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The Zips are seven-point favorites today. That seems a little low to me.
Akron starters: Steve McNees, Nik Cvetinovic, Humpty Hitchens, Jimmy Conyers and Zeke Marshall.
I keep getting asked about the news Stow's mayor made this week, keeping an interchange closed for an entire month so she could schedule a ribbon-cutting ceremony. I'll leave it at that, in order to maintain the separation of politics and Zips.
Marshall pancaked a shot from Ohio forward Reggie Keely.
Conyers has found his way to the interior for a couple easy layups.
I'm going to watch Ohio's prodigy point guard D.J. Cooper closely. He has scored in double figures 19 of his first 25 collegiate games. Cooper is quite thin and shorter than McNees.
They are trying to lead the crowd in singing the fight song. I'm not sure how well it's catching on, other than the student section.
Cvetinovic double-pumped on a free throw, which caused everyone to position themselves in the paint well before the shot was released. The ruling was a "double lane violation," and the ball went to Akron on the alternate possession. McNees cashed in on this chicanery by drilling a deep 3. This would be a FANTASTIC idea if your team is down three with 10 seconds to play and the arrow is pointing your way. I hope I didn't just give up a scheme for the MAC Tournament.
Marshall put a stamp on another Keely shot attempt. Again, the ball didn't get a chance to leave Keely's hand.
Conyers got a steal and led a two-on-one break with Darryl Roberts. It was a perfect opportunity for Roberts to throw an alley-oop lob. Rather, Roberts plowed over Cooper in a questionable charge. On the next possession, refs blew the world's most obvious makeup call on Armon Bassett, an offensive foul for positioning in the post. Even so, the fans are getting very testy at these refs.
Cooper threw a nice alley-oop lob that DeVaughn Washington dunked.
Cooper and Hitchens have bickered a little. On the most recent play, Hitchens had the ball and pushed Cooper away from him. Somehow, Hitchens appeared to get poked in the eye during that exchange.
The crowd tonight is pretty big -- about what you'd expect for an Akron-Ohio matchup. Fans have been loud, but nothing like the Bubba Walther years. I'm really disappointed in the AK-Rowdies turnout. When I was in undergrad, you had to show up early to be assured of sitting behind the basket for a MAC game. This afternoon, there are at least 15 open seats on one end.
Ronnie Steward crossed over a Bobcat defender and slashed toward the rim. He passed up a semi-contested layup for a nice interior pass to Chris McKnight, who made a layup while being fouled.
The referees are really letting the players hammer each other with body checks, but it seems to be they are calling hand checks freely.
Steward threw a perfect lob to Conyers on a fast break. The one-handed dunk missed, but it would have been sexy. Conyers punished the rim. The refs called an offensive foul on Steward, too.
Brett McKnight hit a sweet turn-around eight-footer. He's sporting a new hair arrangement. No word on whether it was the cause of his recent one-game suspension.
Halftime stats of note: Chris McKnight has 11 points and seven rebounds to lead Akron in both categories. Keely has 10 rebounds and nine points. Cooper has nine points and three assists. The teams combined for 13-of-25 from the free-throw line. Akron is shooting 48 percent; Ohio is 33 percent.
I like the university's idea to "white out" Kent State, particularly because the game will be on ESPN2. It should be a great experience for recruits who are visiting.
A referee pointed out a member of the AK-Rowdies to the security guard. The ref asked the guard to get the student to stop whatever it is he's saying. I've never heard of that happening. The AK-Rowdies probably would consider it an honor.
Conyers came off a curl screen and swished a fall-away 15-foot jumper. It's peculiar how everything seemed to fall in place for him this season. I mean, he was an awful shooter. In fact, just about any time he held the ball, you sensed his knees were quivering. Now he confidently handles the ball, takes risks and shoots with a smooth stroke.
Marshall got whistled for his third foul. Ohio might have gameplanned for that because the Bobcats' first possession of the second half went down low to Keely.
Akron broke through a poorly executed full-court press. It sprung them for a three-on-one break, but Conyers lost the ball on the way to the rim.
Keely played high school at Cleveland Heights. With he and Cooper, Ohio has a fantastic true freshman tandem. I am very impressed with Cooper's ability to finish at the rim. He has a beautiful shooting stroke. He has an even-keeled demeanor and takes good care of the ball. Exceptionally smart, too.
The Bobcats took the lead on a Cooper fast break layup. Akron has been sloppy with the ball, despite having McNees, Roberts, Conyers, Chris McKnight and Marshall on the floor.
The Zips are 9-of-18 at the free-throw line. So much for that improvement thing.
A girl just won burritos for a year from Chipotle. Amazing. What a privilege.
Conyers pulled off what might be a momentum-changing play. He dunked home a missed Hitchens runner. Ironically enough, Washington dunked on an identical play on the Bobcats next possession.
Kenneth van Kempen picked up his fourth foul on a Conyers drive to the hoop. Conyers applied some side-English to the ball so it spun off the backboard the correct way. Conyers missed the free throw, which would have tied the game.
Akron moved to a zone defense at the 10 minute mark.
My law school buddy Tim Gallagher is sitting in the stands. Despite going to Ohio for undergrad, he's wearing an Akron hat. It shows that being an Ohio fan is a curable disease.
Mike Bardo scrapped for a rebound. It looked like he took four or five un-dribbled steps. No traveling call.
Hitchens scored on a breakaway layup to tie the game. Bassett blocked the shot after it hit the backboard, which is by definition a goaltending violation.
I give John Groce credit for giving this program a makeover. It plays defense. It's not overly flashy. The Bobcats are going to be back at the top of the MAC very soon. In fact, they have the league's third best scoring margin, behind only Akron and Kent State.
Conyers splashed a 3 to regain the lead for Akron. Cooper responded with his own 3. This is a great atmosphere. I wasn't at the Rhode Island game, but it's the best I've felt all year. Man, I'm so excited for the Kent State game. It should be electric.
The game has gone back and forth a few more times. The Zips can't keep Ohio from scoring when given an opportunity to extend the lead past three or four.
Cvetinovic picked up his fourth foul, and it was a bad one. He rammed into Keely from behind on a rebound that Keely obviously was going to grab. The Bobcats are in the one-and-one.
Akron attempted to play with six players on the floor, which is a violation of the basic premise of basketball.
Van Kempen fouled out. He did not have an effective afternoon. He's the kind of guy you hate to see graduate if you're an Akron fan.
Bassett came off a screen and swished a 3 to tie the game with 2:28 left. The Bobcats are getting points when they need them.
With the game tied and one minute left, the fans all stood up. McNees found a cutting Chris McKnight for an easy bucket. Ohio ball with 57 seconds left.
Cooper swiveled into the paint and made a seven-footer. He is the best player I've seen all year, and one of the best guards I've seen at Rhodes Arena, behind VCU's Eric Maynor and Nevada's guards.
Akron ball with 18 seconds left, but only 14 on the shot clock. McNees took a 3 from the top of the key. It may or may not have hit the rim. Roberts collected the rebound and missed a five-footer from point-blank off the back rim before the shot clock expired (or so I thought). The shot clock did not expire. After Chris McKnight grabbed the rebound, the refs blew the whistle for a shot-clock expiration. They are discussing it now.
It's Akron ball with four seconds left. They corrected the call.
I like giving the ball to McNees for the last shot. He is smart with the ball and possesses the triple threat ability to shoot, drive and dish to an open man if a double team arises.
The ball went to Brett McKnight, who faded away from the elbow. It missed badly. Not close. We're going to overtime.
On that shot clock confusion, Akron could have really cashed in. The buzzer sounded, but not the whistle. Players, by rule, are instructed to play to the whistles, not buzzers. McKnight could have laid the ball in for the game-winning bucket while everyone else stood around and watched. It wouldn't have been fair, but fans would leave Rhodes Arena happy.
Roberts opened overtime with a 10-foot jumper. Chris McKnight caught a Roberts airball on the next possession. He scored as Washington fouled him (his fourth). McKnight missed the foul shot. Akron is 13-of-25 from the line. Ohio is 13-of-26.
Cooper has played the entire game so far. All 40 minutes. Bassett has played all but three minutes. Keely has played 30 minutes. These guys must be getting gassed.
Ohio keeps pressing Akron, but they're not very tenacious about it. The Zips are able to break it and get numbers on the break almost every time. The McKnight brothers led the most recent break. Brett hit Chris with a cross-court bounce pass, and Chris was fouled.
On the next play, Roberts rebounded a missed 3 and made a tremendous outlet pass that sprung the Zips on another fast break, which Hitchens capped with a layup. They gave Roberts an assist for it.
With a six-point lead, Akron went to a 2-3 zone. I like how Keith Dambrot throws that change-up every now and then, but it's bad timing to allow shooters more space with a two-possession lead. Well, there ya go. Tommy Freeman drilled a 3.
Washington fouled out. Chris McKnight will have two more free throws. He already has 24 points. He made one.
Cooper splashed an open 3. McNees responded by cutting through traffic and making an acrobatic layup.
The Zips are playing man-to-man defense again. Marshall fouled out in attempting to stop a Keely shot. Keely clanked both off the back of the rim.
The AK-Rowdies chanted "Stand up!" The crowd obliged.
Roberts tripped, so a McNees pass went out of bounds. Keely converted a layup on the other end, taking the lead down to one.
It's Akron's ball with a one-point lead and 25 seconds left. The shot clock is off, so you'll see Ohio foul or trap. Both teams have one timeout left.
Freeman fouled Conyers. Let's see if my hypothesis about Conyers is true. Will he be a clutch free throw shooter come March? He swished both. Cooper dribbled into the frontcourt and called timeout. Bobcats ball. They're down three with 16 seconds left.
Freeman hit a wide-open 3. A few minutes earlier, Tom Gaffney predicted that Freeman would play a role in the outcome. He demanded a mention in the blog for his prophesy. (He was going to get one anyhow.)
McNees took the ball down the court with 11 seconds left. He took a long 3, which came up short. Ohio gathered the rebound in time for a 50-foot heave that wasn't close. Second overtime.
Conyers dashed into the lane and dropped in a bunny to start the second overtime.
When I said, "McNees needs the ball at the end of the game," I should add a caveat: No long 3s. If he gets a pick, a 3 can be appropriate, but shooting from five feet behind the line is never a good idea.
Brett McKnight pump faked to get Keely in the air. Then he made the shot after Keely fouled him. McKnight made the free throw to extend Akron's lead to five. Austin Carr calls that "catching a bird."
Cooper will have played 50 minutes tonight, maybe more. For Akron, Conyers is up to 42. McNees has played 36. With four straight points, Cooper pulled Ohio to within one.
If this game goes on too much longer, it will foul up my Valentine's Day plans. I was operating on the premise that I could run some errands after this game but before church (at 6:30).
Brett McKnight hit two more free throws. Cooper responded with a floater while he was heavily guarded. Very clutch. It's Akron's ball, Zips up one, a minute left.
Brett McKnight missed a runner off the glass. He got his own rebound. The ran some clock before Conyers missed a 3-pointer. It's Ohio's ball, down one with 18 seconds left. Triple-overtime seems unlikely.
McNees played great defense on Cooper, spinning him into the double-team from Cvetinovic. Cooper slipped and traveled. Akron's ball with 3.9 seconds left. Ohio will foul.
Asown Sayles grabbed Conyers after he caught the inbounds pass from McNees. Akron cleared its men to the backcourt to prevent a Doug Penno-like event. Conyers made the second.
McNees fouled Cooper, who will try to make the first and miss the second, hoping for the rebound. Cooper missed the first. With only 1.1 seconds left, Ohio didn't have time for the kick-out for a 3. The Zips win a very entertaining game. Akron is tied with Kent State for the lead in the MAC.
There are all sorts of absurd stats tonight. Chris McKnight led Akron with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Conyers had 20 and 11. Cooper led Ohio with 33 points, playing the entire game. Keely grabbed 20 rebounds, which is a new Rhodes Arena record. Akron shot 44 percent, compared to Ohio's 40. Akron's free-throw shooting improved to 63.9 percent after they made 10 of 12 in overtime. Ohio was 52.8 percent all game. The Bobcats outrebounded the Zips, 55 to 49.
Final score -- Akron 91, Ohio 88