There can be no question who the better team is. Akron's seniors disappeared when the rivalry games came up. The team needed clutch scorers and a point guard. Kent State exploited both weaknesses because of its outstanding coach. Dials was 2-for-9 from the field. Middleton was 1-for-7. Wood was 5-for-14 from the line.
Quade Milum never played.
Other noteworthy stats: KSU outrebounded Akron, 40-30. Both teams has more turnovers than assists. KSU scored 40 points in the paint. KSU shot 52 percent. Akron shot 29 percent.
My votes for All-Tournament Team and MVP came true, except replacing Linhart with Scott.
Word is, hosting a home game in the College Basketball Invitational is pricey. That might eliminate any finale for the seniors at Rhodes Arena. An NIT home game is out of the question.
Akron will suffer through another year without breaking the barrier necessary to become an elite mid-major. I also feel that making the NCAA Tournament is necessary to getting more regular attendance. It proclaims a sense of legitimacy that 25-26 win seasons can't top.
On a bright note,
Humpty Hitchens' team won the state title. I heard from a few people he looked really good.
A young reporter, who might have been from Kent State, fired two leading questions at Dambrot, who got a little chippy. Dambrot also got a little chippy with me when I asked him how he lost to KSU three times.
Quotes from Dambrot...
"I thought Kent played well. We got the ball anywhere we wanted in the first half, but we didn't make anything. We missed free throws. We missed layups. You can't do that against a good team. Once we had to scramble, we had issues."
"When we didn't make them, the three-point plays turned into zero-point plays because we didn't make our free throws. A 13-point deficit should have been an eight-point lead and that psychologically affected us."
"In fairness to Woody, it was his third day."
"I'm not disappointed. This team was picked fourth in the East, had a lot of problems, came back well."
"We didn't defend well. Our offensive performance affected our defense."
"In fairness, Kent's good around the basket, but they made their run with their main guys out because of foul trouble."
"We got the ball at point-blank, but we just didn't make it."
On the younger players: "I didn't think they were nervous. I just didn't think they were any good."
"When we were at Kent and up 10, I told them we were in trouble. I thought we were going to win (tonight). I thought we would make the shots in the second half."
"We only made nine turnovers and shot 33 free throws. I thought we had a lot of good looks."
"The basket had a lid on it for him (Wood) tonight."
"I think we're going to play somewhere. We have a chance to win a postseason game which only one team has done at Akron."
"It's hard to know (about the NIT). No one else in this league should make it but us. We beat everyone else. If the MAC's going to have a team in the NIT, it's going to be us. But what the hell do I know?"
"We won 23 games. We had our troubles with Kent, that's all. They owned us this year. We owned them last year."
"I told (the seniors) they took a very average program and made it great. I thanked them for that. I told them sometimes it doesn't work out how you want it to work out."
"I guess they're better than us. They're probably a little better defensively than us, more athletic. He's a good coach. I'm not going to outsmart him. They played better than us three different times."
"I should be working on my free throws more. I was working on everything else, trying to come back. That was the biggest difference in the game, if I make free throws."
"I felt like it was more in our hands (than last year). If you make those and you lose, that's different. Last year, we played better than the team and the clock got started late. I felt like someone stole something."
When asked to sum up his career: "Struggle to live, live to struggle. Just when you think you've got it good, you struggle."
"I could tell in everybody's face that they were ready to play. It is one of the most complete basketball games we played all year. To beat a great basketball team like Akron three times... We're proud to represent the conference."
"Julian and Isaac Knight gave us fantastic minutes. Those guys rose to the occasion. It's just that much more special when it's a collective team win."
"We have some members on this team who have played in it before. It can get mentally overwhelming. At this point, you play unbelievably good basketball teams who can expose some things."
"I think (Dials) is a great player. We have a great player who can defend him in Jordan Mincy. We were able to put fresh bodies on him. He's had a great career and will have a great postseason."
"We were fortunate. (Wood) is a great free throw shooter."
"We prepare ourselves all year long for this. We tape all sorts of games. We have to develop the right mindset. We're not just happy to be there. We're going to compete and to advance.'
"Defense is what we hang our hat on here. We have to lock people down at certain times."
"Coming out of the building at Detroit, I did not think this was a championship caliber team. I knew we had potential to be that. Their resilency has amazed me. They haven't lost back-to-back games all year."
On Q's MVP award: "I could make an argument for Mike Scott, Al Fisher. I can make an argument for Jordan Mincy."
"We just tried to put a lot of pressure on the ball and make it hard for them to get into their offensive sets. Putting pressure on them made them change what they wanted to do."
(Wood's comments) "inspired us."
"You have to grind it out every single game. It's all about heart."
"I told the team that this team has all the pieces that we need to make a push in the tournament."
"The guards were pressuring them all day."
"I can't lie. I definitely was (thinking of last week's blown lead). The way they shoot, you have to play until the last second. The game is not over until the buzzer goes off."
"I think everyone on the team has had a thought of getting an at-large bid, but we didn't want to leave it in the hands of anyone else."
"They're a great team. To run into them again, you don't know what's going to happen. It's a tough situation. We had to get it done. We're not playing against Akron. We're playing against a gameplan."
"That was the main goal. I know this is my first time winning the whole thing. It's a different feeling. I never really won nothin'."