Saturday's game against Bowling Green only mattered under a chain of circumstances that was somewhat unlikely, but the Zips foreclosed any possibility that they could beat Kent and lose the MAC.
Akron won at Bowling Green, 74-68, which clinches a winner-take-all duel against Kent State on Friday.
Brett McKnight led Akron with 15 points. The Zips allowed a high shooting rate (48.9 percent) and committed nine more fouls than Bowling Green. Akron made up for these discrepancies by grabbing 13 offensive rebounds--four from Nik Cvetinovic.
Oddsmakers favor Akron to win by three this afternoon against Bowling Green.
The 2:30 game will be televised on Fox Sports Net.
The Falcons have the best field goal percentage in the league thanks to big men Erik Marschall and Otis Polk. In the Zips' 71-45 win over Bowling Green in January, the Falcons shot only 27 percent and committed 21 turnovers.
Despite numerous reports that declared Friday's game versus Kent State as the conference championship, Tom Gaffney discovered two scenarios in Akron could win on Friday and yet not earn the title.
Both require the Zips to lose Saturday at Bowling Green...
1) If Eastern Michigan wins the MAC West and Akron/Kent tie at 12-4 -- If this happens, the tie is broken by the teams' records against the No. 2 seed, which would be EMU. Akron lost to EMU. Kent beat them. Kent is your champion. So can EMU win the West? It's a four-team race, with Ball State leading at 8-6 and the three directional Michigans following at 7-7. Although Ball State controls its destiny, EMU has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals. Ball State plays two road games -- at Toledo and at Western Michigan. EMU has two home games versus CMU and NIU. It's way too hard to predict a four-way race with two games to go, but EMU's chances are as good as any.
2) If Eastern Michigan finishes ahead of Miami and Akron/Kent tie at 12-4 -- Once again, if the tie is broken by EMU, then Kent gets the title. Miami is 8-6, so it holds a game advantage, plus the tiebreaker via the head-to-head win in Oxford. EMU would have to win out; Miami would have to lose out (at Kent, vs. Buffalo). Possible? Yes. Likely? No.
Of course, the Zips can foreclose any possibilities of the MAC West champion determining their fate by beating Bowling Green on Saturday. EMU plays NIU tomorrow at 2 p.m. If the Huskies win, that will eliminate option 2, and it will make option 1 very unlikely.
Keep refreshing your browser for updates during the game...
Buffalo brought a group of 20 to 30 students, including some with the letters of "Buffalo" painted on their chests. The AK-Rowdies outnumber them but nearly not by as many as you'd expect. What happened to this group?
In the media room, Elton Alexander and I were chatting about our Coach of the Year candidates. My list of the top three includes (in no particular order) Geno Ford, Keith Dambrot and Billy Taylor (Ball State), with Charlie Coles getting consideration. Alexander said that John Groce of Ohio would break into his top three.
As the Buffalo fans chant, "Let's go, U-B," I realized that this might be the best organized non-Kent student showing at Rhodes Arena. But back to Akron's lackluster student section... Word among the Rowdies is that there is not enough marketing done toward students. I'm sure Tom Wistrcill will listen to such complaints.
Each senior was presented with a framed jersey. Chris McKnight's parents were looking quite dapper. They all received nice ovations. This isn't their last game at Rhodes Arena, of course. The March 5 game against Kent State should be intense. It's wise not to complicate the Zips' emotions by also holding Senior Night before that nationally televised game.
Last year's senior, Nate Linhart, is playing in Austria. He has a nice contract and is playing well.
The last time Tom Gaffney visited Buffalo, Akron students outnumbered the Buffalo students something like 100 to 10.
Akron starters: Steve McNees, Humpty Hitchens, Chris McKnight, Jimmy Conyers and Zeke Marshall.
McNees fired a deep three to give the Zips an early 3-0 lead (and allowing alumni to stand for only 17 seconds).
Marshall fought through a weakside screen to block a John Boyer layup attempt. McNees hit another 3 on the next time down the court.
We are more than seven minutes into the game and Buffalo only has two points. Reggie Witherspoon called timeout, perhaps to provide compasses to the rim. Gaffney bet me a quarter that the Bulls would score on this possession. Calvin Betts (ironically named) clanked a 3-pointer to make me 25 cents richer. Well, almost. Gaffney, a Stow resident, told me, "Take it out of my taxes."
Betts and Rodney Pierce are a combined 0-9. Max Boudreax, one of my top 100 favorite Canadian athletes, scored on a mid-range jumper to score Buffalo's second field goal in 10 minutes.
The ball ricocheted out of bounds, over the media table and into my hands. Sadly, this is the closest I have ever come to Division I athletics. Well, there was the time I swung at softballs with a whiffle bat during a halftime spectacle... Thanks to Mike Waddell for making me look like the south end of a northbound horse there.
McNees splashed his third 3-pointer and Conyers scored on an offensive rebound, giving the Zips a biblical 24-4 lead. Another Buffalo timeout followed.
Conyers was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. He missed all three free throws, but Nik Cvetinovic cleaned up the offensive rebound for a successful put-back.
It has been awhile since Akron has laid a good beatdown on a MAC opponent at home. You know, one of those games that is decided before halftime.
Betts has an ugly shooting stroke. His shooting wrist goes crooked in the follow-through.
A ref called Marshall for going over the back on a rebound attempt. If Marshall was 6-foot-6, it would have been a foul, but it is perfectly legal to reach over someone without touching them. To referee a game where one player is so much taller is novel for refs of any level. It will take some politicking from Dambrot to get MAC refs to see things his way.
Coming soon to a Jimmy Conyers poster -- Sean Smiley. On a fast break, Smiley attempted to foul Conyers, but the Zips senior threw down a wicked one-handed slam in spite of Smiley's hand check. Every player should get a dunk like that on Senior Night.
A couple painted Buffalo fans walked over to the glass above the AK-Rowdies to discuss world hunger--or something like that. A police officer escorted the Bulls fans away, after they refused to obey a Rhodes Arena employee.
Cvetinovic pulled his trademark double-pump free throw, which drew Buffalo offsides. It is quite analogous to the quarterback's hard count. He got another free throw and made it. Besides getting another free throw, it's also a fantastic way to boost your percentage at the line.
Cvetinovic continued his Bush League MAC Tour by flopping on a screen set by Pierce. He is the Zips' version of Anderson Varejao.
Pierce got called for his third foul as he was falling down. Chris McKnight, who was allegedly fouled, looked away from the refs with a big grin, because he knew it was a bogus whistle. The radio guys saw it, too.
Tim Carroll entered the game with 40 seconds left in the first half. The way this game is going, he should get plenty of playing time tonight. Or maybe not... After Betts made a short shot over Carroll, Dambrot yanked him.
Halftime score: Akron 39, Buffalo 23. Notable stats: Akron leads the rebounding, 21 to 15. Buffalo, the best shooting team in the MAC, is shooting 28.1 percent, compared to Akron's 50 percent. The Bulls are 1-for-8 on 3s, compared to Akron at 5-for-10. Brett McKnight has 10 points. Betts has six for Buffalo. Pierce, a Player of the Year candidate, is scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting. Conyers has eight rebounds and two blocks. Marshall also has two blocks.
Taylor Made Jewelry awarded a fan a $2,000 diamond at halftime by pulling a name out of a hat. Can't you at least make a guy humiliate himself before hooking him up with a discounted 2011 Valentine's Day?
With only two players leaving Dambrot's rotation after this season, who picks up those 50-some minutes at forward? Do the Zips start to play smaller? Does Brett McKnight become a 30-plus minute-a-game player? Will either Josh Egner or Michael Green not redshirt? Does the lineup get bigger, with Mike Bardo and Steve Sweich getting more minutes? Will Brett McClanahan earn time at small forward, opening up time for Ronnie Steward and/or Alex Sullivan to play?
It seems to be true that if you don't play for Dambrot as a freshman or redshirt freshman, you are unlikely to earn time as an upperclassman. That doesn't bode well for Sullivan or Sweich.
Chris McKnight swooped into the paint like Batman and swatted a shot attempt.
The Bulls are back within 13. If the Zips get sloppy on perimeter defense, Buffalo will start to hit 3s and this game will become a lot closer.
In other MAC-tion, Kent State came back from a big deficit at Bowling Green. It is a close game with 12 minutes left. Miami is up five at Ohio with 12 minutes left. Eastern Michigan is giving Ball State a scare in Muncie, Ind.
While we're talking about next year, what happens to McClanahan is it turns out that Dakotah Euton can play right away? He must become a more consistent contributor to be assured of a place in the rotation.
Cvetinovic stole a pass and ran the floor by himself for a breakaway dunk. He put his arms out like an airplane running back down the floor. It's great to see a player who has so much fun and is so passionate. If only he had a dimmer switch...
I think Ronnie Steward is a player who should receive more consistent playing time. He is a true point guard, and probably Ohio's best in his recruiting class. Injuries have held him back, but there's no denying the spark when he enters the game. I think McNees has established his pedigree as a good MAC point guard. Steward should get the backup minutes next season.
At shooting guard, you have Roberts and Hitchens. At center, you have Marshall, Cvetinovic and Bardo. The question is forward. We know Brett McKnight gets a chunk, but it would seem the other minutes are up for grabs. I think you can start to play Cvetinovic at power forward, a more natural position. And maybe one of the true freshmen can share the spot with him. Then Brett McKnight starts at small forward, with McClanahan and/or Euton playing when he rests.
After a missed Zips free throw, the Bulls all tumbled, leaving Marshall to grab the rebound, take two steps and slam the ball. He has seven points and five rebounds.
Now that I've thought all of this through, here is my projected 2010-11 depth chart: PG -- McNees, Steward, Hitchens; SG -- Hitchens, Roberts (equal minutes), Sullivan; SF -- McKnight, McClanahan, Euton; PF -- Cvetinovic, Green/Egner; C -- Marshall, Bardo, Sweich.
Marshall picked up his fourth foul 25 feet from the hoop. It was a dumb foul for Marshall, and it will keep him off the floor. He has to be smarter on defense.
A member of the AK-Rowdies his holding a giant sign of Dambrot's face. It is the size of half the backboard. It's pretty funny to look at him smiling on the sign, then look at his grimace in real life.
The Bulls are third in the league in 3-point percentage, but they aren't falling tonight. Pierce had one spin about 80 percent in the cup, then out. Buffalo is 2-for-14 from behind the arc tonight. As Charles Barkley said recently on the air, "Nobody lives by the 3, but you can die by the 3."
Akron already has 10 fouls this half, so the Bulls will be shooting two for the rest of the game. Buffalo, meanwhile, only has one timeout left.
Akron clinched its first-round bye, regardless of whether Buffalo pulls off a shocking comeback. Ohio beat Miami tonight. As I wrote on Monday, for the only scenario in which Akron must play in the first round, Miami would have to finish the season at 3-0. If the Zips win tonight, they clinch either the first or third seed, which sets up the Akron-Kent final (which should get the MAC commissioner excited as far as ticket sales go).
There hasn't been much happening in the game. The TV timeouts and excessive amount of calls have disjointed the action. Akron leads by 15 with 3:14 to go.
Betts and Conyers are tied for second in the league with six double-doubles apiece. Both players are one statistic away from their seventh. I take that back. Conyers scored his 10th and 11th points. Betts still needs another rebound for his seventh double-double.
Even if Kent State enters Rhodes Arena with a one-game lead over Akron, a Zips win still would clinch the MAC regular season championship for Akron. Why? If Akron wins that game, both teams will finish at 12-4. The first tiebreaker (head-to-head) will be a wash. Then you go down the seeds to find a team that Akron fared better against, or vice versa. The teams both beat Ball State and both split versus Buffalo. So it will come to Miami, a team that Akron swept and Kent State split. So the Zips would win the tiebreaker. It is almost certain that March 5 will determine which team is guaranteed a postseason appearance in the NIT (which goes to a regular season conference champion that doesn't go to the NCAA Tournament).
The AK-Rowdies are chanting Michael Reghi's name. Why? Because that's what you do after you chase the "Canadians" out of the building. (By the way, I don't see what's so bad about being from Canada, anyhow.)
Conyers is frustrated by a play in which Smiley stripped him, then smacked the ball off Conyers' face and out of bounds.
Cvetinovic did not pump fake on inconsequential free throws at the end of the game. That should show that his tactic is for a competitive advantage.
The Rowdies are chanting "Put in Carroll." With 32 seconds left, it hasn't happened yet. They busted out giant face signs for Carroll, Conyers and Chris McKnight as well. Someone over there must work at Kinkos.
Buffalo is trapping and fouling Akron, down 10 with fewer than 30 seconds left. Come on. Really? Don't they have a bus to catch? There is another foul on Pierce, down 12 with 12 seconds left. To echo Joe Dunn: "I have no idea why he did that."
Pierce has been attacking the rim on these meaningless possessions. I think stat stuffing is what he was up to.
Final score -- Akron 77, Buffalo 67
With the win, the Zips clinch a spot in the first or third seed of the MAC Tournament, along with Kent State.
Notable final stats: Five Zips scored in double figures (McNees, 15; Brett McKnight, 14; Chris McKnight, 12; Conyers, 11; Cvetinovic, 11). Pierce scored 19, all in the second half. Akron shot 52 percent, compared to Buffalo's 34.4 percent. The Bulls were 3-for-18 on 3-pointers. Conyers led both teams with five assists (a career high). Betts grabbed 14 rebounds (many of them in garbage time) to lead both teams. Marshall blocked three shots.
Kent State beat Bowling Green tonight. The upshot of that is, the teams' games on Saturday are meaningless. No matter what, the game on March 5 will determine the MAC regular season champion. As I said earlier, Akron will take the crown, even if they're trailing a game in the standings via the second tiebreaker (better record vs. Miami). Conversely, if Kent State is down a game coming into Rhodes Arena, and they win, they will win the conference championship based on the first tiebreaker (head-to-head vs. Akron).
What a weird situation: Akron will have played two meaningless February games within eight days.
McNees averaged 15.5 points in two games against Buffalo.
Other MAC scores: WMU beat Toledo by 20. (I told you Toledo wouldn't win a MAC game.) Eastern Michigan pulled off an upset at Ball State. Central Michigan and Ball State are playing a tight game in DeKalb, Ill. That last bye will be hotly contested, and now that Miami and Buffalo lost tonight, the Western Division teams are in the hunt for it.
"I felt like I was a big part of the reason we lost by so much (at VCU). I took this game to heart. This game was releasing my negative energy. I worked hard because I had that on my mind."
"We still have to work hard. We worked so hard during the season, we deserved it (a first-round bye)."
"People have a lot of off days. We have so much depth on our team."
On Pierce "His confidence level is very high."
"I rank this as number one. This was Senior Night. They beat us bad. We tried to make a statement right back."
Thoughts during the Senior Night ceremony: "Just hurry up and get this game on the road."
"They're a team that has a good system. They never give up. They play to the last second. They're a hard-nosed team."
"We had a horrendous walk-through today. We had a couple pretty good days of practice. I thought they had trouble shooting the ball. It's so hard to judge how people play. We shot the ball in and they didn't."
"I thought at times they had some open looks they didn't make. The best thing we did was maintain our lead between 10 and 15. Sometimes that's hard. I'd rather have that 16, 18 point lead with five minutes to play than with 35 minutes to play."
"For as much depth as we have, we tire at times. They move us around so much. They make you play through that whole clock, so it becomes difficult."
"It was one of the biggest regular season games we've played. It allows us to for sure play for the championship the last game of the year. It was a big ball game for us."
"I thought Jimmy played will. Other than the pass he threw to the popcorn man, it was a good performance."
"I thought Ronnie Steward played well. He's the best on-the-ball defender we have. He's explosive to the rim. We feel we need more impetus, more explosion. We need to get something off those guys."
"When the ball goes in the basket, you feel like you're getting better."
"We've won 21 games already and people say we're having an erratic year. We have had very few games we haven't competed. We play together every day. Those guys won 20 games in five years. If you take that for granted, you're out of your mind."
Witherspoon "has one of the best systems. We play against each other so much, we feel like we know them better than we know us. It's constant back cutting."
"Akron played hard. Their seniors went out right. They outworked us in almost every category. They deserved to win."
Pierce "started aiming the ball after awhile. After awhile, he started aiming it. It looked like he had no lift in his legs."
"It seemed like, at least in the first five minutes, I liked the shots we got. Some of the shots we got were from good shooters. Good shot, squared shoulders and clanked it."
"We got Ohio at home next. We'll lace them up and play it."
A first-round bye "is important to every team, especially the way the tournament is now."
Akron is a six-point favorite to beat Buffalo tonight as the team honors its three seniors.
Jimmy Conyers has endured a career made for the movies. He arrived on campus with coaches promising he would be the best player in the MAC from day one. He struggled with the ball, looked downright frightened. Consequently, he made mistakes. Having a low-tolerance coach and Nate Linhart's ascent kept Conyers from getting consistent playing time. Always a sturdy post defender, Conyers added to his repertoire the ability to crash for offensive rebounds. For this reason, he became a necessary cog in Dambrot's lineup. The steady playing time calmed Conyers nerves. Pretty soon, Akron got the player it thought it was getting five years earlier--a good ball handler, solid shooter, great defender and gutsy rebounder. One of the best players in the MAC.
The story on Chris McKnight, I feel, has not completely been written. McKnight looked like a Romeo Travis clone when he arrived on campus--a decent mid-range shooter, good rebounder and someone who can score put-backs. That sort of talent is why Keith Dambrot has constantly talked about McKnight's play determining the Zips' outcome. When you have the full Chris McKnight, you have a Romeo Travis. When McKnight does not play well, the Zips have a scoring void. Despite only having five to eight games left in his career, McKnight is at a crossroads. Will he be remembered as an essential player in the Dambrot era, or just another guy? The way McKnight finishes his career, and any impact he plays on the Zips' postseason, will determine the answer.
Tim Carroll is a guy you know Dambrot believes in. The walk-on came to Akron, despite scholarship offers from smaller Division I schools. When Dambrot is fed up with his lineup, he inserts Carroll, because Carroll is someone who can be counted on to play hard and smart. When Nik Cvetinovic went through a near mental breakdown after a bad call a few weeks ago, it was Carroll who came and sat by him to calm him down. Two years ago, Carroll collapsed during practice, but that didn't derail his role on the team. You can tell that, if he wants, there will be a place for Carroll among the coaching ranks.
Tom Gaffney chronicled the careers of Akron's three seniors.
Akron got Erick Howard's signature on a letter of intent, but Zips fans are very aware that doesn't ensure that a given player will suit up in Blue and Gold.
Howard told Scout.com that, even if he does qualify, he might attend a prep school with hopes of playing for Ohio State.
Overall, the running back from Canton called it a "50-50" chance that he keeps his commitment to Akron. Howard added that Jim Tressel told him he chose a good school in Akron, but that the Buckeyes would warmly welcome a fully qualifying two-time Mr. Football after prep school.
Howard was named Ohio Mr Football in 2008 and 2009. As a junior, he ran for 2,304 yards and scored 31 touchdowns in 14 games. As a senior, he rushed for 2,056 yards and scored 27 touchdowns in 11 games.
His career total of 6,013 yards rushing is a Stark County record and ranks 15th in Ohio history.
If you shoot 32 percent from the field against a better team on the road, the final score will be ugly.
It was on Saturday, when Akron lost 70-53 to Virginia Commonwealth in the BracketBuster game on ESPNU.
If you asked me how much I care about this game, the answer would be "barely." The Zips aren't on the verge of breaking into the top 25, nor will they hold their breath on Selection Sunday should they fail to win the MAC Tournament.
Akron plays an important game Wednesday at home against Buffalo. A win will clinch a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament.
Only one scenario can cause Akron not to earn a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament.
Miami wins out and finishes at 11-5. Buffalo goes 2-1, finishes at 10-6. Akron loses out, finishes at 10-6. Because Buffalo will have the first tiebreaker over Akron, the Zips will be the fifth seed, with Miami third and Buffalo fourth. (Buffalo and Miami cannot both finish the season 3-0 because they play each other March 4.)
Any Miami loss or Akron win forecloses this possibility. A Buffalo loss makes it less likely, too.
The picture became clearer once we established that only one MAC West team (Ball State, currently) will likely earn a first-round bye. The others are not contending. After Ball State at 8-5, the closest is Central Michigan at 7-6. While CMU can win the West, it would be impossible for both CMU and Ball State to surpass any Akron (considering the Zips have the tiebreaker over both teams).
The other question is, what seed will Akron claim? Tied with Kent State for first place, the Zips' seed likely will depend on the game against the Flashes at Rhodes Arena on March 5. But let's assume Akron goes into a funk. There are only four scenarios might Akron earn the fourth seed, rather than the third.
1) Buffalo wins out. Akron loses out. The Bulls, with an 11-5 record, surpass Akron at 10-6. 2) Buffalo goes 2-1 (which includes a win at Akron). The Zips finish 0-3. The teams tie at 10-6, but Buffalo gets the tiebreaker because of the Bulls' season sweep over Akron. 3) Buffalo goes 3-0, (which includes a win at Akron). The Zips finish 1-2. The teams tie at 11-5, but Buffalo gets the tiebreaker because of the Bulls' season sweep over Akron. 4) Miami wins out. Akron loses out. The RedHawks, with an 11-5 record, surpass Akron at 10-6. (Akron has the tiebreaker over Miami, so the other Buffalo scenarios do not apply for the RedHawks.)
So what needs to happen? If the Zips win Wednesday vs. Buffalo, they clinch at least the third seed because the above four scenarios become impossible. If Akron loses Wednesday to Buffalo, but wins either of the next two games (@ BG, vs. Kent), then Buffalo is forced to go undefeated (vs. Ohio, @ Miami), and Miami cannot pass the Zips regardless of how the RedHawks finish.
Akron reached the 20-win milestone and kept pace with Kent State in the MAC with a 61-56 win at Miami.
Brett and Chris McKnight combined for 25 points, making 10 of their 20 field goal attempts. The difference was that Akron took better care of the ball, compiling a 15:10 assist-to-turnover ratio, compared to Miami at 4:11.
"When the McKnights get 13 and 12, generally, we're gonna win," coach Keith Dambrot said.
The Zips let a nine-point lead slip away. Miami tied the game at 49 with 4:41 left. Akron slowly rebuilt a lead over the RedHawks, who were 6-0 at home during this season's MAC play.
Akron led by three with 49 seconds left when Humpty Hitchens stripped the ball from Kenny Hayes. Nik Cvetinovic recovered the loose ball. On the inbounds play, Hitchens sprung loose from the press for an uncontested layup, which all but clinched the game for Akron.
"I thought we showed terrific toughness when it mattered," said Dambrot, whose teams have won at least 20 games five straight seasons.
Hayes led Miami with 16 points. Kent State beat Ohio to also win its 10th MAC game. Miami falls into a tie with Buffalo for third in the division.
Nobody would have believed this three years ago, but Akron might be a better team on the road.
In Tom Gaffney's preview of tonight's game at Miami, Keith Dambrot says the Zips feel more comfortable away from Rhodes Arena.
The Zips are one-point underdogs tonight. Miami is the only MAC team that hasn't lost at home.
MAC standings implications -- At 8-4, the RedHawks would separate themselves from Buffalo in the race for the final first-round bye. At 9-3, the Zips would all but assure themselves of not needing to play on Sunday in the MAC Tournament.
Here is my liveblog post from the Zips' 20-point win earlier this season.
Other MAC-tion tonight... Kent State hosts Ohio. Buffalo hosts Bowling Green. Given the likely results of these games, Akron would really be boosting its stock by staying atop the standings tonight.
Keep refreshing your browser for updates...
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
Now that every MAC team has played every other MAC team once (and only once), the statistics will never be a more accurate reflection of where each team and player stands in the league.
These stats are only for games during conference play.
Individual surprise -- Xavier Silas, 19.4 ppg. He clinched MAC Newcomer of the Year. We had been hearing about this transfer from Colorado coming to the Huskies for quite some time. Silas has not disappointed. If the Huskies start playing defense more physically on the perimeter, the team has potential to make the MAC semifinals.
Individual underachiever -- Brandon Bowdry, 12.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg. Is he good? Yes. But his numbers dropped off significantly after he started MAC play. Eastern Michigan should be leading the MAC West; rather the Eagles are toiling at the bottom.
Team surprise -- Kent State. Here is the stat to end all stat: The Flashes have an average scoring margin of +13 points per game. Think about what that means. Their average game is a 13-point win. Wow. KSU takes care of the ball, rebounds well and hits 3s. I suppose that's the formula for dominating the conference.
Team underachiever -- Buffalo. At 6-5, the Bulls have to be considered a huge disappointment. They returned all of their main cogs, including two strong senior guards. The problem might be that Reggie Witherspoon's defense has lost its scrappiness. The Bulls give up 75.5 points per game -- second highest in the MAC. Their field goal defense is a league-worst 48.6 percent.
Interesting Akron stats...
-- The Zips' free-throw percentage has climbed to 72.2 percent -- second-highest in the conference. Give Keith Dambrot credit, after all the crap he got for this early in the season. Brett McKnight has made 28 of 30 attempts. -- Akron is second in the league in offensive rebounds, aka the Jimmy Conyers statistic, where the senior forward is second in the MAC individually. -- Home attendance at Rhodes Arena is third in the league, behind only Ohio and Kent State. -- Unlike in past years, no Zip is among the top 15 in 3-point percentage.
Here are the current MAC standings:
MAC East Kent State - 9-2 Akron - 8-3 Miami - 8-3 Buffalo - 6-5 Bowling Green - 5-6 Ohio - 4-6
MAC West Central Michigan - 6-4 Ball State - 6-5 Western Michigan - 5-6 Eastern Michigan - 4-7 Northern Illinois - 4-7 Toledo - 0-11
Combined (with seeding) (1) Kent State (2) Central Michigan (MAC West winner gets No. 2 seed) (3) Akron (4) Miami ---------- (5) Ball State (6) Buffalo (7) Western Michigan (8 ) Bowling Green (9) Ohio (10) Northern Illinois (11) Eastern Michigan (12) Toledo
So how do we predict the rest of the season? I have a method. If you won by eight or more at home, you'll win on the road. If you lost at home or won by seven or fewer, you'll lose on the road. There are really only six teams in the running for a first-round bye, so I'll apply my test to each...
Kent State, Current record 9-2, Predicted record 13-3, Predicted seed: No. 1 @UB - WIN Ohio - WIN @BG - LOSS Miami - WIN @Akron - WIN
Central Michigan, Current record 6-4, Predicted record 9-7, Predicted seed: No. 2 @Ohio - LOSS (for argument's sake, the Bobcats are favored by seven at The Convo tonight) UT - WIN @BSU - WIN @NIU - LOSS WMU - LOSS @EMU - WIN
Akron, Current record 8-3, Predicted record 11-5, Predicted seed: No. 3 Ohio - WIN @Miami - WIN UB - LOSS @BG - WIN Kent - LOSS
Miami, Current record 8-3, Predicted record 10-6, Predicted seed: No. 4 @BG - WIN Akron - LOSS @Ohio - WIN @Kent - LOSS UB - LOSS
Buffalo, Current record 6-5, Predicted record 9-7, Predicted seed: No. 5 Kent - LOSS BG - WIN @Akron - WIN Ohio - LOSS @Miami - WIN
Ball State, Current record 6-5, Predicted record 8-8, Predicted seed: No. 6 @NIU - LOSS CMU - LOSS EMU - WIN @UT - WIN @WMU - LOSS
Obviously, this formula is anything but precise. And in college basketball, teams get hot (see Miami) and cold (see Buffalo), and it's all subject to fluctuation.
After tonight, everybody will have played everybody else once and only once. The MAC statistics will never be more relevant. I will break down those stats tomorrow.
Akron played terrible basketball for about 37 minutes but gathered momentum to score the game's final eight points to get the 56-52 win.
The play of the game was a blocked shot by Zeke Marshall with 15 seconds left when CMU had a chance to tie the game.
"Zeke made some high-major plays when it mattered," coach Keith Dambrot said on the postgame radio show. "He really has a lot to learn, but he helped us win tonight."
Because of 20 offensive rebounds and 17 Akron turnovers, the Chippewas attempted 63 field goals, compared to 44 for the Zips. However, Akron outshot CMU, 43 percent to 29 percent.
With 1:19 to play, Chris McKnight tied the game on a layup. Marshall rebounded a missed Jordan Bitzer 3-point attempt. CMU fouled Steve McNees, who made two free throws with 30 seconds left to take the lead.
After Marshall swatted the Chippewas' attempt to tie, Humpty Hitchens made two more free throws to extend Akron's lead to four, which iced the game.
"We competed when it mattered. We made every play when it mattered," Dambrot said. "Other than that, we struggled."
The Zips were without Brett McKnight, who was suspended. Coming off a career game, Nik Cvetinovic fouled out with 4:40 to play in the second half, having scored only four points. Marshall grabbed nine rebounds in their stead.
McNees led Akron with 16 points, including 4-of-4 on 3-pointers and 4-of-4 on free throws. As a team, Akron made all 12 free-throw attempts. Bitzer led CMU with 20 points.
"Winners win. Our guys believed they could win, even though they weren't good," Dambrot said. "We learned a lesson without getting beat, and that's the main thing."
Only 760 fans watched the game in Mount Pleasant, Mich., because of the snow.
Akron returns home after the long weekend on the road to play Ohio on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Zips are a half-game behind Kent State for the MAC lead. The Flashes host Ball State tomorrow.
"We're going to have to play a helluva lot better than we did tonight if we want the big prize," Dambrot said, referring to the MAC Tournament championship.
Oddsmakers believe Keith Dambrot's young team will cruise out of Mount Pleasant, Mich., with a win over the MAC West leading Chippewas -- a senior-laden squad.
The Zips are favored by 2.5 points.
Akron leads the all-time series, 24-13, and has won nine of the last 10.
Tom Gaffney wrote about how the Zips' inconsistency might be tied to their youth.
Akron won its first overtime game of the year, at Ball State 75-70.
The Zips trailed by one with just more than a minute left in overtime. Brett McKnight drained a 3 to recapture the lead. After a failed Ball State possession, Humpty Hitchens made two free throws to all but seal the game.
"Brett McKnight made one when it mattered," coach Keith Dambrot said on the postgame radio show.
Hitchens, who scored a game-high 17 points, also helped out at the end of regulation. He nailed a late 3-pointer to give Akron a two-point lead. The Cardinals' talented post player Jarrod Jones tied the game on the next possession with a hook shot over Nik Cvetinovic.
With a chance to win the game in regulation, both Hitchens and Chris McKnight missed opportunities.
"One thing I was proud of is that we overcame adversity," Dambrot said. "We had two good looks to win the game. It could have been very deflating."
Cvetinovic scored a career high of 15 and also grabbed 10 rebounds. Jones led Ball State with 16 points and eight rebounds. Jimmy Conyers added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Akron.
"We went back and forth; it was a great battle." Cvetinovic said. "We're not much better than anyone else, but we're an experienced team. In the end, we need to play as champions, because we are the MAC Champions."
Akron won, despite trailing Ball State in field goal percentage, 48.3 percent to 35.8 percent. But the Zips won the rebounding battle, 43 to 37.
Without returning home between games, the Zips will travel to Central Michigan for a game on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Known kook Doug Martin took a shot at Akron on Signing Day:
While I'm pouncing on coaches, I'll mention a conversation with Keith Dambrot after Wednesday's game.
I called him "his majesty" a couple weeks ago. You know, tongue in cheek. So Keith wanted to know why. Before I could explain that, it's a good-natured ribbing for a coach that doesn't get much, Tom Gaffney nudged me and said, "He has a persecution complex."
He's right! Dambrot wants to believe that everyone hates him. When Elton Alexander criticizes his scheduling, when I criticize his offense, when anyone on ZipsNation.org says anything but praise for his program, Dambrot gets fidgety.
Dear Coach Dambrot,
Please stop being so concerned that your job is perpetually in jeopardy. By my estimate, you would need three consecutive losing seasons and considerable off-the-court problems for serious Zips fans to consider whether you're still the right person for the job. It would probably take another two awful seasons before Luis Proenza would let anyone even take away your parking space.
In short, you have more job security than Antonin Scalia.
Also, when you hear criticism, don't take it personally. We're the media. This is what we do. Reasonable people disagree, and critically thinking reasonable people disagree even more often. Despite what I say, or what some idiots on ZipsNation.org say, you're the best coach Akron has, or will ever have.
In the future, take criticism as advice from people who know considerably less than you on a given subject, not as people who want you fired.
The blogfest continues. Keep refreshing your browser for updates...
The Zips are 14-point favorites tonight. During this three-game homestand, the Zips have been favored by a combined 50 points. Wow!
Northern Illinois has consistently given Akron trouble. Two years ago, NIU came into Rhodes Arena and won by 10. The Huskies outshot Akron, 65 percent to 35 percent. Last season, the Huskies won by four in DeKalb, Ill., when NIU outshot Akron by nearly 20 percent. The bizarre thing is, Darion Anderson dropped 24 points and 10 rebounds in each game. So you're seeing a pattern: poor Akron shooting and a red-hot Anderson getting whatever he wants.
This year, NIU has a new weapon -- 6-foot-5 guard Xavier Silas, a transfer from Colorado who averages 20.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He was 1-for-9 against Kent on Monday, though. The whole Huskies team struggled in that game, committing 23 turnovers.
The Huskies give up 74.9 points per game, second worst in the league. They don't play much defense, but they're a decent rebounding team.
NIU has a freshman guard who is 5-5. He doesn't play much, but it's neat to watch a guy that short on a college team. I don't want to stereotype, but he must be a crazy ballhandler or pesky defender.
Akron's starters: Steve McNees, Humpty Hitchens, Zeke Marshall, Chris McKnight and Jimmy Conyers. A couple of surprises there: Hitchens returns to the team as a starter. Marshall re-enters the starting lineup. Who could've predicted that the only constant among Keith Dambrot's starters would be Conyers?
One reason for Marshall's starting is NIU has a 6-11 center, Sean Kowal, who is not starting. They ran a play for Marshall on the first possession, and the 7-footer dropped in a sky hook.
I will be happy to see Akron play on the road four of the next five games. I have to start getting some work done in the evenings. The brief for my moot court competition is due in a few weeks.
Conyers took a shot in the face and went to the floor in the middle of a possession. Dambrot pulled him to the bench, where the trainer is looking him over.
Marshall also survived the first string of substitutions. The refs helped him celebrate this feat by overlooking how Marshall switched pivot feet in the post. The next play, a Huskie stripped Marshall in the post. It was too many dribbles for a 7-footer.
After tonight, Akron only has three home games remaining (barring an NIT home game, which appears unlikely).
The fans behind me are irate over an out-of-bounds call that appeared to be incorrect.
NIU center Michael Fakuade biffed a dunk attempt. Brett McKnight got just enough pressure to distract him.
A couple of Zips fans are enjoying an early Valentine's Day dinner in one of the corners of the arena. It's a touch of the Terrace Club at Progressive Field. What better way can a man spend a romantic dinner than looking at something he loves: the Zips?
Silas made his first bucket at the 10:11 mark. He had been 0-for-6 from the field. His father, David Silas, played in the NBA with the Spurs and Cavaliers.
Michael Patton, son of NIU head coach Ricardo Patton, entered the game. As a freshman two years ago, he scored 22 at Akron. He was skinnier than a string bean then (as my mom would say), but he had a sweet jumper. This year, Patton is averaging only 2.7 points per game.
Akron fans yelled "three, three, three" to indicate Kowal was anchored in the paint. The refs blew the whistle, probably thanks to their help.
Marshall, who has six rebounds, nailed two free throws. Tom Gaffney pointed out that he changed his pre-shot routine. No dribbles. Just a spin and a shot.
Conyers swished a mid-range jumper to extend the Zips' lead to 10. Chris McKnight cashed a couple free throws to make it 12.
Chris McKnight, dashing toward the baseline and sensing a double-team, executed a nice wrap-around pass to his brother, who was fouled and got his shot to hang on the rim and fall in. Very nice play. It's about time we see these guys playing like they're brothers, rather than strangers who happen to share a surname.
On the last play of the half, a McNees 3-point attempt rattled half-way down and came out. The rebound bounced to Darryl Roberts, who floated the ball above oncoming giants to swish a 12-footer.
Halftime stats of note: Roberts leads both teams with 10 points. Marshall has a game-high six rebounds. The teams have combined to make only 4-of-20 3-pointers. Akron is shooting 45.5 percent, compared to NIU's 31.3 percent. Akron has 11 assists and four turnovers.
Twenty-one members of the men's soccer team achieved a GPA of 3.0 or better. Considering their national title run, that's amazing. Every sport's academic stars were honored at halftime.
Marshall gathered a rebound, hit Hitchens on a quick outlet pass, and Hitchens fired a a pee to a cutting Conyers for the dunk. Excellent execution on the fast break.
NIU has a forward named Lee Fisher, probably no relation to an Ohio Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate with the same name. I'm fairly certain that Republican Rob Portman is going to cream whomever the Democrats throw out there in November. It's not going to be a good year to be 1) an incumbent (because of the general hatred of government), 2) a liberal (because of the healthcare issue), or 3) old (because of the Obama effect). Fisher is scoreless tonight.
Conyers engaged in a footrace with NIU's Tony Nixon on a fastbreak. Nixon grabbed Conyers' arm and tugged him down. It was a hard foul but a fair one. Nixon drilled a 3 on the next play.
Roberts chucked up a 3 that he sensed was going to brick off the right side of the iron. He immediately darted to the paint, where he gathered the loose ball and converted a layup. Have I mentioned lately how I think Roberts is the smartest player on the team? Two possessions later, Roberts led the fast break and found Hitchens alone in the corner for a 3, which extended Akron's lead to 19.
The next home game is against Ohio on Valentine's Day. I'll be here if my lady friend permits it. If there's one thing I've learned about Valentine's Day, it's don't screw it up. Girls never forget a botched Valentine's Day. You'll hear about it for months. Months.
I'm starting to see how Dambrot has such a difficult time keeping a rotation and giving his guys enough time to establish themselves. I can make a great case for each guard to get a lion's share of the minutes. Starting with the guards... McNees is your best pure point guard. He's poised with the ball, and the stats reflect it. His shooting is streaky and defense is iffy, but you can't substitute for having someone who could end up being a solid true point guard. ... Hitchens has star potential. If Akron is going to be a top-25 team, it's because they have a go-to playmaker who can drive and dish. He's also your surest shot on 3s. ... Roberts is a steadying force on the court. He makes good decisions and generally does everything well. ... Then you have Brett McClanahan and Ronnie Steward, two young players who deserve at least 10 minutes each to develop.
Cvetinovic is on a tirade after being called for a foul. Immediately following the whistle, he smacked his hands together and yelled "I didn't [bleeping] touch him!" Dambrot pulled him from the game and Cvetinovic got into it with Dan Peters on the bench. Then he used Peters' and Mike Bardo's thighs as a crutch to pick himself out of the chair and walked over toward the locker room. Cvetinovic returned to the bench, and Bardo switched seats with Tim Carroll who is doing his best to console the seething Serbian.
Now let's look at the frontcourt, which is equally muddled. Conyers, as your best player, must get at least 25 minutes per game. There's no denying his rebounding and defense, nor his offensive improvement. ... Chris McKnight is a senior who carried Akron to many wins during his career. He has been inconsistent, but you never know when it will start to click again, and when it does, the Zips will have a steady source of scoring. ... Brett McKnight is your current go-to player. He might be the only player on the roster with current ability to score more than 25. ... Cvetinovic, as I wrote the other night, is capable of being Akron's next solid post threat if he can master a few more post moves and control his emotions. He must be playing 20 minutes per game to improve there. ... Then you have the big boy, Marshall. Dambrot knows he is retarding Marshall's growth in any game where the 7-footer isn't out there for at least 25 minutes. So where does all of this playing time come from? There are five players who each should play 25 minutes (plus whatever Bardo gets), and that is impossible, particularly when McClanahan is taking a handful of minutes at small forward.
Cvetinovic returned to the game. That was a wild blowup. I thought Dambrot would send him to the showers.
NIU has stolen the ball on consecutive possessions. McNees came right back onto the floor. The Huskies are decent at defending with their hands, but they don't care to move their feet all too often.
Mike DiNunno made an inconsequential layup with 19 seconds left -- unconsequential to everyone except the bettors who saw a push on the 14-point spread.
Final score -- Akron 90, Northern Illinois 76
Final stats of note: Roberts had 18 points and eight rebounds. Marshall led both teams with nine rebounds. Chris McKnight scored 16; Conyers had 15. McNees tallied five assists and only one turnover. For NIU, Silas scored 15, seven of which came at the free-throw line. He was 4-for-15 from the field. Akron shot 44.1 percent, compared to NIU's 32.3 percent. Akron made 5-of-8 3s in the second half.
"Tonight was the biggest game of the year for us. We didn't want to lose two games consecutively at home. We came out and made a point that we weren't going to lose tonight. It's no secret that I haven't been playing well."
"Our energy level was way up. We wanted to come out and do that tonight."
"Some teams have their ups and downs. If we set our minds on what we want to do, we'll stay on track."
"I feel that last year we were the underdog. This year, we relaxed on it."
"Silas is a leading scorer in our league, so (stopping him) was a point of emphasis."
Shooting is "starting to feel better. I felt a little rhythm tonight."
"Coach does everything he can. But it's our job to go out there and play."
On Marshall: "I think he rebounded well tonight. He got both hands on the ball and didn't let anyone strip it from him."
"I believe our biggest road win was at Western Michigan. We've had some pretty bad games on the road at Buffalo and at Kent. These next four out of five will test us."
"I'm just glad we won. I went back after the Eastern Michigan game and watched the tape. We played hard. What am I supposed to do? Browbeat our guys because the ball doesn't go in the basket. As long as we play hard and play together, the results will follow. The ball went in the basket tonight, and it didn't go in the basket the other night."
"I was mad after the game, but I told them we're a good team. We may not win the MAC Tournament, but we'll win a lot of games. Is it the best team we've ever had? Probably not. Does it have room for improvement? Yes."
"If the North Carolina Tarheels can have issues with Roy Williams? Then the Akron Zips can have issues. Michigan State goes to Wisconsin and gets pounded. It happens. That's the difference between me now and me as a 25-year-old head coach. Sometimes when things go bad, you have to massage. And sometimes when things are going well, you have to kick them in the behind."
"I'm proud of my guys. They rallied themselves. These are hardworking guys."
"We shared it well. (McNees) is getting better under pressure where he doesn't cough the ball up. He does not make many mistakes anymore. He's not going to make as many plays as some point guards, but we don't need him to do more."
"I'm happy for (Darryl). He came into the game shooting 29 percent in the conference. Brett McKnight came into the game shooting 33.8 in the conference. If they shoot that percentage, I don't care if Johnny Wooden is coaching, you're not winning."
"I was happy for them (the McKnight brothers). When a family gives you two of them sons, you don't know what kind of pressure it is to make them successful. Sometimes I'm brutal on them because of it. When they play like that, they're good."
"We knew we had to get back in transition. We knew we could run on them, but we had to pick and choose because we didn't want to get in a track meet."
"I thought Zeke was really good. I told Zeke we've never been able to guard these guys, so you need to change some things for us to be able to guard them."
"They're not great teams, they're good teams. Ball State is fairly conservative. They pack it in defensively. They have a good center. It will be a close game. They're going to hold the ball and wait until the end of the clock, like Toledo, like Eastern Michigan, like Miami."
"Central has got a bunch of old guys. They're a good team. It's a lot of travel. The bad thing about the schedule is that we play at 12 on Saturday. Ever since Western Michigan, I've been knocked. It's a long trip. It's hard to sleep on the bus. We are taking tomorrow off. We are going right from Ball State to Central. It's a Saturday-Tuesday game."
Cvetinovic "was mad because he kept fouling. He's the lowest maintenance guy off the court."
"I think people have to understand that to go over a six-year period like we have is supposed to be hard. Like Cleveland State is reloading right now. It's hard to stay consistently good at this level when you take all high school guys. We take no risk. Until those guys are juniors and seniors, you're going to have some years when you're not great."
"They picked us first, but I think that was an inaccurate pick."
"I think the one thing that is good is that it teaches guys you can't take anything for granted."
Opening comments -- Coaches took 32 official visits and got 23 commitments. "You can do the math. The percentage is very high. We want to do a great job in the state of Ohio and Pennsylvania foremost. We want to stay in the blueprint of the Mid-American Conference."
Bailey -- "We really felt like we'd need a fullback in this class to do some of the things we want to do with a two-back offense. Currently, we don't have a fullback on our roster."
Bizarro -- Didn't catch many balls out of his team's option offense, but averaged 39+ yards per catch. "He is extremely fast. We like fast."
Blake -- Comes from a solid juco school. "I like the idea of having a couple of guys in a recruiting class who are mature."
Bowers -- "He is very physical. He's a powerful runner. Also has good speed. We felt it was important to get two tailbacks in this class."
Caponi -- More natural position is defensive end. "He has played up, but is going to put his hand on the ground. He has a feel for playing in space."
Cunningham -- "Great speed. He also has good height. Receivers are getting bigger and bigger. He shows great toughness."
D'Orazio -- "As a coach's kid, he grew up on the field. He was the guy holding this thing together. They were all talking in the interim. Very athletic. Throws a good ball. The personality and presence you look for in a quarterback were very evident to me."
Hall -- "We project him to play down as a defensive end. We believe he will be a good guy off the edge for us."
Holmes -- "He's an older young man, a year removed from high school. So that bodes well for him to help us right away."
Howard -- "For a young man locally with that background and accollades, it speaks volumes for the way young men think of the direction we are headed."
Jones -- "I like having guys that you recruit who play multiple sports." Jones runs track, which doesn't get him on a lifting cycle, which means there is more upside for the strength coach in college.
Lio -- "He's got a great frame. He finishes plays. He's athletic. He bends well."
McCloskey -- "Having an older offensive lineman in your group. That's a good thing to have. Very physical. Excellent frame. He finishes blocks really well."
Miller -- "Was flying under the radar when we arrived here. A high school coach we respect told us to check him out. He's going to start out at safety for us. He's athletic and has a lot of upside."
Potts -- "Plays quarterback primarily. Plays safety. Could play receiver. Had a really big junior year. Senior year, had some injury issues."
Ritossa -- "Very good frame. Very good hands. Very good ball skills. In our offense, we like to throw the ball to the tight end. I think he'll fit in nicely."
Schrock -- First player that Ianello called after taking the job, and Golden Tate had just won the Billetnikoff Award. His high school coach is Greg Dennison at Wadsworth; his is son of Jim Dennison, former Akron coach.
Sconiers -- "Really terrific football program." Dwyane Wade graduated from Richards High. "He caught passes, returned kicks." (Got some wows from the media through his highlight video.)
Smith -- "We're going to let him start out on offense (at receiver). He does a lot of different things."
Staten -- "Marvin is a physical runner. He is going to put on a lot of weight."
Turpin -- Same high school as Nadir Brown. "When he was a younger guy, he played center. Then he got tall and lean and they moved him to tailback."
Washington -- "Most likely will start out at corner. You want to have as many guys on your team who have done a lot of things and done them well. Those are your playmakers."
Williams -- "Physical. Really runs and hits. Those are the two things you're looking for when you're evaluating someone. We watched his tape and really got excited."
"A couple of things factored into that (lack of linemen). (First, the current roster is strong there) As we evaluated, we wanted to make sure we took the best guys available."
"We're not going to shy away from junio college athletics. We're going to recruit junior college ahletes where we have a need."
"We have to run the football in November in Northeast Ohio. (Howard) fits that scheme. For Erick to feel strong enough about us to make that decision, we're proud of that."
"I'm not going to give away someone's job in their living room. We're going to give them every opportunity in training camp (referring to Schrock and Howard)."
"The graduate assistants kind of saved me. They had some things laid out for me to approach."
"The hardest part of starting out is, do you make your phone calls to recruits? Do you make your phone calls to put your staff together?"
"We want guys who, to get a degree from the University of Akron is important to them."
"Now we need to get to the phase where we're on campus. I am excited to know our players better."
When asked if anyone has left the program: "No."
When asked about a marquee player in the class: "I don't want to single out a single player."
The 2010 schedule is shaping up: The first game is Syracuse at home on Sept. 4. Then Gardner-Webb comes in the next week. Then it's at Kentucky and at Indiana. As far as MAC games go, Akron misses Bowling Green, Toledo and Central Michigan. The dates are not set, though.
Keep updating your browser for 12 hours of liveblogging today (taking you through the football news and the Zips basketball game against Northern Illinois)...
Here is the list of commitments from Rivals.com:
Austin Bailey RB 6-0 238 4.81 5.4 Hyattsville, MD Mike Bizzarro WR 6-2 175 4.5 5.2 Erie, PA Giorgio Bowers RB 5-9 192 4.59 5.5 Rich Central, IL Nico Caponi LB 6-2 255 4.87 5.3 Sandusky, OH Seth Cunningham DB 6-0 170 4.4 5.4 Lakewood, OH Zach D'Orazio QB 6-1 185 4.52 5.2 Cuyahoga Heights, OH Richard Hall DE 6-3 240 4.8 5.2 Wheeling, WV Christopher Henderson DT 6-4 280 - 5.8 New Berlin, NY Anthony Holmes DB 6-1 185 - 5.5 New Berlin, NY Erick Howard RB 5-10 210 4.5 5.5 North Canton, OH Dylan Potts QB 6-0 190 - 5.2 Hannibal , OH Anthony Ritossa TE 6-5 220 4.9 5.3 Kirtland, OH Anthony Schrock WR 6-3 185 4.6 5.3 Wadsworth, OH Keith Sconiers WR 6-3 175 - 5.6 Oak Lawn, IL Lawrence Smith WR 6-0 190 - 5.3 Painesville, OH Carl Washington DB 5-10 175 4.55 5.3 Columbus, OH
Also this ... Rob Ianello will be on Michael Reghi's radio show at 4:40, rather than 5 p.m. It's on 850 AM.
Here is the press release with final signee list:
AKRON – Living up to his promise when he was announced as The University of Akron’s head football coach last December, Rob Ianello landed 15 players from Ohio and Pennsylvania in his first signing class, which totaled 23.
The breakdown includes 10 from Ohio , five from Pennsylvania , two from Illinois , two from New York and one each from West Virginia , New Jersey , Maryland and Delaware .To read more or comment...
Tomorrow is National Letter of Intent Signing Day. Rob Ianello will hold his press conference at 3 p.m. It is closed to the public, but I will be there blogging.
Associate athletic director Mike Cawood listed Ianello's other appearances:
A Maryland fullback committed to Akron last weekend.
Austin Bailey is 6 feet tall and 236 pounds. Scout.com calls him the No. 17 fullback in the nation.
Bailey chose Akron over Miami (Ohio), in part, because Rob Ianello plans to change to a pro-style offense, and the former spread offense did not utilize a fullback. Therefore, there is a personnel need, and Bailey might play early in his career.
Read this... Terry Pluto wrote about Ianello's efforts to reconnect with the recruits Akron already had before he took over.
Keep refreshing your browser for updates...
In minutes, ESPN.com will announce its BracketBuster matchups. If it's not enough for the Worldwide Leader to practically monopolize decent sports coverage, it also gets to choose which games it will cover. Not a bad deal for ESPN.
I have my dad's computer, which has served me well as a backup over the years.
Humpty Hitchens is suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules. So is Alex Sullivan. Both are wearing street clothes. I want to see if Ronnie Steward can run the point. Maybe this is his opportunity.
EMU has three really good players. First is Brandon Bowdry, a 6-foot-6 power forward who leads the team with 16.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. Second is Carlos Medlock, a senior point guard who leads the team with 3.5 assists per game and chips in 14.8 points. Third is Justin Dobbins, a 6-8 center who averages 12.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
The team was picked third in the MAC West because of this trio. The Eagles have struggled to make 3s (27 percent), and they attempt a lot of them. Also, Medlock isn't taking great care of the ball. In conference play, he has committed 27 turnovers and dished only 16 assists. Bowdry's field goal percentage has plummeted since MAC play began. He was once among the league leaders in shooting. Now he's down to 41.3 percent, which is terrible for a big man of his skill.
Akron is in the midst of a three-games-in-five-days home stand. Let's face it; Rhodes Arena is not the castle it used to be. But let's give Keith Dambrot credit for where he's improved -- on the road.
Everyone keeps asking me to update my browser to see if the BracketBuster matchups are announced. Not yet...
EMU's MAC record is deceiving, too. The Eagles played the toughest three MAC West foes on the road (WMU, CMU and NIU), while getting the easier games at home.
Akron's BracketBuster opponent is Virginia Commonwealth, the team of former Akron assistant Shaka Smart. It is one of the 11 televised games, although it's on ESPNU. VCU has some notable wins: over No. 17 Oklahoma, Nevada and Rhode Island. The Rams' RPI is 60.
Akron's starters: Darryl Roberts, Steve McNees, Nik Cvetinovic, Chris McKnight and Jimmy Conyers.
Medlock drained two contested mid-range jumpers to start the game. He is donning a face mask. I can't find any news stories that will explain why.
EMU looks like an energetic, athletic team. Akron has been very good on defense, but the Eagles are making difficult shots.
EMU pressured Akron's inbounds play after a turnover. The Zips lobbed it in to Zeke Marshall, whose height is a great release valve for beating the press.
Eagles forward Jay Higgins and Akron's Brett McClanahan have each made consecutive 3-pointers. The teams have combined for 8-of-10 on 3s.
Softball coach Julie Jones brought her team onto the floor to honor a local girl who has a brain tumor. The AK-Rowdies chanted the girl's name as they left the court to a standing ovation. It was a touching moment. Kudos to Jones and the softballers.
Higgins canned another 3. His career high is five 3-pointers in a game. He has four now, with 27 minutes left in the game. His career high in points is 25.
With five minutes to play in the first half, Dobbins and Bowdry have not scored.
Eastern Michigan is playing zone. I don't understand why teams do that against Akron, which has proven it can beat the zone and which features multiple 3-point shooters in just about any lineup it trots out there.
Dobbins got hit with a technical foul for saying too much to the ref. Roberts cashed in on both free throws. He is still scoreless. Bowdry now has four.
With 6.1 seconds left in the half, Roberts fouled Medlock, who was shooting a 3. Medlock made two of three free throws.
The refs heard a chorus of scattered boos as they left the court.
Halftime stats of note: The teams were a combined 10-for-21 on 3-pointers, which surpassed their numbers on regular field goals. Chris McKnight leads Akron with seven points and four rebounds. Higgins has 12, and Antonio Green scored nine. McNees dished five assists (and no turnovers).
I don't want to be a jerk, but somebody has to say it: These halftime shows have stunk. I suppose it pads your attendance to put a bunch of youngsters out on the court to do a little dance, but come on. It takes away from the overal quality of the product. It's great that the kids participate in this sort of program. Their parents should be proud. But the entertainment value is not Division I-quality.
Cvetinovic plowed over an Eastern Michigan defender for an offensive foul on Akron's first possession of the second half. McNees looked visibly irritated. Chris McKnight had to cool him down a little. That's good. They need more leader-types who will hold their teammates accountable.
Brett McKnight picked up his third foul, and it was a bad call. On the next possession, Chris McKnight was whistled for his second on what appeared to be a clean play. These refs are really pushing the Zips fans' tolerance.
Bowdry attempted a flop. It was an admirable performance -- grunt and all. The refs didn't buy it, and I think its obvious theatrical nature prevented the refs from blowing a loose-ball foul on Conyers a few seconds later. I wonder if refs take it personally when you flop. In essence, your decision to flop is premised upon a belief you can fool the zebras.
Following the flop attempt, the refs blew consecutive fouls on Bowdry. They weren't really retributive. Both were pretty obvious calls. He smeared Brett McKnight on a fast break. That's four fouls on Bowdry.
Dobbins finally got around to scoring. He made a couple of free throws after Mike Bardo foul in transition. Dobbins followed that up with a foul on Marshall's dunk attempt. Dobbins has three fouls. Poor Dobbins just can't win. Marshall swatted him.
Here is an off-the-wall idea: Marshall plays so much better when he's mean. Akron needs to designate a player to "diss" his mom during timeouts and stoppages in play. If it turns out this makes Zeke go postal (and it very well could), forget I said that.
Cvetinovic committed his fourth foul. He is 0-for-4 from the field.
EMU went on a 6-0 run and leads by seven. The fans are finally getting restless. I was preaching in the preseason that EMU is going to be good. I think you'll see the Eagles do things this year they've never done before. Beating Dambrot at Rhodes Areana would qualify for that category.
McNees turned it over by picking up his dribble in the backcourt and having to force a cross-court pass that wound up in the front row.
If you're wondering how EMU keeps Charles Ramsey on board despite his crummy 52-91 career record, it's because he is Mr. Ypsilanti. He grew up there, played his high school basketball there, played for EMU, served as an assistant coach for EMU and is heavily involved in the community.
The Zips have been inept on offense, so they're wratcheting up the defensive pressure. The fans are getting into it, too. The fans' consternation reflects that this is the "don't screw this up" part of the schedule. In fact, this is the quintessential "don't screw this up" game.
Conyers leaped over the Zips bench to attempt to save a ball. It was a tense moment because it didn't look like his one foot cleared the chairback. That's the formula for a faceplant.
Bardo is getting more offensive opportunities than I can remember him seeing all year.
Right in front of us, Conyers leaped to intercept a pass. He flew out of bounds into the scorer's table. The Plain Dealer's writer heard Conyers say "time out" a few centimeters before he touched the floor. I didn't.
Conyers got a big put-back layup. Why was it "big"? It seemed like the crowd needed something. It caused Ramsey to call time out. Akron is back to within two.
The Zips tied the game. Cvetinovic tipped away a pass and was rewarded with the feed for a layup on the secondary break.
For as good as Higgins has been on 3s, he's a rotten free-throw shooter (42 percent in MAC games). Bowdry is another one to foul (53 percent).
Marshall has not looked good defending meatier players. He lets them get great position, then tries to rely solely on timing his jump as a method to defend the shot.
Akron put together a lousy possession, draining the clock down to one second before McNees penetrated and found Cvetinovic with a pass for a wide-open layup. Akron is down one with 4:30 to play.
Brett McKnight made two foul shots to give Akron the lead back. EMU has 10 fouls so the Zips are shooting two from now on.
In other MAC-tion, Kent State won by 30 over NIU at the M.A.C. Center. Western Michigan won by 15 at Buffalo (seriously!?). Bowling Green held home court against Toledo, winning by 11.
Higgins tossed up a 3-point brick that, fortunately for the Zips, went over the backboard. Akron's bigs were not in good rebounding position.
Higgins rattled home a 3-pointer as he fell into EMU's bench. The Eagles lead by two with two minutes to play. Brett McKnight short-armed a 13-footer that barely hit rim. The Zips need to hunker down here. Timeout EMU.
In these situations, it's good to have a go-to guy. I'm talking about someone who KNOWS he's getting the ball -- someone who doesn't fear the wrath of the coach if he screws up. I remember when LeBron James was in his first couple years in the NBA, he was that guy. He wasn't very effective, but it's a role you have to grow into.
Medlock got a free lane for a layup. Ugly defense. At least he didn't run too much clock. Akron has 30 seconds to make up four points.
Akron needs a quick score, then it must foul either Higgins or Bowdry. I'd say work the ball into Cvetinovic for the first bucket.
Brett McKnight found a wide-open Conyers under the hoop for a layup. The Zips fouled Higgins, who made one of two free throws. Rebound to McClanahan. The ball found Brett McKnight for a wide-open 3 pointer, which he short-armed. I can't imagine getting a better opportunity to tie the game. The ball went out of bounds to EMU with five seconds left.
On the inbounds play, the ball went out of bounds. The refs are looking at the replay to see how much time ran off. EMU ball. Another deflection out of bounds. On the next try, McNees hammered Medlock, who needs to make only one free throw to ice the game.
Akron had six men on the floor for a moment, but the error corrected itself.
This game is a tough pinecone to swallow. The Zips broke the only inviolable rule of "don't screw it up" games; they screwed it up.
Final score -- Akron 59, Eastern Michigan 62
Final stats of note: Akron shot 34.7 percent, compared to CMU's 44.2 percent. The Zips missed their final seven 3-point attempts. Brett McKnight led Akron with 13 points. Conyers pulled down six rebounds. McNees tallied six assists. Higgins led four Eagles in double figures with 17. Dobbins grabbed seven boards.
Combined, the McKnights and Cvetinovic were 6-for-23. Roberts and McNees combined were 2-for-9. Bad shooting nights happen. There isn't much you can do. If you want to be an optimist, you can say the Zips should have been blown out after being outshot in the second half, 28.6 percent to 50 percent.
Did the Zips miss Hitchens? Maybe a hot-shooting night would have rescued Akron. He's done it before.
A lot of fans are leaving Rhodes Arena disappointed, but to put things in perspective, we just saw a brave 12-year-old girl with a brain tumor.
Akron is now 5-3 in the MAC, looking up to Kent State (6-2) and Central Michigan (5-2). The Zips don't have much time to sulk. NIU comes to Rhodes Arena for a 7 p.m. game Wednesday. The Huskies have given Akron a lot of trouble the past two seasons. CMU is next facing the MAC East gauntlet, but it will play Buffalo, Kent State and Akron all in Mount Pleasant.
"Everything just came together tonight."
"We're finding that stage in the program where we have some depth. This has been my most cognitive team."
"They're a good team. They're capable of shooting well. When Nikola, Brett McKnight and Chris McKnight play like that, you're not going to win."
"It will be a good check for us. Our fans will all give up on us. We will have to rally ourselves. It will be a good test of character."
"We hustled. We just didn't shoot anything. We played like we had no confidence down in there. We were missing little two-footers. Brett McKnight is a good shooter, but damn, you have to make an open 3 once. He's gotta do better than that. Until those guys play consistently, we're going to have nights like this."
On Cvetinovic: "You can't charge twice. And with two fouls to start the half, you can't charge. That's called discipline. It's bad discipline. I felt like every time we got close, we had bad discipline. Jimmy reached in at mid court. Bardo holding in the post."
"Not having Humpty hurt us. The program is bigger than any one guy. I'm going to discipline guys. I'm going to treat them like my own kids."
"At some point, you have to realize this guy is shooting 3s. You have to run at him."
"We've been down and out before. So we'll see what we're made of. I ripped their ass tonight."
"It's a funny league. Nobody is that much better than anybody else. Do I think they're that much different than Western Michigan? Naw. I don't think they're that much different than Miami."
"I'm going to get on him (Brett McKnight). At this point, that's probably not the best thing to do. He goes 2-for-9 tonight. He goes 2-for-13 at Buffalo. At Kent, he was awful. Every game we lose, there is a common denominator. He's not the best rebounder or defender we have, so we have to get him to play good offense. He's been more inconsistent this year than last year."
"We could not trap them. We tried to trap them some. We couldn't speed them up as much as others."
"They have good inside guys. We did a good enough job on their inside guys. We didn't do a good job on their peripheral guys. They stayed in the zone (defense). We've had very little trouble with it, but we had trouble tonight."
On Higgins' 3: "Jimmy gave help, but he has to run out. He didn't run out as hard as he should. He's made them all night, so you've gotta make him dribble-drive."
"You can't get a better look than that (Brett McKnight's attempt)."
"The whole thing is us. I don't think it depends on anybody else. Right now, we look like an average MAC team. I never bought the hype that we're a great MAC team. If we're not on it, we're going to have issues. It really doesn't matter who we play. We play good enough defense to be in most games. We just have to put the ball in the basket. We have to be good in the low block, because we can't go one-on-one like Carlos Medlock."
"Is it the end of the world? It is for me right now, but it won't be tomorrow. It's easy to coach when things are good."
Akron is heavily favored again to win tonight's game against Eastern Michigan at Rhodes Arena. The line is Akron minus 13.
The series is tied 17-17, but Akron has won the last seven, according to GoZips.com.
Tom Gaffney wrote a fascinating story about Steve McNees and his relationship with his father Bill, who coached him four years at Shenango High School in Pennsylvania.
Despite the 2-5 conference record, 10-10 is the best record EMU has had in seven years, according to EMUEagles.com.
Akron's Bracketbuster opponent will be announced at 6:30 p.m. Rick McFadden told me the coaches believe Akron has a good chance to land a TV game.
Akron locked up three new recruits:
Keith Sconiers, as I mentioned last week, visited campus and decided to commit to Akron, according to a public relations volunteer at Richards High School in Illinois, where Sconiers attends. Three Zips coaches visited Richards High School in the past week, so you can see that the 6-foot-3 three-star receiver was a key recruit for Rob Ianello.
Giorgio Bowers, a three-star running back (also from Illinois), also committed this weekend, after de-committing from Northern Illinois. He chose Akron after visiting the campus and being wowed by the facilities. Bowers' highlight video shows a determined runner who does not go down on first contact.
The third recruit is an Ohio cornerback, the state's 14th best at that position, according to OhioVarsity.com. Carl Washington, a 5-10 Columbus product, committed to Akron over the weekend. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds.
Also, Gaffney confirms that Ohio's two-time Mr. Football, Erick Howard, will sign with Akron. He had verbally committed to the Zips, then began to consider Toledo. The question now becomes: Will he qualify for grades? And if not, will he remain with the program once he does?