I was wondering: "How much longer do I want to keep blogging?" I think I answered my question by ending a crazy day at Rhodes Arena: "As long as I physically can." This stuff is enjoyable and relaxing to me. You can't fight new taxes all day without some outlet.
The Zips are up 38-20 at the half, thanks in part to a great first half by Chris McKnight, who tallied a game-high 12 points and seven rebounds. Miami is shooting 26.7 percent from the floor, but the RedHawks have started a lot of games poorly. The big advantage for Akron is 18 points in the paint, compared to Miami's four.
As for McKnight, this is a guy who must get it going. If he can play this well, and Jimmy Conyers maintains his new persona, the Zips have the best frontcourt in the conference. And I don't think it's very close.
Adam Fletcher started the second half by backing down Zeke Marshall and executing a textbook layup. I think it was Elton Alexander who predicted that the wide centers of the MAC East would give Marshall fits.
I was really hoping to come to this game for another reason: You never know when Charlie Coles will call it quits. I don't want to pass up an opportunity to hear his final press conference at Akron.
Marshall tossed in a beautiful sky hook against Fletcher. If there's a theme to Marshall's season, it has been the rapid ups and downs. In a way, Marshall creates the problem for himself when he shows such great potential before making a mental error or allowing his lack of weight affect him.
LeVon Morefield was honored at the 15:40 mark for winning the Rudy Award. When someone rebounds from such severe strife, it's really special. He worked almost 70 hours a week to pay for school as a walk-on football player. That's not to mention growing up without parents (they were crack addicts).
Humpty Hitchens only has five points, but he has been playing solid defense against Kenny Hayes, who has nine. Hayes is probably one of the best five guards in the league.
In other MAC-tion, Kent is beating up on Buffalo at the MAC Center; Ball State is pulling off an upset over Western Michigan in Muncie, Ind.; Ohio and Bowling Green are neck-and-neck in the second half; Central Michigan has a big lead at home over Eastern Michigan; NIU and Toledo are close.
Antonio Ballard went up high to complete an impressive alley-oop from Hayes. With the athleticism that Coles has, you have to wonder if the slow-it-down style suits his personnel.
Chris McKnight has a double-double now with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Unlike at other times this season, he seems to be in the right place more often.
If the photographers were in the right place, Marshall just made Fletcher famous. Marshall finished a dunk over Miami's center and drew a foul. It was a welcomed show of aggression. Oh my! On the next play, Marshall pinned the ball against the backboard on a Fletcher dunk attempt. Fletcher probably won't his parents about that sequence when he calls home after the game.
Julian Mavunga drove from the 3-point line with a dunk in mind. Marshall entered the picture and rejected him -- one of those blocks where the offensive player's elbow is locked, so he feels the force of the block personally. The referee made a bad call by whistling Marshall for a foul. Still, it was a brutal rejection.
Marshall sprinted out to the perimeter to swat a 3-point attempt. When this kid gets a burst of confidence, it's really fun to watch because you can tell he's playing with different attributes than anyone else in the conference.
I do hate to see him abuse Fletcher, who has possessed the MAC's best beard for years now. He's a senior, and he will be sorely missed by facial hair aficionados around the Midwest.
The AK-Rowdies struck up a "Kent State sucks" chant with 2:30 to play and the Zips holding a 22-point lead. The student section has been OK tonight. Just OK. Probably filled to capacity, but not as loud as I've heard them in the past against "The Sweaters" as they nickname Miami.
Conyers dropped some jaws with a sweet reverse layup.
The reserves came in with a minute to play. That is a group that includes the Tim Carroll, Steve Swiech, Alex Sullivan, Ronnie Steward and Mike Bardo.
Final stats of note: Marshall had 13 points and three blocks. Chris McKnight finished with game highs of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Steve McNees had six assists and only one turnover. Hayes had 15 points. Fletcher logged a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. The Zips shot 48.1 percent, compared to Miami's 32.2 percent. The RedHawks made only 2-of-16 3-pointers (12.5 percent).
Final score -- Akron 69, Miami 49
"I don't know what triggers when I play like that. Maybe it's the big games."
"I'm starting to post harder. I wouldn't say I 'demand the ball,' because I don't like yelling. I'm starting to score a little more."
On back-and-forth with Fletcher: "We were just joking around. That's a possible friend I could have after basketball, if that ever happens."
On Kent State: "I haven't been introduced to that rivalry, but I have a good feeling about the game. I don't know why I do, but I play better in big games. In high school, it was the same exact thing. That's how I'm going to approach it on Saturday."
"I didn't feel good coming into the game. My body is tired."
"In Buffalo, we didn't play well enough together. We didn't guard enough. If we guard like we did tonight, we're really hard to beat."
"We know that [Nick] Winbush is an unbelievable shooter. He had eight 3s against Kentucky."
"We wanted to jump on them early and get out to an early lead."
On Kent State: "This is my last go-around. And it's Kent State. If we play like we did tonight, we're going to win."
"Now, we just have to stay consistent. Coach references last year a decent amount, for the simple fact that we'd win a couple games, then lose one. We just have to be consistent."
"Unbelievable congratulations to Coach Coles and what he's done. His toughness and longevity, and what he's overcome. It's motivational to me."
"I thought we played our best game of the year. Maybe one of the better games I've been here. It reminded me about what Buffalo did to us. We did everything went right and everything went wrong for them."
"When the McKnights play well, we're hard to beat. When they don't, we're hard to win."
"We ran better. We decided we were too conservative. We had to call less sets. I think they like playing that way more, too."
"We took Monday off, which was the best thing we did. We didn't do anything different. Same attack, but we ran more. We tried to play less in the half-court."
On Marshall: "I thought he played like he did in that two-week stretch when he was really good. We need for him to play good when he hits adversity. We need to stick with him. He changes the game. Even if he doesn't block some of them, he's in their head."
"Kent's good. And Buffalo's good. They just caught them on a bad night. If Kent wants to play, they're pretty good. They've got two high-major guys in [Chris] Singletary and Tyree Evans. The teams that are old in this league win. It's a man's league. It's a mini-Big Ten. It's not a finesse league. It's not like the Horizon. It's not like the Ohio Valley."
"They have a guy they can play through. Chris Singletary is probably the best passer in the league. They can overcome ball pressure. They remind me of the old OU teams with Jeremy Fears and that. When they want to play, they're great. When they don't want to play, they're just OK. Sometimes Kent doesn't feel like playing."
"They have some guys who are really good who don't get credit like Mike McKee. Chris Singletary probably doesn't think I respect him, but I think he's the best player in the league. To me, Singletary and [David] Kool are the best two guys."
"I didn't think we came out in the second half very good, but we made enough baskets to overcome our bad defense. We made a lot of shots in transition that helped us."
"When Zeke plays, we go from a good defensive team to a great defensive team. When he feels like playing ... That's why he needs to play."
"I'm not going to say a word (to Zeke about Kent). They're trying to bully the guy. He has to be ready. If he's good, he's good. Fine. What we have to do is develop the guy. He might not get to where he's consistent this year. Zeke can talk about all those big games he played in high school. He has no idea. He has no clue when it comes to big games. Nervousness has never been his problem. He has been unemotional at times."
"We got beat by a very good basketball team. The team that I think, right now, is the best team in the league. I don't think anybody compares to these guys. To get nine or 10 players to play, like he gets them to play ... Let's face it, Chris McKnight on another team would be playing 30 minutes. If he was on my team, I'd never take him out."
"It used to be, we'd come up here. We were better. Now we come up here, we don't have a chance. They did a great job. They move the ball. They don't miss their 3s. We miss our 3s. Our senior guard Kenny Hayes missed a 3. I called a timeout. I said, 'Kenny, I thought I'd mention to you that this would be a trade-off. You hit the 3; he [Hitchens] hits the 3. You didn't hit the 3. They started keeping score this year.'"
"But seriously, they have a good team. I don't know how good we are. I don't know how good we are. We don't play particularly hard. We don't play particularly smart. They got Marshall. I can see him getting better."
"The good team never gets confused. The bad team does. That was most of it. I don't think they did anything in particular. In the beginning, we were getting good shots. We just couldn't make them. Then we couldn't stop them. Then we lost our confidence."
"Mavunga couldn't get much done. The McKnight boys, when they see him, they say, 'Ah ha! Here you come. OK.'"
"Conyers is the wild card for them. At 6-5, he sneaks in there and gets things done. Last year, they had [Nate] Linhart who gave [Michael] Bramos a lot of fits. This year, Conyers is more offensive. I think he and Marshall are the wild cards for them. If you look up and see them in the [NCAA] Tournament, you'll see Conyers and Marshall making a difference. I see Akron as an almost-Butler team. Oh, they're smart."
"They have a great pace to their game. They'll go fast and then slow. Slow and then fast. The trick is, knowing how to use the speed you have, when you need to use it."
"Akron, if we played them tomorrow, you'd see the same outcome. If we played them Saturday, you'd see the same outcome."
"To be honest, you're going to think I'm joking when I say this: I have a ball coaching them, except when we play. I hate games, man. It seems like the worst comes out in us."
"Let's face it, I enjoy going different places and playing. I've always enjoyed that. That's the reason I've stayed in coaching so long. I wouldn't just miss my team. I wouldn't just miss Miami. I would miss sportswriters, the fans, going different places. Last year, I wasn't ready to give it up. I haven't thought twice about it.
"I met Mr. McKnight tonight. I told him a story about last year. He came in the locker room before our game. He and Brett embraced and he kissed Brett on the cheek. I told him how that touched me. I called a friend, and he started crying on the phone. You don't see that kind of love and guidance. I have the highest respect for them. I think Akron is lucky to have them. You miss those things. They all tell a story."
"I'll leave you with this: A former teammate of mine called me. He used to guard me in practice. I reminded him that he was second-string, and I was the starter. And forgive me, but he's always been an ass. He called me, and said, 'Congratulations on the record. You're not only the winningest coach at Miami, but you're the losingest coach at Miami, too.'"