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The university, knowing the nation is watching, lit up InfoCision Stadium for the overhead blimp to capture.
I'm sitting beside the west basket, near the AK-Rowdies. Last time this happened, they mistook me for a Kent fan (or something) and started attacking me. Or maybe it was that I popped their beach ball at a football game. I can't remember for sure.
I'm wearing white. Yes, I considered that the media is to remain impartial, and that going along with this "white out" thing is supporting one team over another. Let's be real, though. I'm more of a lawyer than a journalist now.
I can't see the stands immediately behind me, but it looks like Akron fans are outnumbering Kent fans at a 10-to-1 clip. It's possible, of course, there is a big batch of them in the west endzone.
Michael Reghi sat next to me. As you know from multiple past posts, he is my all-time favorite commentator. If I were at home watching, I'd pissed he's not the commentator.
It was sort of neat seeing people at law school today and being able to tell immediately who was going to the game by their white clothing. I know of at least 30 people going in groups. My girlfriend is going to witness her first Zips game. If Akron-Kent is your first, it probably won't be your last.
Keith Dambrot is not wearing a white suit. I was hoping for that. Bruce Pearl, he is not.
Akron starters: Steve McNees, Jimmy Conyers, Humpty Hitchens, Nik Cvetinovic and Chris McKnight. Kent starters: Justin Greene, Chris Singletary, Frank Henry-Ala, Tyree Evans, and Rodriguez Sherman.
I'm a little surprised to see Cvetinovic start. Dambrot is showing confidence in the sophomore's ability to control his emotions.
This place is ALIVE. And it's packed to capacity. There are people up in the corners, where the janitors haven't cleaned since the Cavs scrimmage here. Of the fans I can see, the ratio is about 20-1 Akron fans. That's no exaggeration. The coloring of shirts makes it much easier to estimate.
Cvetinovic proved Dambrot right on the first possession, knocking down a mid-range jumper and grabbing the game's first rebound.
For the third time this season, Kent State is wearing its black jerseys.
Henry-Ala fought off McNees for a loose ball, with Henry-Ala's elbow getting a little wild. Fans booed, but no one would have noticed if this wasn't Kent vs. Akron.
Singletary went to the free throw line, and the AK-Rowdies reminded him of his most infamous (alleged) statistic.
Zeke Marshall entered the game. I want to see how he responds in this atmosphere.
Conyers is everywhere you want him to be on the floor. He just tapped back a missed Marshall hook.
During a timeout, Tom Wistrcill gave outgoing Kent State AD Laing Kennedy a commemorative Wagon Wheel plaque. On the jumbotron, they showed a picture of Kennedy posing with Zippy. That is the most tasteful way to slap a rival in the face: Give him a miniature of the trophy his football team rarely secured, then blast up a picture of him posing with your mascot. God bless you, Mr. Wistrcill.
Brett McClanahan has made three bad decisions in a row. He failed to block out, giving up an easy layup. He didn't go after a loose ball, thinking it would go out of bounds; it didn't. He bit on a fake pass during a fast break, allowing a layup.
If you don't play smart against Kent (or Akron, for that matter), you'll quickly give up a lead. That's the Zips position now.
I was just informed via text message that the InfoCision Stadium lights are no longer lit for the blimp. Thanks, Steve. I'm getting a lot of texts from people in the building and at home. Sorry if I'm not responding. There's a lot going on here.
McClanahan made it four poor decisions. He heaved a long 3-pointer early in the clock.
Brandon Parks is shouting toward Marshall, who shrugged him off. An AK-Rowdie reminded Parks: "You haven't done anything!"
The women's tennis team is ranked 67th in the nation. The Zips play their home matches in the beautiful city of Stow, which is always looking for entrepreneurs with wonderful, ingenious business plans.
Sherman crossed over Hitchens badly and scooted the rim for a layup. The Zips, meanwhile, haven't had a shot fall in seven minutes. Cvetinovic broke the streak.
On the bright side, Conyers is doing a great job on Greene. The Akron senior just drew an offensive foul as Green attempted to post him up.
I learned via text message that Dambrot is wearing tennis shoes. I don't think it's related to the Coaches Vs. Cancer event because Geno Ford is wearing dress shoes.
Kent State is getting a lot of easy looks close to the rim. Meanwhile, Akron is missing open looks at 3s.
Mike McKee, Singletary and Hitchens all went down in a heap of bodies under the hoop. Singletary, at first, gave a facial expression like he was going to pound Hitchens. He cooled down. And they all hugged it out.
I'm trying to find my girlfriend who said she is "sitting next to some [explitive] wearing yellow." Thanks for really narrowing it down. Why didn't you just say you were sitting next to someone with two ears?
For you Reghi fanatics, he told me he'll be calling all four game on Thursday, both games on Friday and the championship on Saturday.
Kent State is firing efficient outlet passes, which are giving the Flashes numbers going the other way.
Cvetinovic has six points. He seems to be the only player who can isolate.
Conyers picked up his second foul. With a couple minutes left in the half, Dambrot won't risk a third before the buzzer.
Parks, who is quickly becoming my least favorite player on my least favorite team, tried to bulldog his way to the rim. The ref called him for an offensive foul. Parks pointed to the jumbotron, as if there was a replay to exonerate him. It was showing live action.
Chris McKnight picked up his third foul.
Halftime stats of note: Conyers leads both teams with 10 points. Singletary has nine. Henry-Ala leads the game with seven rebounds. Chris McKnight has six. Akron is shooting only 27 percent, compared to Kent's 42 percent. Akron is 1-for-11 on 3s. Kent is 0-for-9. Akron has 11 turnovers; Kent, nine.
Singletary picked up his third foul 18 seconds into the first half. That hurts Kent. I think you'll see Kent go into Greene more often to get Conyers to pick up his third. Greene finally scored his first points.
Evans also picked up his third foul. That makes two of Kent's top four players who are in foul trouble.
The Flashes opened their biggest lead of the game of 12 after a McKee 3 and a Sherman fast-break dunk. That one-twentieth of the crowd is getting noisy. Brett McKnight responded with his own 3.
Sherman made a 3 to extend it to 14. Anthony Simpson hit another to extend it to 17. McClanahan charged on the next possession. Simpson dunked it on the next time down. The Zips are imploding again. Deja vu of Jan. 23.
Chris McKnight gave Hitchens a pep talk. He's doing his best to salvage his final game at Rhodes Arena.
Hitchens is pressuring freshman guard Randal Holt as Holt brings the ball up the court. The Zips need to throw a change up to Kent in some form. Simpson, in particular, is splashing everything he throws up there.
The fan banter between Kent State fans and Akron fans is always off the wall. Rarely does it focus on basketball. Normally, the discussions is of counting felonies, of which is the better institution, or of who was right on May 4, 1970.
Singletary has been on the bench for eight minutes, and Kent built a lead. That is very good news for Ford.
Sherman burned Hitchens again. Nobody was there on the weakside help, so it was an easy bucket.
Singletary committed his fourth foul. With nine minutes left and Kent State up 19, does it matter?
Jeremy Guy, the media relations representative for MAC basketball, said first round games are at campus sites this year because it's harder to keep the Cavaliers away from Quicken Loans Arena for so long.
Akron has begun to press Kent State with 7:30 left. So far, so bad. Simpson beat it with a layup.
Brett McKnight swatted Greene on a dunk attempt. Hitchens missed a wide-open 3 that would have let the Zips capitalize. Simpson made a jumper on the next time down, extending Kent's lead to 19 with five minutes to play.
An AK-Rowdy told Simpson to "close his mouth." Simpson looked over and stuck out his tongue.
Fans are trickling out of the arena with five minutes left. Zips down 20.
My secret formula for nailing the coffin shut is: Deficit > (minutes left x 2) + 6. With Deficit = 20 and Minutes = 5, the fans are correct to leave.
As the No. 3 seed, Akron will play the winner of Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m. Thursday. Those teams will play on Sunday. Both can and have beaten Akron in the past 25 months.
To me, this game was a blowout for three reasons: 1) Kent's great shooting, particularly at important moments. 2) Akron's poor defense, individual and team, inside and outside -- just a bad effort all over. 3) The Zips' bad outside shooting (2-for-15 on 3s).
You can turn off the lights to this arena (barring a CBI home game). The Zips went 13-4 at Rhodes Arena, which is a subpar five months of protecting this gym.
Final stats of note: Kent State shot 52 percent, compared to Akron's 39. The Zips were 3-of-18 on 3s; Kent was 3-of-12. Kent outrebounded Akron 36 to 30. Simpson led both teams with 23. Conyers had 18. Simpson and Henry-Ala had nine rebounds apiece.
Here is a good question: Is the 3 seed better off than than 1 seed? The 1 seed has the third and fourth best teams (Buffalo and Miami) on its side of the bracket. Kent State will play Ohio or Bowling Green in the first round, then probably Miami or Buffalo in the second round.
Final score -- Akron 61, Kent State 74
"Foul trouble is something that I've been dealing with all season. Teammates have been stepping up all season. Anthony is capable of doing that any night."
"Being that we got six seniors and we felt last year we didn't do a good job competing for the MAC Championship. It feels great."
"Coach (Armon) Gates just told me, 'Congratulations.' That's something we weren't able to do his senior year. Akron beat him three times. It's always big to come here and get a win."
"I think we're 14-0 when Anthony (Simpson) is in double figures."
"Being able to get in the right position. Akron does a good job at chasing the hedge so our big men are open a lot."
"We're not trying to prove anyone wrong. We're not worried about what the media say."
If KSU doesn't win, "It would be another team executing better than us. We are going to give a championship effort."
"It's always big to get a win here."
When asked: How much bigger was it because it was for a conference title? "I don't know. Maybe we'll see later on tonight."
"Chris' mom called him earlier and said, 'Be a dog.' He was calling me kitty cat earlier. We weren't trying to lose. That was the only thing going through my head."
"My teammates and the refs were saying, 'Don't say anything (to the fans.)' Now I can look at them and laugh."
On his hot shooting: "I was unconscious."
"We lost here last year. That was a lot of motivation right there."
"One thing our coaches kept on telling us was, 'Keep on attacking,' no matter how much we were up. We were trying our best to get consecutive stops and execute on offense."
"I just started smiling when Anth(ony) hit his three."
"The one thing we've been preaching since Italy is winning a MAC Championship for our seniors."
"To win a conference championship, you have to win on the road. I felt we played really, really well, and they were not great in the first half. That was the difference. They couldn't get it to a close enough score for us to fold. Fortunately, we were lucky. Anthony Simpson made some big plays."
"The perception of Kent State basketball is that we're a national program. We've had a team for 100 years, but we've only done this four times in our history. What we did is pretty special."
"The loss at Buffalo, we weren't even competitive. At that stage in the year, we tried to just throw it out."
"It's a culture. To be fair, Akron has the same toughness culture we do. That's what we hang our hat on. We hang our hat on coming up with loose balls. We hang our hat on finishing around the rim."
"They got some good looks and missed them early. We needed them to not shoot well from 3. Three-for-12 for us is about par for the course. Defending 3s for us is of the utmost importance."
"Anthony is a face-up guy. I thought he just had one of those nights when it was clicking for him. He really played at a high level."
"We felt like we were going to be pretty good. I think it's a good motivational tool to be picked where you're picked. Those things don't mean much."
"I'm going to enjoy this for a day or two. At our level, the interesting thing is, if our conference RPI was a little higher. ESPN will talk about St. Mary's and Cornell being on the bubble, and their RPIs are lower than us. We have to win a couple more games and get to Saturday first."
"The tough one to win is the regular season championship. The fun one is the tournament, because you get to go to the NCAAs."
"That's probably the first time in my six years that we've gotten our ass beat that bad at home. The score wasn't even indicative of how they beat us. They played well. We just didn't play with any discipline. We had no offensive discipline. No defensive discipline. Whatever team has won this series has taken better shots than the other team. Our shot selection was awful. We got outside of our realm. We didn't play as a team."
"The sad thing is, we had a terrific year. I wish it would have been a much better game than that, but we didn't play well enough to give it a chance. I think about the only spot they didn't destroy us was the 2 spot. The 5 man killed us. The 4 man killed us. Rod Sherman beat our brains in. I know what it takes to beat them, and we didn't do any of those things."
"I don't think it's a particularly great matchup, but I don't think it's as bad of a matchup as it was tonight. Comparing scores, they didn't do that to a lot of other people, at least in their building. They're old and tough. Last year was a good eye-opener for them. They came ready to play. Maybe we're not as good as I think. We were jittery. That is the best way to describe it. We have showed signs of that before. We didn't play that jittery against Gonzaga."
"We going to have to change what we did. We knew we couldn't come down and take those shots and win, but we did it anyway. When you show a lack of discipline, it was like we were a last place team. If we don't rally ourselves, we will get beat in the first round. It's going to be hard to go in and believe you can beat them after they beat you on your home floor."
"We knew either way that this is the little prize and the big prize is on the line. When you get beat like that, it's not an easy job to rally your troops. We've been dead in the water before with this group. Ball State is going through it right now. They're struggling. They basically gave away the West. We just got to be positive. We have to bring our lunch pail and go to work."
"I'm not trying to say in any means that Kent didn't play well. They did."
"I don't like to lose and I really don't like to lose to Kent. I'm mature enough to know we have to get onto the next one. We were written off for dead last year. If we play again, hopefully we will, the point spread will be a little different than it was today. People won't expect us to win."
"They're a little older than us, but I can't use that as an excuse for our guys. They've had more of a consistent season than us. They've been a little better than we have."
"Last year was an abberation for Kent. They're playing like the old Kent teams now."
"Once we started scrambling, I'm not upset about that. We're going to give up baskets when we're scrambling."
"Rod Sherman is the reason they win. Rod Sherman is why they win. Rod Sherman didn't play last year. You do the math. He is a winning guy. Right now, they have three guys who are First Team All-MAC."
"We played one good half against them out of four halves. We haven't had much trouble against anyone else in the league. They're a lot better than we are. That's the only thing I can say after the performances we have. That's not easy for me to say."
"We just threw the damn thing out of bounds. We just played flustered. We never said, 'Enough is enough. We'll just play relaxed.' Jimmy has good numbers, but he just played on his own island. You're not going to win like that. We shot it when we should pass. We passed it when we should shoot. We dribbled it when we should shoot. And we threw it to the other team half the game."
"They came in here and won the championship. They should celebrate. So they tried to throw an alley-oop. None of that bothers me. I didn't think anything was bad. I think they're respect among the two teams. The fans probably hate each other."
"I tried to wear these LeBrons (shoes) because he has done a lot for this program, but I think I should have asked him to play tonight."
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