Former University of Akron soccer standout Teal Bunbury scored his first goal for the U.S. Men's National Team late Saturday night in a 1-1 draw against Chile in a friendly before a crowd of 18,580 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Esteban Paredes gave Chile a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 53rd minute.To read more or comment...
Let me start by saying that I have become totally jaded by the recruiting process. Too often during my time as a reporter have I been snared by the hype of an eventual non-impact player. Too often have I passed over a stud player whom the recruiting sites ignored.To read more or comment...
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Check out today's edition (Thursday) of the Akron Beacon Journal for a story and a scouting report on the MLS SuperDraft.
The articles, which are also available on ohio.com, pertain to the seven University of Akron players that are expected to get selected today.
The seven Zips are: forward Darlington Nagbe, midfielder Perry Kitchen, defender Kofi Sarkodie, defender Zarek Valentin, midfielder Michael Nanchoff, midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong and defender Chris Korb.
The 2011 Major League Soccer SuperDraft started at noon and is being televised live on ESPN2 from Baltimore, Md.
MLS SuperDraft First Round
No. 1 -- The Vancouver Whitecaps FC select Omar Salgado, a 17-year-old forward on the U.S. U-20 National Team. Salgado is 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds. He is from El Paso, Tex.
No. 2 -- The Portland Timbers select Darlington Nagbe, a 20-year-old forward from the University of Akron. Nagbe, the Hermann Trophy award winner, is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds. He is from Lakewood, Ohio.
No. 3 -- D.C. United selects Perry Kitchen, an 18-year-old midfielder/defender from the University of Akron. Kitchen is 6-foot and 160 pounds. He is from Indianapolis, Ind.
No. 4 -- Chivas USA selects Zarek Valentin, a 19-year-old defender from the University of Akron. Valentin is 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds. He is from Lancaster, Pa. Chivas USA is a franchise located in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, Calif.
No. 5 -- The Philadelphia Union selects Zac MacMath, a 19-year-old goalkeeper from Maryland. MacMath is 6-foot-2 and 176 pounds. He is from St. Petersburg, Fla.
No. 6 -- The New England Revolution selects A.J. Soares, a 22-year-old defender from California. Soares is 6-foot and 170 pounds. He is from Solana Beach, Cailf.
No. 7 -- The Houston Dynamo selects Kofi Sarkodie, a 19-year-old defender from the University of Akron. Sarkodie is 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds. He is from Huber Heights, Ohio.
No. 8 -- The Vancouver Whitecaps FC select Michael Nanchoff, a 22-year-old midfielder from the University of Akron. Nanchoff is 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds. He is from North Royalton, Ohio.
NOTE -- Five of the first eight draft picks are from The University of Akron. That is an MLS record.
No. 9 --The Chicago Fire selects Jalil Anibaba, a 22-year-old defender from the University of North Carolina. Anibaba is 6-foot and 170 pounds. He is from Davis, NC.
No. 10 -- Sporting Kansas City selects C.J. Sapong, a 22-year-old froward from James Madison University. Sapong is 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds. He is from Manassas, Vga.
No. 11 -- The Houston Dynamo selects Will Bruin, a 21-year-old forward from Indiana University. Bruin is 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds. He is from St. Louis, Mo.
No. 12 -- The Columbus Crew selects Rich Balchan, a 21-year-old defender from Indiana University. Balchan is 6-foot and 165 pounds. He is from Carmel, Ind.
No. 13 -- The New York Red Bulls select Corey Hertzog, a 20-year-old forward from Penn State University. Hertzog is 6-foot and 172 pounds. He is from Reading, Pa.
No. 14 -- Chivas USA selects Victor Estupinan, a 22-year-old forward from Quininde, Ecuador.
No. 15 -- The Columbus Crew select Justin Meram, a 22-year-old forward from the University of Michigan. Meram is 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds. He is from Shelby Township, Mich.
No. 16 -- The Los Angeles Galaxy select Paolo Cardozo, a 21-year-old midfielder from Montevideo, Uruguay.
No. 17 -- FC Dallas select Bobby Warshaw, a 23-year-old defender from Stanford University. Warshaw is 6-foot and 185 pounds. He is from Mechanicsburg, Pa.
No. 18 -- The Colorado Rapids select Eddie Ababio, a 23-year-old defender from the University of North Carolina. Ababio is 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds. He is from Tampa, Fla.
That concludes the first round and ESPN2's coverage of the event.
-- In the second round two more University of Akron players were selected. Senior defender Chris Korb was drafted by D.C. United with the 31st pick and senior Anthony Ampaipitakwong was drafted by the San Jose Earthquakes with the 33rd pick.
Korb is a 23-year-old defender that is 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. He is from Gates Mills, Ohio.
Ampaipitakwong is a 22-year-old midfielder that is 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds. He is from Carrollton, Tex.
-- Check out the Akron Beacon Journal and ohio.com on Friday for a story about the Zips drafted into MLS.
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It looks like there will be a decent crowd tonight. There are two factors that will probably cancel each other out. First, a lot more people are going to show up to support the Akron soccer national championship. Second, a lot fewer people will attend because of the snowstorm that beat Northeast Ohio for the last 24 hours.
In Ohio's 2007 trip to Akron, there was also a big blizzard. That was a game that Akron fans expected to really give it to Bubba Walther.
Akron's starters: Zeke Marshall, Steve McNees, Brett McClanahan, Alex Abreu and Nik Cvetinovic.
Ohio's starters: DeVaughn Washington, D.J. Cooper, T.J. Hall, Nick Kellogg and Ivo Baltic.
Six-foot-8 Washington beat out Marshall on the tipoff.
Ohio opened the game playing a zone. After a foul by Hall, coach John Groce switched to man-to-man.
The alumni had to wait a few minutes before sitting down, which they are permitted to do only after Akron scores. Abreu made two free throws. I think they should wait for a field goal, but maybe they didn't breed tough alumni back then like they do today.
After five minutes of the game, Akron has more turnovers (three) than points (two) and is 0-for-5 from the field.
Abreu and Cooper are doing a little friendly jawing. Tonight could be the start of a long rivalry.
Abreu drew some "oohs" and "ahhs" with a faked pass to Darryl Roberts in the corner while he streaked around Cooper. The layup gave Akron its first field goal at the 14:04 mark.
The refs called a double-technical foul on Brett McKnight and Reggie Keely, who did not appear to be going at it as hard as Abreu and Cooper are.
The drama continues. Cooper fouled Abreu hard on a fast break. Cooper landed on top of Abreu and gave Abreu a not-so-accidental elbow jab as he rose to his feet. Abreu made another couple free throws. He has all six of the Zips' points so far.
The fans have become really upset with the referees after a loose ball foul on Cvetinovic. Keith Dambrot stared down the ref who blew the whistle, and informed him that he "biffed it up." Only he didn't say "biffed."
McNees is 0-for-3 tonight. He is shooting 27.4 percent this year from the field and 27.8 on 3-pointers. You have to assume that will improve.
I hope Akron settles down and begins to work the ball down to Marshall.
During warmups, the Zips wore "national championship" T-shirts. The soccer team is sitting in the baseline bleachers.
Ohio's offense has been much more fluid tonight. Cooper has five assists already. Abreu has five turnovers. The Zips are keeping it close through their 12-6 rebounding surplus.
Ohio went on a 7-0 run, which prompted Dambrot to call timeout. Ohio went to a 2-3 zone that forced Abreu into some bad passes.
The Zips are looking like they've never seen a zone before. The ball gets passed around, then back around, then a half-hearted entry pass, and then back out again. Finally, Akron made it a point to work it in to Mike Bardo, who spun home a layup over Keely.
This half got worse and worse, but at least it's over. Bardo airballed a shot from four feet. Keely made an uncontested layup as the half expired.
The good news about this half being over is that it's time to celebrate the national champions. There was a nice video. Then the team came out, with Anthony Ampaipitakwong holding the trophy. The team passed it down the line. Caleb Porter took the mic and thanked everyone (see pic below).
The celebration is Tuesday at 5:30 at Rhodes Arena. The first 4,000 fans will get a poster, so clearly the university expects a large crowd.
Halftime stats of note: Akron 21, Ohio 37. The Zips are shooting 28.6 percent, compared to Ohio at 51.9 percent. The Zips hold a 17-12 rebounding edge. Akron has 10 turnovers and four assists; Ohio has five turnovers and 12 assists (Cooper has 10 alone). Tommy Freeman leads the Bobcats with nine points, all on 3-pointers. The Bobcats have made 6-of-11 3-point attempts; Akron is 1-for-6. Marshall has two points and no rebounds.
The Zips ran an effective possession to beat the Bobcats' zone. Abreu caught a pass from another guard on the perimeter and immediately dashed toward the rim, splitting the double-team. Cvetinovic cut to the basket from the baseline and caught an Abreu pass for a dunk. The Zips have closed the lead to 11.
Akron has drawn four fouls in the first three minutes.
McNees stole the ball from Freeman on the break, which Abreu converted on the other end, closing the Bobcats lead to eight.
Ohio has drained three consecutive 3-pointers and is currently 9-of-16 from behind the arc. The Bobcats have had clean looks at these shots, though.
The university has hoisted a banner celebrating last season's CBI Tournament berth. You'll see the banner if you scroll up to the picture I just posted.
McNees missed everything but the backboard on a 3 attempt.
The Zips have done some things better this half, but Ohio keeps pouring in the 3s. And the Zips have spoiled chances to close the gap with blown layups or fumbled passes.
The referees are looking at video to determine whether Marshall threw an improper elbow. One ref called a foul on the player who Marshall struck with the elbow, or so it seemed. Marshall simply pivoted with the ball tucked under his chin. This is a big waste of time.
Unbelievable. They called an intentional foul on Marshall. That's the worst call I've seen in a long time.
Marshall earned a foul on the other end by ambushing Washington. The Zips' center is off the floor with four fouls.
Kellogg splashed a 3 to extend Ohio's lead to 22 points. No matter how bad it gets tonight, Akron can always take solace that it wasn't as bad as what happened to the Cavs last night in Los Angeles.
You might hear from the media that Akron suffered a hangover after the Kent win. People throw out these kind of statements as if Dambrot literally slammed a case of Christmas Ale and had to get up for work the next morning. There is no hangover. And no, Akron didn't "sleep" on the Bobcats, who are the defending MAC Champions. Sometimes, you play like crap and the opponents have a great night.
With that said, these games swing very quickly. I always apply the following formula to determine if it's really over: If Deficit > (minutes left x 2) + 6, Then it's over. Right now, there are four minutes left and Akron's down 14, so it's close to being over.
Quincy Diggs took his first shot after playing for 15 minutes. He needs to be more assertive.
Elton Alexander just left the media table. He quipped: "I'm going to be like the fans and leave early."
This was not a well-officiated game. But let's be serious, we could have had Tim Donaghy out there, and it wouldn't have changed much. The Bobcats have shot very well. Akron has been cold.
Because this game is over, I have to share how bad the roads were on the way to Cleveland. I question whether they saw a snowplow at all by the time I got there. It felt like my car was trying to iceskate without skates. I had to turn around because I literally thought I could go off the road at any moment. It was the first time I sympathized with LeBron James' decision to spend the winters in South Beach.
McNees hit a 3 to bring the lead down to eight, with 1:40 left. Cooper split the pair on the subsequent foul. Do the Zips have a chance? Barely, but they have to score on every possession and force a couple turnovers.
Roberts missed two attempts on 3-pointers on the other end. Cooper collected the rebound (his seventh) and then split the pair.
A fan shouted to Cooper: "You have to make your foul shots if you're going to talk smack like that." Cooper looked up, and stayed silent. Cooper's line tonight: 13 points, 15 assists, eight rebounds. I wouldn't talk back either.
McNees made a meaningless layup as the buzzer sounded.
There was a minor skirmish after the post-game handshakes. This game was very chippy. The teams made it clear they don't like each other.
"That's all here from Rhodes Arena! Akron had an after-Kent hangover and then slept on the Bobcats. No two ways about it!"
Word is, CBS analyst Clark Kellogg was in attendance tonight to watch his son score a game high.
Final score - Akron 70, Ohio 79
Ohio is now 8-8. I wouldn't put any stock into that mediocre record. Groce has already shown that he's capable of getting his team hotter than lava when it matters.
Final stats of note: Cooper ran the point as well as any guard I've seen in the conference. Kellogg finished with 23 points, often the beneficiary of Cooper passes. McNees broke out of his funk in the second half, finishing with 15 points. Cvetinovic grabbed nine rebounds. Akron finished shooting 37.1 percent, compared to Ohio's 52.9 percent and 52 percent on 3-pointers. Akron cleaned up its assist-turnover ratio with 15-13; Ohio was 21-15.
KEITH DAMBROT QUOTES
"I'm gonna try to sound positive, but that was bad effort, not very smart, undisciplined, emotion-less early. I can't even judge the second half because we had to scramble back. We just weren't really ready to play. We came out there with no juice."
"They're playing 2-3 zone, and that's all we practiced for two days. We knew it was coming. They did it in the MAC Tournament; they did it against Miami. The second half we were fine."
"We were inconsistent. That's been typical of these guys. One night Zeke's great. The next night it looks like he's never played. And it's not just him."
"Alex got caught up playing Cooper. His dad's at the game. He was trying to do too much.
"They made open shots and we didn't make any."
"We got the same damn problems in practice as we got in the game. Alex doesn't guard in practice. How's he going to guard in the game?"
"Against the 2-3 in the second half, we're driving it up the gut and getting layups. In the first half, we were throwing it to them."
"Am I frustrated? I'm about to choke somebody to be honest."
"Cooper's good at finding the hot hand. He can't score points and have assists. Tonight, he had a lot of assists. We were doing things like rotating to their four-man (rather than their shooters)."
"They made a concerted effort to go after Zeke. And he did a bad job of stepping up to that challenge."
"If they would have talked like that to Dru Joyce or Wood or one of those guys, it would have been interesting. I don't blame them. If we're going to take it, we're going to take it. Cooper's a tough little guy. He just punked us. He talked and backed it up. That's all. Gotta respect that. I don't like it, but I gotta respect it. You gotta make a scene early. What's interesting is that we got the intentional foul called on us."
On the skirmish after the handshakes: "Our guys finally had enough of it, but they waited a little long."
On the elbow: "I thought he got fouled first."
"We're in a tough position now. We have to go on the road and play in two tough places. We've been better on the road than at home the past three years, so we'll see."
STEVE McNEES QUOTES
"It's a disappointing loss. We obviously didn't come ready."
On the 3-point barrage: "We knew they had some capable shooters but they were hitting a little better than usual."
On the zone: "We had trouble in the first half. In the second half, we were fine. We attacked better. In the first half, we were stagnant, a little passive. It's tough to beat a zone playing that way."
On the angst between the teams: "There's a lot of talking out there. Anytime you play against a team that talks on the court, you're going to have some issues. And it goes both ways. The two times we played them before (the MAC Championship) were chippy."
"I think they hit a few shots early, and we didn't quite attack. We warmed up and prepared to be ready, but sometimes you're not as ready as you think you are."
"You've got to get into the gaps. We were stagnant up front with the guards. Anytime you play a zone, you want to get the ball into the middle of the floor. We weren't getting as many good shots as we could have."
On Buffalo: "They play hard and they run their stuff very well, as good as anyone else in the league. We have some new guys, so we'll work hard to prepare."
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I'm sitting down on the baseline, which is my normal position for Akron-Kent games. The AK-Rowdies are hurling insults at the Kent players as they warm up.
As you saw in today's Beacon Journal, Darlington Nagbe won Akron's second straight Hermann Trophy yesterday.
I've been near-sighted since law school screwed up my vision. Finally, I got glasses. Suddenly, I can distinguish between individual pixels in the big-screen. Hopefully, this will help me give you a more accurate picture of the games.
Attendance is really strong tonight. We still have 10 minutes until tipoff, and the general admission sections are about 97 percent full.
Assistant coach Rick McFadden visited my humble location at the baseline and quipped: "You graduated, and now they bump you to the kids' table." True.
Kent is wearing its black uniforms, which adequately allows the Flashes to play the villain role. Randall Holt is wearing bright yellow shoes. They are the exact hue of the bright-gold color in the Kent logo.
Kent starters: Michael Porrini, Holt, Justin Greene, Rodriguez Sherman, Justin Manns and Justin Greene.
Akron starters: Zeke Marshall, Alex Abreu, Nik Cvetinovic, Brett McClanahan and Steve McNees.
Abreu scored the first points on a 3. He is looking to the crowd, trying to pump up the fans.
As usual, it's taking awhile for these teams' offenses to relax. Neither has gone inside to their post player in the first four minutes. The teams have combined for eight turnovers and one assist.
Sherman has had a tough first five minutes. He has three turnovers.
Brett McKnight entered the game and promptly drilled a deep 2 in Mark Henninger's face. He splashed a 3 two possessions later. He now has another favorable matchup -- against 6-foot-11 Manns. On the other end, Manns found McKnight sleeping and sneaked inside for the lob pass.
Greene is 1-for-5 from the field. They still have not made an effort to isolate him on the post.
Henniger picked up two fouls within five seconds. Both on Cvetinovic drives. On KSU's next possession, Cvetinovic pinned a Henniger layup to the glass.
McNees has not scored much this season. I don't think fans should be too concerned, though. Throughout the Keith Dambrot era, established players have faded during the season, only to reappear. Chris McKnight from last season is the best example.
On the back of Marshall, the Zips are on a 7-0 run. He has converted put-backs on the last two possessions.
Kent State has a new player sitting in the bench. It's walk-on sophomore Jordan Wilds. He was re-added to the roster on Thursday after playing three games last season.
Greene plowed over Mike Bardo (no small feat) and was whistled for his second foul. Greene tried to help Bardo to his feet, but the Zips players nudged Greene aside and pulled Bardo up first. Greene apologized to Bardo on his way back down the floor. He seems like a good guy.
On a speeding fast break, Porrini threw an alley-oop pass to Eric Gaines, who missed the dunk and sent the ball into the front row. It was an exciting play, happening just 10 feet from me.
A video of Akron's national championship is playing on the big screen. The celebration is halftime on Wednesday at the Ohio game. Zippy is hoisting up the national championship trophy right now.
The band is playing "Don't Stop Believin'." I think that's proof something good will happen tonight. I was excited to see that Stanford's band played that everytime the Cardinal scored a touchdown.
The Rowdies have been heckling Porrini, calling him "Corey" -- his brother's name. On an inbounds play, they shouted to him: "You're worse than your brother Mike." Porrini turned around and said, "I am Mike!" Corey Porrini currently plays for Canton-Timken.
Bardo lost his contact lens after a McKnight free throw. The trainer dunked it in some solution, and back into Bardo's eye it went. If he gets pink eye in the next week, you'll know why. With all this talk about contacts and glasses, I should have sought out an optometrist to sponsor this blog post.
In one of the few isolation attempts for Greene, Marshall slapped the shot attempt away. On the other end, the Zips' center unleashed a filthy, nasty, angry, furious, vicious one-handed slam.
Halftime score: Akron 30, Kent State 27. Notable stats: Sherman has a game-high 13 points and has been perfect on his three 3-point attempts. Marshall leads both teams in rebounding with four. Porrini has played an efficient game at point with three assists and one turnover. Akron is shooting 37.9 percent and Kent is 38.1 percent. The Zips have had eight more field-goal attempts, due to their 17-to-11 advantage on the boards and 10-to-8 turnover margin. The Zips are leading with points in the paint, 12 to four. Kent made up ground by making 4-of-6 3-point attempts.
Kent stared off the second half with three straight buckets, giving the Flashes a three-point lead.
The Rowdies on the other end fooled Greene into thinking the shot clock was expiring, while it was really at "7."
Marshall bounced to the rim with the ball and dunked with both hands over Manns.
Greene has three fouls, which is something to watch. He hasn't been a factor yet, though.
After a Holt jumper, Kent opened up a six-point lead.
Dambrot has been upset with a couple calls. First, the refs missed a push-off on a rebound by Holt. Then, the ref whistled Marshall for a foul against Greene, when Dambrot contended Marshall had his arms straight up.
The Zips have stagnated on offense. Luckily, Kent has not stepped on Akron's throat, but the Flashes have extended their lead to nine.
Kent committed its seventh foul, so Akron must make the front end of these one-and-ones to get back into the game.
As many of you know, I'm on city council in Stow. I just realized that my distaste of all things Kent might be my least popular political belief. A lot of KSU faculty live in Stow, as I learned when I knocked on doors. After learning of their occupation, I had to bite my tongue.
Kent has made its run by retaking the paint. The Flashes now have an advantage in rebounding and points in the paint.
I took off my glasses for a moment, and realized how little I can see. I can't believe I reported on dozens of games without any competency in vision.
McKnight hit a 3 to bring the Zips back within four. A pull-up jumper on the break by McKnight brought Akron within two.
I like the Marshall vs. Greene matchup for Akron. Greene is giving up about six inches and isn't so much quicker as to drive around Marshall.
Akron came out of a timeout pressuring Kent full-court.
A deep McNees 3 nearly brought the roof down. But Greene responded with a put-back while he was fouled. Kent now has 22 points in the paint, compared to the Zips' 14.
More on McNees ... He has built up so much capital from the MAC Tournament that he could get suspended for dog fighting and still be a fan-favorite. In fact, that tournament performance should have earned him Dr. Proenza's parking spot.
An Abreu floater brought the Zips within one with six minutes left.
Sherman launched a 3 that hit nothing but the baseline. To hoist an airball in a college basketball rivalry game is a nightmare for all players. He is hearing airball chants that aren't even in chorus yet.
McClanahan hit a layup high off the glass to give Akron its first lead in about 15 minutes. He missed a good look at 3 that would have extended the lead on the next possession.
Akron committed its seventh foul, so Kent is also shooting. Manns split a pair, while listening to a chant about his "shrunken head."
Marshall blocked another Greene attempt. Kent will have two seconds on the shot clock after the media timeout. It's a tie game with 3:31 left.
Greene made a costly foul. It was his fourth and the team's tenth. Marshall made both to give Akron the lead. A Marshall sky hook extended the lead to four with 1:50 left.
Marshall helped stop Greene on the defensive end. Akron now holds the ball with a four point lead and a minute left. Marshall converted an alley-oop from McNees to make the crowd explode.
Sherman hit two free throws. Akron called timeout with 50 seconds left, a four-point lead and the ball.
Abreu drove through the lane, pump-faked a pass to the wing and spun home a layup to take Akron's lead back to six. It was an impressive take.
Porrini quickly took it back down the court and made a short jumper. Akron leads by four with 27 seconds left.
The Zips got trapped in the backcourt, and were forced to send it to Marshall, who was immediately fouled. He's not the guy you want shooting free throws down the stretch, but you have to use him for his ability to serve as an inbounds target. Marshall is grinning as heads to the line. It's not over yet, big man. He missed both.
Darius Leonard drilled a 3 on the other end -- his first points of the game. Kent State is only down one, with 14.7 seconds left. Akron's ball.
The key will be to inbound the ball to someone other than Marshall, and only use the 7-footer as a last option.
The ball found Darryl Roberts, which is the best-case scenario. There are 11.2 seconds left. He made both.
Porrini took the ball down the court, handed it to Sherman, who passed it right back. Porrini hoisted a 3 with a few seconds left. The shot missed and Marshall secured the rebound and the win.
I'm surprised that Porrini was the player to take the last shot. He had only taken one 3 to that point in the game, and he missed it. Sherman must have been the guy Dambrot focused on in the huddle.
Final score -- Akron 65, Kent State 62
This was a very exciting game. The large crowd got its money's worth.
There is no way Akron would have been close tonight without Marshall's second-half performance. He came up with big rebounds, big blocks and big shots/dunks. Tonight is the first night I can say that Marshall played like a star.
Notable final stats: Both teams shot 38 percent. Akron outrebounded Kent, 41 to 38. Marshall finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Sherman had 19 points and six boards. Akron's bench outscored Kent's, 21 to five.
"It was too clogged up over there and I didn't want to take a crazy shot. Mike Porrini was open over there, so I made the extra pass."
"I think (the new guys) did a great job. Everyone kept their composure. Nobody got rattled. But we need to get stops when it's time to get stops."
"Playing at Akron, it's a great atmosphere, a hostile atmosphere. You got the fans going at you. That's what we play for. Coach Dambrot is a great coach. It just hurts. I wanted to leave with a win."
GENO FORD QUOTES
"We had some tough lineups out there, but I think our kids fought. It's the first time in three games that we showed signs of life. It's hard when you're a freshman and you go into this game and you don't have any concept of the intensity and the atmosphere. In the first half, we had 10 turnovers and they had two steals. That was a telling statistic for me."
"The stretch where we got the lead, we were finishing at the rim."
"I thought (Marshall) played well. The offensive rebound was the killer play. He got one on top of Justin Greene."
"McKnight killed us. He posed so many problems. We were afraid of him picking and popping, and we were switching, which puts our guards on him. The one he hit at the top of the key was unbelievable."
"They have been really good with (McKnight) back. They are a much better team with him. He's difficult to gameplan for. He bothered us the most over the course of the game. Over the course of 40 minutes, he kicked our butt, which he tends to do. I'm glad his father decided to stop having kids."
"I thought (Porrini) made it. We ball-screened for Rod. Rod came off and they double-teamed him. The guy who was supposed to go with Mike didn't go. That's as good of a look as we can ask for."
"We've been in a major rut up until tonight. While I'm not content that we got beat, it's the first sense of toughness we showed in a game. We fought enough to win, but we didn't execute enough to win."
"We have too many younger guys who think they have careers that will last forever. They have no sense of urgency to get better."
"It's a tough league, and there hasn't been a repeat champion in 20 years. You have to play the games and get better. Our basketball team is starting to get better. We have to find ways to get a couple of the guys off the bench to be more productive."
"We'll take our chances with Justin against just about anybody. It's a little bit tougher for him this year because everyone double-teamed Singletary. He's still evolving, still developing. He's had a couple tough shooting games, back-to-back. I didn't feel like he took any bad shots."
"For this being my last home game playing Kent, it means a lot. It feels really good to get this win to start the MAC off."
"I think (coming off the bench) is an advantage. You can see how the game is flowing and you can see how to put your game into the game. You can decipher how their defense is playing and how they'll guard you."
"The good part about our team is that we continue to fight. We find a way to win the game. That's the main part about our team. That's one of the best qualities of our team."
"It was a battle (with Greene). I really had to just go on my instincts. He had a bad night."
"Double-double or not, small plays is where I matter the most. I care about getting the win. Those last few free throws I had, I felt that mattered most. That put us in a bad position."
"I'm getting better. I'm getting more comfortable. I'm just trying to mold out my game to become the dominant big man that I should."
On his vicious dunks: "There was a conflict with another player. I was thinking to throw it down as hard as I can to get that anger out on the rim."
"It was a typical Kent-Akron game. It's been a streaky series. When we first started off, they were better then us. Then we got a little better than them. Then we split."
"(McKnight) is a little more fresh. He's a good offensive player. He has to rebound the ball for us to be better. We're a different team with him. He has his issues but he's a very easy guy to coach."
"I thought we played pretty good, then we just couldn't make a shot. The first four minutes of the second half, we didn't guard very well."
"Zeke did a really good job on (Greene). Zeke tends to get tired a little defensively. At the beginning of the second half, he wasn't good. In the last four minutes of a lot of games, he's really good."
"(The last play) was a coaching dilemma. I figured Darryl would make two free throws. My philosophy is to foul under five (seconds). It came up slow, so I couldn't get my guys to foul. I thought we defended it fairly well. He got a good look, but not a great look."
"Rod Sherman, who I think is one of the best winners in the league, has done a good job of guarding McKnight. I didn't know what they'd do in the second half. He can pick-and-pop you when you don't switch. When Brett McKnight plays good against Kent, we win."
"You add Guyton to that team, and they're a good team. They have some four-man issues. Mark Henniger is going to be a good player, but that's a tough matchup for him (against McKnight)."
"Porrini is my kind of a guy. He's a tough, hard-nosed, gritty, winning kind of guy. He makes a lot of winning plays. I think Alex is probably more skilled, but I don't see any comparison on the toughness level. You have to pick what you want at that position. I like their team. I like their guys. Justin Greene, Rod Sherman. They're nice kids."
"I think (Guyton) is gonna be back. I think it's going to change some things when he gets back. They're a little thin on their bench without him. He gives them pop."
"We were going to double (Greene) when Nik had him. With Zeke, we were going to play one-on-one."
"I told our guys, whether we win or whether we lose, we need to stay even-keeled. This one's a big game, and the last one's a big game. And the ones in the middle are big games. The real game is the third one in the MAC Tournament. It's going to be very interesting to see how it all plays out."
"The hard part is that the East is a grind now still. A lot of people know how to win. The West, we'll see how it goes. It's more close than it's ever been before."
"Our league has to strive to have that kind of atmosphere every night. When I was in the league the first time, it was better (than now). We've slipped a lot in that regard. I don't care if you're Duke (vs.) North Carolina -- you can't get better atmosphere than tonight. It makes for a better game, and it's fun."
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if "it" refers to attendance at a MAC basketball game, you better not do so much as sneeze near it.
Akron and Kent State often sell out their arenas. It's the most raucous game in the conference, save maybe (maybe) Miami and Ohio.
But MAC officials got cute this year and swapped it into the leadoff position on the schedule -- before students return from winter break. It's one of those issues that nobody can really figure out.
As Dave Carducci points out, the league hasn't done the teams any favors with them playing in the final game of the regular season, either.
Once the whistle blows, however, the complaining will end and the heated basketball will begin. Just how the game will turn out is anyone's guess, though. Generally, Akron and Kent have four common opponents within three weeks leading up to their first matchup. By this time most years, they've both drilled Bowling Green and Buffalo, and they've played grinding games against Ohio and Miami.
This year, the Zips and Flashes have two common opponents: Cleveland State and Youngstown State. Both lost to CSU and beat YSU. But Kent played a closer game with the Vikings -- a game that was held at the Wolstein Center. Kent beat the Penguins comfortably, while Akron relied on a miracle shot by Brett McClanahan to send the game to overtime.
Both teams have suspended a key player indefinitely. Brett McKnight has returned after being suspended earlier in the season for Akron for reasons often whispered but never made public. KSU guard Carlton Guyton is out after being charged with felony theft -- an issue coach Geno Ford expects will be cleared up in the coming weeks.
KSU also has two starters fighting injuries: Justin Greene and Michael Porrini. Greene is a bouncy athlete who is fun to watch. (No word on whether Justin is related to Alvin Greene (see below), although Alvin probably would have won a majority of votes on Kent's campus.)
(Did you really think I would escape a Kent blog post without a quick cheap shot? Of course not.)
Back to business... There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding how the teams match up. The Zips have been consistent in one thing: inconsistency.
Kent State is not feeling very good about its play lately, either
"We certainly are not playing well right now," Kent State's Geno Ford said at this morning's press conference. "We've had two poor performances since we've been back for Christmas. That's alarming because we want to be playing our best heading into conference play."
The Flashes have 10 first-year players, along with three solid returners. Frontcourt depth is one of the bigger concerns.
"We are looking for a second player to go along with Justin Greene." Ford said. "Several of them are hit-and-miss. One game, they give you good rebounding, and then they forget out to box out."
And Kent would really benefit from another solid rebounder, because most teams will double-team Greene. Kent also will miss Guyton's shooting.
"We don't have a lot of other 3-point threats like he is," Ford said.
Most years, the coaches talk about how critical the rivalry game is. Akron coach Keith Dambrot downplayed it, in the context of it being only the first conference game.
"If you win the game, it doesn't mean that you're going to win the regular season or win the tournament," Dambrot said. "If you lose the game, it doesn't mean anything."
It's certainly a different feel from most Akron-Kent matchups, when the fans know what both teams are bringing to the table and everyone expects a rowdy sell-out crowd.
It's a rare win when you give up 59.2 percent shooting and get out-rebounded by a 39-20 margin.
But that's what the Akron did tonight against Oral Roberts, by a 84-80 count.
The Zips won the game by turning the Golden Eagles over 23 times, while committing only six turnovers for their own part.
Akron shot the ball well, too, hitting net on 46 percent of field goals. Still, you win very few games where you get out-shot and out-rebounded by such a large margin. I had to miss this game (city council meeting), but I'm really skeptical of these stats.
Saturday is going to be unique. Akron will kickoff the MAC season against its greatest rival. Generally, Akron and Kent get a chance to feel their way through four MAC games before the rivalry game. You get a sense of what to expect. I don't think either team knows what to expect on Saturday. It will be very interesting.
The game starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Rhodes Arena.
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