The University of Akron men’s team first game against the State University of New York Buffalo felt more like track meet than basketball game.
Defense was at a premium. Actually defense was MIA. And the 186 points scored (96-90 Buffalo) was certainly proved that.
This and Friday’s game against rival Kent represent the two most crucial games of the Zips’ season. That they come at the end makes things that much more fun. UA cannot afford to run a track meet just yet. Forward Nick Harney isn’t back in shape yet and wing Reggie McAdams will be winded from recovering from mononucleosis. Yet, the Zips will have to see of what they’re made.
“When you play here, every game is more important because we're always fighting for championships. Every game late in the year, since I've been here, has meant something,” coach Keith Dambrot said.
Beating Buffalo won’t be easy, but here are five things UA must do to win:
1. Point guard Nyles Evans will have to continue to play as he has. In the past four games, he’s averaged close to 10 points a game [he scored 18 against Buffalo on Feb. 19]. During the same span, he’s connected on 48 percent (11-of-23) from the three-point arc.
2. The Zips will have to crash the boards. Buffalo dominated the glass, out rebounding the Zips 35-25 on their home floor.
3. They had defensive problems throughout, but the Zips treated the paint like a “pass go” zone as the Bulls’ guards – Jarod Oldham and Joshua Freelove – combined for 41 points, hitting on 17-of-22 shots for the game. The Zips will have to make those guards feel them. Forward Javon McCrea will get his, but there’s no reason their guards should be escorted to the hoop.
4. The Zips did something fantastic in that initial loss – they protected the ball, turning it over just four times in the game. They need to do it again. No one expects four turnovers, but keeping it under double digits should go a long way toward contributing to a win.
5. Lastly, they need to contest shots overall. Buffalo shot 63 percent in the first meeting. No, that wasn’t mistyped.