Here is some additional information following the University of Akron 2-0 win over Stanford in an NCAA Tournament third-round men’s soccer game:
UA will host Tulsa on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Elite Eight.
Sophomore forward Teal Bunbury and junior midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong each scored a first-half goal to help the No. 1 Zips (22-0-0) defeat No. 17 Stanford University (12-6-2) before a Lee Jackson Field record crowd of 2,806.
The crowd experienced one of UA’s best halves of the season. They played their style (dominant soccer) and Stanford had a hard time dealing with it.
The bleachers in front of the press box and the student section behind the one goal on the hill were full. I wonder if they could possibly get 3,000 or more into the next game.
''I thought it was a very businesslike game for us, and that is something we have tried to focus on. I think there is a tendency sometimes for teams to change things, and because now you're playing for a national championship, for some reason you put extra pressure on yourself or you get extra excited.
''I think you need to do the exact opposite. You need to continue to do what you have done all year. For us, that is playing our style, dictating the game on both sides of the ball, jumping on a team early with our pressure, with our speed of play and our movement.''
''I thought that first half was one of the best halves of the year. In fact, I'm not so sure I have seen a college soccer team do what we did to a team in that first half in any season that I have been a part of. This team has a whole 'nother gear that they go into at certain times. I know there is even another level they will hit in the next round and future rounds.''
On the victory: ''We came into this game thinking we were going to win and we got it done. We will enjoy this [Sunday night] and then [Monday] we'll get ready for Tulsa on Saturday.''
On his 17 goal of the season, which leads the nation: 'It was kind of bouncing around and I saw the opportunity and I wasn't going to miss it. I just drove it home and got the goal.''
On his eighth goal of the season: 'It was just another set piece. I work on it in practice.''
''I thought our team played well and my defense played great in front of me. They limited the shots they had, and I was fortunate to make the saves on the ones I had to.''
''It was a total team effort.''
Stanford coach Bret Simon
''I'd like to congratulate Akron, what a beautiful team. Coach Porter has assembled a team that plays an attractive style on offense and defense. I think that is the best team I have seen in a number of years.''
-- The Zips held an advantage over the Cardinal in shots (16-4), shots on goal (9-3) and corner kicks (8-4).
-- UA is three wins away from a national title.
-- Tulsa (15-4-2) defeated visiting Northwestern 1-0 on Sunday.
-- The Zips defeated the Golden Hurricane 1-0 on Sept. 6 in the Tulsa Tournament in Oklahoma. That was UA's second game of the season.
-- Bunbury gave the Zips a 1-0 lead with 16:58 remaining in the first half when he headed the ball from six yards away into the upper left of the net past Cardinal senior goalkeeper John Moore.
-- Bunbury's goal came after the ball was volleyed by several players. Ampaipitakwong started the play with a corner kick, senior Ben Zemanski got a touch on it and freshman Chad Barson recorded the assist on the goal.
-- Ampaipitakwong extended the Zips' lead to 2-0 with an unassisted goal with 8:05 left in the first half when he booted a direct free kick 26 yards into the upper left of the net past Moore.
-- UA outshot Stanford 9-0 in the first half and held a 5-0 advantage in shots on goal.
-- UA shut out its 16th opponent of the season, which sets a school record surpassing the 2005 team's mark. Zips freshman goalkeeper David Meves was credited with his 14th shutout, which ties the school-record that goalkeeper Evan Bush set in 2005.
-- Barson, sophomore Kofi Sarkodie, junior Chris Korb and freshman Zarek Valentin contributed in the back as the Zips' starting defenders.
-- Junior midfielder Blair Gavin, sophomore forward Darlington Nagbe and freshman midfielder Ben Speas also contributed as UA starters.
-- This is the Zips' third trip to the Elite Eight. The 2005 team was eliminated in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion Maryland, and the 1986 team finished national runner-up to champion Duke.
-- Speas started in place of injured sophomore Michael Nanchoff.
-- Zips freshmen reserves Yoram Mwila and Scott Caldwell also contributed in the win.
-- UA is undefeated in the last 25 home games at 24-0-1, which dates back to 2007. The Zips are 53-2-4 since 2005 at home.
-- Under Porter since 2006, the Zips are 44-0-0 when leading at halftime and 49-0-0 when they score two or more goals in a game.
-- The fourth round matchups: Akron vs. Tulsa, North Carolina vs. Drake, Wake Forest vs. UCLA, Maryland vs. Virginia.
-- The College Cup (Final Four) will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The semifinal is Dec. 11 and the final is Dec. 13.
Akron's top associate athletic director is receiving a promotion -- although not the one he initially desired.
After finishing as a close runner-up for Akron's top job, Hunter Yurachek was named the new athletic director at Coastal Carolina.
It would have been nice if Laing Kennedy retired from Kent State a little sooner, because Yurachek probably would have been a favorite for the Flashes. The Coastal Carolina job opened sooner, however, and it seems to be a good fit geographically because Yurachek's in-laws are nearby.
The elephant in the room at the athletic department has been: When will Tom Wistrcill sweep out some employees to make room for his own people? Or will he do it at all? Now Wistrcill has an opportunity to install his own marketing guru to take Yurachek's spot.
I wish Yurachek luck at his new position.
Tomorrow, I will provide a position-by-position season recap.
Akron beat Stanford 2-0 this evening to advance to the Elite Eight, where the Zips will play Tulsa at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The Zips received goals from Teal Bunbury and Anthony Ampaipitakwong in the shutout victory. I watched some of the game, and I can confirm coach Caleb Porter when he says:
Keep refreshing your browser for updates...
I will never take wireless connectivity for granted again. Glad to be up and running for this game.
Niagara plays only seven players with regularity. Four of those players average more than 30 minutes per game. They are Bilal Benn (a 6-foot-5 senior forward who averages 14.7 points and 11.8 rebounds), Rob Garrison (a 6-2 senior guard who averages about 13, 4 and 4), Anthony Nelson (a 6-1 junior guard who has about the same stats as Garrison) and Demetrius Williamson (a 6-5 senior forward who averages 10.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game).
Benn transferred from Villanova after playing sparingly for two years. Garrison is much the same, except he played two years at UConn. Williamson played one year at Bakersfield C.C. before coming to Niagara. Three other Purple Eagles have transferred from other Division I teams.
Another player to watch is Kashief Edwards, a 6-5 sophomore who blocks 2.8 shots per game.
All told, Niagara isn't a very tall team in the post. It has two 6-8 freshmen, but they combine for only 18 minutes per game. The Purple Eagles do present matchup problems on the wings, where they feature three players who are 6-5.
Dad, if you're reading this. Yes, I do have your laptop. And yes, I'll have it back to you sometime tonight.
Akron's starters: Darryl Roberts, Humpty Hitchens, Jimmy Conyers, Nik Cvetinovic and Zeke Marshall. Conyers starting is a result of Niagara's size at swingman.
My buddy Scott Garnick came up with a great idea for the AK-Rowdies. They should chart Marshall's blocks, like fans do for strikeouts at baseball games. Maybe they tape a giant hand to the wall behind the student section everytime Marshall swats one. (I don't think Garnick wanted me to use his name, because it will show up on Google searches. Tough luck, pal.)
I don't think any of the Zips guards, maybe with the exception of Steve McNees, has the guts to throw an effective lob pass into Marshall. This is something to practice.
Akron is a one-point underdog today. When was the last time Akron was not favored at home? It shows how much respect this court has lost over the past two years.
Marshall got the crowd excited early with a swat.
Like on Friday, Chris McKnight, Brett McKnight and Mike Bardo subbed in at around the 16:00 mark.
Marshall has a mismatch in the post against Edwards, who is four inches shorter and just as thin. They must be aggressive in feeding him down there. On the other side, Marshall can't settle for 10-foot jump shots when a dribble and drop step would give him an easy layup or dunk. Niagara is starting to double-team Marshall in the post with the other post player, a technique that is not used often.
One of Akron's most reliable plays has been an isolation for Cvetinovic. He drives from the top of the key and goes high off the backboard for a layup.
Niagara is on a 11-2 run. Akron's shots just aren't falling. The team is 6-for-21 with 7:44 left in the first half. With eight points, Roberts has more than half of the Zips' 15 points.
Conyers just nailed a 3. I think he needs to get at least 25 minutes tonight for defensive purposes. Any offense is a plus.
Ronnie Steward entered the game for his first appearance at home this season. He looks comfortable running the point.
Marshall, on the other hand, has had a series of miscues. Maybe one day he'll be a decent shooter from 15 feet, but that day is not today. It seems he picks the wrong times to be aggressive and the wrong times to be passive. The stat sheet has him at 0-for-4 from the field with two turnovers -- but also four blocks (of which I can remember only two). He is influencing a lot of Niagara's shots, either way.
Finally, Akron guards have fed the ball above Niagara defenders who are fronting Marshall. McNees and Roberts executed successful passes.
Benn hit a 3 just before the halftime buzzer. Halftime score: Akron 23, Niagara 31. The Zips shot 27.6 percent from the field, compared to Niagara's 41.4 percent. Roberts leads both teams with eight points. Garrison and Marshall both have five rebounds.
Marshall basically powerslammed a Niagara player solely through blocking a shot. The Purple Eagle hit the floor through the force of Marshall's swat.
As soon as Akron get some progress on Niagara's lead, the Purple Eagles hit a 3. They have made 7-of-15 3-point attempts.
Roberts and Conyers hit back-to-back 3s to tie the game.
The teams traded four-consecutive 3-pointers. Akron's came from McNees, who is 3-of-4 today on 3s. Hitchens is 1-for-10 from the field, so McNees counteracts that. Whoops. There's another 3 from McNees. Keep feeding him!
Niagara already has seven fouls with 10 minutes still left in the second half.
Marshall just smacked a Niagara shot into the band. He has six blocks. On the other end, Chris McKnight fed Marshall a nice entry pass for an easy five-footer. Niagara traveled, giving the Zips the ball with an eight-point lead. This is the scenario at which Akron has failed in the past two games. Will the Zips look to extend the lead, or will they let Niagara creep back?
Benn has four fouls. He is on the bench with 12 points, five assists and four rebounds.
The ref called a double-foul on Marshall and Scooter Gillett. That gives Marshall four fouls.
Chris McKnight is sleepwalking through another game. He has two points and three rebounds. Keith Dambrot must demand more out of the senior.
I must give credit for the improvement Akron has made in making the lob entry pass to Marshall. You won't find an easier basket if you can execute the pass. Marshall has 11 points, six rebounds and six blocks.
I made a bet with the PD's Elton Alexander, who believes Niagara coach Joe Mihalich will get a technical foul. As I typed that, Mihalich got not only one tech, but two. The second came after Mihalich slammed his clipboard to the floor. The referee signaled for a UAPD officer to escort Mihalich out of the auditorium. Mihalich went, but only after getting a few more choice words at both officials. Akron will shoot four free throws, then get the ball. With a six-point lead and 3:46 left, that's a death knell for Niagara. Roberts made all four free throws to give him 15 points. Akron leads by 10. Nice job, coach.
Niagara is pressuring the ball as the Zips try to run clock. It's smart to get an extra 15 seconds on each possession at this point in the game. The Purple Eagles eventually fouled Hitchens who split the pair. Akron grabbed the offensive rebound after the second one missed.
Marshall fouled out after crashing the boards on a free throw. He finishes with 12 points, six blocks, six rebounds and five fouls.
Niagara has stolen the ball from Akron on consecutive possessions. This is the jitteriness that Dambrot was talking about. It looks like the Zips will hold on because Niagara isn't taking care of the ball, either.
If you take away those four points from the technical fouls, this is a one-possession game. I understand wanting to make a point to the refs, but Mihalich neglected to control himself at the detriment of his own team.
Conyers has a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He has quietly played well today. He drew an offensive foul that will seal the game.
This is a big win, considering Akron's leading scorer was 1-for-13 from the field. Hitchens had one of those games. He needs to cool down a little bit. I don't know what's making him so high-strung, but it's affecting his game.
Marshall tied a school record with six blocks. A couple years ago, Larry Sanders of VCU had nine for the Rhodes Arena record. Marshall played a career-high 29 minutes.
Other stats of note: Conyers finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Tyrone Lewis of Niagara led both teams with 21 points. Akron finished with a 43 percent shooting clip from the field, after being 28 percent in the field half. Both teams shot 41 percent on 3-pointers.
Final score -- Akron 80, Niagara 68
Niagara coach Joe Mihalich:
"That's our seventh game, sixth on the road. We're going to try to get better on the things we can control."
"It's a shame that the circumstances weren't different. It would have been nice to have a neutral site or a neutral something or other."
"They're a good team. This is the type of team that we like to play that will make us better."
"I'm just going to fight for my team. I really thought obviously that some fouls should have been called. I thought there were a lot not getting called. I'm going to fight for my guys. They fight for each other."
"I thought it was an Ohio State football game for a minute."
Akron coach Keith Dambrot:
"I thought we played well the first half, we just didn't make any shots. It was the best defensively we've played all year. I felt we could get good shots in the second half. I thought Elton [Alexander]'s guy played really good -- Jimmy Conyers. He deserves it. He has fought, battled. I thought McNees played really well."
"Zeke was terrific. You can look at the line, and that's pretty good. But it's way deeper than that. Every time we drove in there, there was hesitation. Nobody likes to get their shot blocked. They turn it over. They travel."
"Every time we got up on them, we gave up a 3 ball. I thought we tried much harder."
"That's kind of like how Humpty is. He's homerun, then strikeout. I didn't like his turnovers at the end. I thought he tried much harder defensively."
"It was much more encouraging than our first five games. I thought it was a much better performance than any we've played this year. That's a good team. They'll win their share."
"Having that big guy at the basket changes the dynamic. You can play out. You don't have to sink in when the ball hits the post. He's only 40 percent of where he's going to be. When he's in the game, you don't want to suck in at all. When he's not in the game, you have to collapse because we're small."
"Ben can beat you like LeBron can beat you. He came in averaging four offensive rebounds per game. He can beat you inside, he can shoot it, he can pass. He got a quiet 17."
"There's two dilemmas at the end of the game with Zeke. One, he has to make free throws. Two, he is inexperienced. The dilemma is how much do we play him at crunch time now so that when we need him, he can play?"
"We need to throw him the ball. One, for his development. Two, so we can throw it outside. He's difficult to front because you can throw it over the top. When he gets 25 pounds on him, it won't be so hard. If you watch, they beat the crap out of him all game. They're shoving him the whole game. We have to keep talking to the referees that they can't let him get mugged. Because he's going to get mugged. When you play in our league, they'll beat the poop out of him."
Soccer prediction: "3-0 the Zips are going to win. Mark it down."
Difference in the second half: "We got some shots to fall."
"We felt like it was a matter of time. It was like getting a monkey off the back."
"We used our defense to get us going. Anytime we get out on the break, we look good."
"We have come out flat to start most of our games. If we can start the game how we're coming out of halftime, it would help."
"We were playing good D. We knew we were missing some easy shots. We'd be in the game."
"He [Marshall] is a big target. We definitely want to go to him more. Once we saw he was scoring, we went to him. We weren't surprised (they fronted Marshall), we just took advantage of it."
I don't think Brookhart's dismissal was a surprise to most people in the know. A lot of the university's big donors have pushed for a change. A lot of fans, me included, also believed it was time to hold the coach accountable for four-straight disappointing years.
I want to commend Brookhart for the things he did here. He was a friendly person to me. Those who worked with him raved about his leadership and thoughtfulness.
Unfortunately, the nature of his profession is instability. If you buy a home, you cannot reasonably believe you'll be there more than 10 years. That goes double at Akron, because it's a stepping stone job for coaches without roots in the area. So you're either moving up or moving out. I don't think Brookhart would have hesitated to take on a head coaching job at a bigger college.
With that said, I know he turned down at least one NFL job as a position coach -- one that would provide a larger salary than Akron was paying. He had loyalty to Akron, and he gave all of his effort to try to turn the program into a winner.
We have heard a lot of excuses since 2006 of why the team wasn't where it needed to be. Most of them made sense, such as a lack of emphasis on special teams, lack of senior leadership or injuries. But how long must fans continue to ride that wave? They are, after all, paying money to see a good product.
The financial aspects of this arrangement are not ideal for the university. Brookhart has another year on his contract, but you can almost always make that argument. How often is it that a coach deserves to be fired only in the last year of his contract? Plus, could his staff really recruit a new class without being able to assure families that Brookhart -- upon whom the promise of a scholarship depends -- would be there past December 2010? I don't think so.
In the press conference, Tom Wistrcill says he has a long list of potential candidates. One question is what background you are looking for. Here are some options: 1) A successful head coach at a lower division. 2) A rising star coordinator at a BCS school. 3) A fired head coach from a BCS school. 4) An NFL assistant coach.
Take a look at the other successful coaches in the MAC. Turner Gill came to Buffalo from the Green Bay Packers, where he was a lower-level assistant. He also had experience coaching at Nebraska. Before coming to Central Michigan, Butch Jones was a rising star coordinator at West Virginia under Rich Rodriguez. Central Michigan was his alma mater, and Jones had been a coordinator there before. Al Golden was one of the nation's youngest coordinators at Virginia before Temple hired him. Then you have Frank Solich, who was the head coach at Nebraska, one of one of the nation's most prominent programs.
If you want to reel in a guy like Solich, Akron will have to increase the salary it is willing to pay. Many coordinators at big programs earn more than the $250,000 that Akron paid Brookhart. If you grab a successful coach from a lower division (the Mack Rhoades model), you might not have to increase the salary so much.
I will have more on this later, including quotes from Wistrcill's press conference. The GoZips.com press release has some quotes.
I was at the game last night, but my computer would not cooperate, so here are the notes.
The liveblog transcript...
Tom Gaffney reporting here for Mike The end may come as early as Saturday for Zips football coach J.D. Brookhart. Brookhart, UA president Dr. Luis Proenza and athletic director Tom Wistrcill are meeting Saturday to discuss the coach's future. Updates will be entered here as information becomes available.To read more or comment...
Sunday's NCAA Tournament third-round match between the University of Akron men's soccer team and Stanford is officially sold out, the UA Athletics Department announced Friday morning.
It is the fourth time the No. 1 ranked Zips will be playing in front of a capacity crowd this year as the soccer program has already broken three attendance records this season. Sunday's crowd is expected to challenge the current record of 2,700 fans, set this past Sunday in a 2-0 win against South Florida.
The Zips and Cardinal will kick off at 4 p.m. at Lee Jackson Field.
The Zips (21-0-0) are attempting to become the first team in 35 years to win a national championship with a perfect record. UA has drawn crowds of more than 2,000 fans six times in 11 home games after doing so just once before in its program history entering the year.
With 2,443 fans in attendance to watch the Zips defeat Indiana 1-0 on Sept. 18, UA topped the previous high of 2,319, originally set vs. Ohio State in 2005. That record fell less than two weeks later when 2,473 witnessed a 3-0 victory over the Buckeyes on Sept. 30.
Fans without tickets to Sunday's game can watch a live video feed for free on GoZips.com. A link will be available at kick off.
Welcome to the culmination of the Season of Misery. It appropriately ends with a game against one of the very worst teams in FBS. Don't take solace, because Akron fits that description, too.
Eastern Michigan and Akron are similar in a few ways. First, both teams are loaded with freshmen. Only nine seniors hold a position on EMU's first or second string. Similarly, Akron has 11 seniors on the two-deep.
Second, both teams have cycled through three quarterbacks. EMU's offense had hope under Andy Schmitt, who kept the team competitive against Army and Northwestern. Schmitt suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game. Sophomore Kyle McMahon got three starts before eventually surrendering the job to true freshman Alex Gillett.
Third, both teams are floundering statistically and in the win column. Akron and EMU have combined for one win against an FBS opponent all year. Yep, this is a big-time pillow fight.
What motivates EMU is avoiding a winless season. What motivates Akron is, uh, playing before mostly friends and family at a brand-new stadium.
Eastern Michigan does boast the MAC's most stingy pass defense -- statistically. The reason is this: Nobody passes against EMU because the Eagles are SO bad against the run. They give up 284.5 rushing yards per game, which is worst in the nation and almost 90 yards per game worse than anyone else in the MAC.
Although Akron's running game has suffered this season, you can bet that whoever takes the handoffs will put up a career game.
On offense, the Eagles have a dependable back in Dwayne Priest. The true freshman quarterback, Gillett, has done well considering the lack of talent around him and his own lack of experience. Lately, Gillett has run the ball more often than he hands it off.
Here is Tom Gaffney's preview.
The Zips are 16-point favorites. The over-under is 50.
Here is what I wrote about the game on July 23, when 88 percent of readers voted that Akron would win.
The Ann Arbor newspaper talks about how bad EMU coach Ron English believes the season has gone: "It's amazing - it's almost like you to try and lose this many games - it's hard to lose this many games and so you put the focus on something else."
It's going to be a feel-good win to finish the season. If it's not, eek. EMU can't stop Gumby from running for 150 yards. It will be a good opportunity for Broderick Alexander and DeVoe Torrence to gain momentum heading into next season.
Akron 31, EMU 9
Here is some additional information following the University of Akron 2-0 win over South Florida in an NCAA Tournament second-round men’s soccer game.
Junior midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong scored both goals and helped the No. 1 Zips (21-0-0) defeat the No. 16 Bulls (14-4-3), who ended UA's 2001 and 2007 seasons in the NCAA Tournament.
UA will host Stanford on Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Sweet 16.
The top-ranked Zips defeated the Bulls before a Lee Jackson Field record crowd of 2,700.
The bleachers in front of the press box and the student section behind the goal were full. A lot of people were watching the game from near the benches, outside the stadium on small hills, from the Student Union, etc. The temporary bleachers that were set up appeared to be too small. Hopefully, they can find some larger temporary bleachers to set up and the crowd against Stanford could reach 3,000.
UA held an advantage in shots (14-1), shots on goal (5-1) and corner kicks (7-1).
''I think it was good to get that first game out of the way. I told the guys after the game that over the years that has often times been one of the more difficult games that I have played in and coached in because it is a new feeling and it's kind of a new anxiety that you don't deal with until you get there.''
On Ampaipitakwong: ''He is just a big-game player. It doesn't surprise me. He always seems to turn it up a notch in the biggest games. The free kick was tremendous. He got the guy leaning toward his left and went against the grain and whipped it back. Special players make those types of plays to win games, especially in the NCAA Tournament.''
''I thought we defended very well. Coming into the game, we wanted to disrupt their rhythm with pressure. I thought we were able to stop a very explosive, attacking team. South Florida likes to keep possession of the ball and control the game, but we were able to prevent them from doing that tonight.''
On the groin injury to Zips sophomore midfielder Michael Nanchoff: ''We don't know how he is going to be … as much as we miss Mikey, losing one player will not change the way this team plays. I think we proved that tonight. We will continue to hope he is healthy and see where he is at. We have a week.''
On Ampaipitakwong'a play this season: ''He was hurt for the first two years of his [collegiate] career. He finally got healthy this year after he got surgery over the summer. The first two years he couldn't even shoot that [second goal] because he had a sports hernia and he had a groin pull. We are starting to see just how special this kid is now that he is finally healthy. He is capable of doing that. I am real proud of him.''
''Ampai scored two brilliant goals. With this team, it is always different guys that are scoring the goals. I know Teal has the lion's share of the goals, but the last several games it was Darlington, before that it was Teal, before that it was Ampai.''
On beating USF: ''It feels great. It was two years ago. We don't think about that. This is a totally different season from anything we have ever had. We joked around about it as a team. It was kind of like revenge, but this is a whole new year and we are focused.''
On the first goal: ''It was a moment I had to take. I stepped up, saw the goalie cheated a little bit to one side, so I hit it back post and it went in.''
-- Ampaipitakwong and junior midfielder Blair Gavin are the only Zips who started in Sunday's game and in the 2007 game against South Florida.
-- Ampaipitakwong gave the Zips a 1-0 lead from 23 yards away off of a direct free kick in the 25th minute and extended the Zips' lead to 2-0 from 22 yards away in the 33rd minute. He right-footed both shots into the net.
-- UA shut out its 15th opponent of the season, which ties a school record that the 2005 team set. Zips freshman goalkeeper David Meves was credited with his 13th shutout. Sophomore Kofi Sarkodie, junior Chris Korb and freshmen Zarek Valentin and Chad Barson were the Zips' starting defenders the quartet each played all 90 minutes.
-- Gavin and senior Ben Zemanski were steady at midfield for UA.
-- UA sophomore midfielder Michael Nanchoff started and played 21 minutes before leaving the game with a groin injury. He was icing his groin area during the game near the bench and did not return. Freshmen Scott Caldwell, Ben Speas and Yoram Mwila played in Nanchoff's absence.
-- The two goals put Ampaipitakwong third for UA, behind sophomore forwards Teal Bunbury (16 goals) and sophomore forward Darlington Nagbe (10 goals).
-- UA tied the 1988 Portland and 2001 Southern Methodist teams for the second-longest single-season winning streak in NCAA history at 21 games. Indiana holds the record at 23 consecutive wins without a loss or tie. The Hoosiers did that in 1997 and UA coach Caleb Porter was a starting midfielder on that IU team. Tha team lost in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
-- The Zips are four wins shy of becoming the first team in 35 years to win a national championship with a perfect record. Howard was the last team to accomplish the feat when it went 19-0-0 in 1974. Howard is one of six teams to do it.
Four wins shy of national title
UA is four wins away from winning the national title in Cary, North Carolina.
There were 16 teams seeded and each received a bye in the first round. Eight lost in the second round.
The third round matchups: Akron vs. Stanford, Northwestern vs. Tulsa, North Carolina vs. Indiana, Boston College vs. Drake, Wake Forest vs. Duke, UC Santa Barbara vs. UCLA, Maryland vs. Harvard and Portland vs. Virginia.
Seeded teams that lost: Ohio State, Penn State, San Diego, Butler, St. John's (N.Y.), Michigan State, North Carolina State and UC Irvine.
The College Cup (Final Four) will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park. The semifinal is Dec. 11 and the final is Dec. 13.
Thanks to two goals from Anthony Ampaipitakwong and the typical feisty defense, Akron advanced past South Florida this evening at Lee Jackson Field by a 2-0 score.
Akron outshot South Florida 14-1. Eight Zips got at least one crack at the net.
In the next round of the NCAA Tournament -- the Sweet Sixteen -- Akron will play the winner of Stanford and UC-Irvine. That game starts tonight at 9.
As usual, Michael Beaven will have more on the game later.
The Zips finished their only preseason tournament with a 69-52 win over Howard.
Akron held Howard to 35 percent shooting. Nik Cvetinovic and Chris McKnight led Akron with 13 points apiece. Steve McNees added six assists and three steals.
Akron's next game is home against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 7 p.m. It is the beginning of a streak of nine home games out of the next 11.
Returning to the form of last season, Humpty Hitchens found a rhythm in the second half of today's game against Drake, scoring 17 points and dishing an assist to Darryl Roberts for the game-sealing jumpshot.
Akron won its first game of the season against Drake, 63-59.
The Bulldogs led by as many as nine in the second half before the Zips went on a 10-0 run. Neither team led by more than four the rest of the game.
Akron will conclude the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., with an 11 a.m. game against Howard tomorrow.
If you look at the stats from last night's game, it's hard to see how Bowling Green won by 16.
Two plays come to mind. First, Dale Martin's fumble on the Bowling Green 12-yard line. Second, the attempted onside kick that the Falcons returned for a touchdown.
Aside from that, Akron and Bowling Green each had 21 first downs. The Falcons held a slight edge in total yardage: 474 to 430.
This was far from the beatdown I envisioned. Akron hung in there, exchanged blows with a strong offense, but Bowling Green scored 28 points within a 13-minute span.
The most obvious positive from this game was the play of Patrick Nicely. Folks, you're watching a talented kid learn his trade and make progress every week. You can tell his timing is improving. His accuracy is getting better. And from Day One, he has possessed the poise to stay in the pocket and be patient for his receivers to open up.
Also look at Brian Wagner, who tallied another 15 tackles. He is the next in the line of great Akron linebackers, going back to Jay Rohr, John Mackey and Kevin Grant.
Broderick Alexander showed great bursts of speed at times. He reminds me of a young Alex Allen. A string of injuries is all that has kept Allen from his all-conference potential during his career. We also saw some good things from Nadir Brown and Anthony Meriwether at receiver.
This is not a team devoid of talent. Nor is it a team without experience. Perhaps what the team lacks is experienced talent -- or senior leadership.
Next week, Akron will finish the season against Eastern Michigan. Is there a difference between 2-10 and 3-9? Not really. Is there a reason for the casual fan to attend? Not really. If there is some solace in a bad season, however, it's neat to see the next generation of Zips fight their way to the top of the depth chart and learn what it takes to be an elite college athlete.
I think there are several on the roster.
Akron moved the ball, but a couple costly mistakes and an inability to stop Tyler Sheehan's passing attack led to a 36-20 Bowling Green win.
With tonight's loss, Akron's record is 2-9. I'll have more on the game tomorrow.
N.C. State shot 65 percent in the Wolfpac's 66-45 win over Akron, which shot only 31 percent from the field.
Humpty Hitchens led Akron with 10 points. Zeke Marshall was 1-for-6 from the field, scoring two and grabbing four rebounds.
The Zips play again Saturday at 1:15 p.m. as the Glenn Wilkes Classic from Daytona Beach, Fla., continues.
At the beginning of this season, a lot of Zips fans believed that Akron would be in the position that Bowling Green presently occupies: pretty close to .500 with two games left, having a good chance to sneak to the top of the division and/or play in a bowl.
Like Akron, the Falcons started the year 1-4. They turned the season around by winning five of their next six. Coach Dave Clawson said an interesting quote, which almost sounds as if it was directed at Akron: "When you start out a season 1-4, if you don't have good senior leadership that can quickly become 1-5, 1-6, 1-7."
The Zips sit at 2-8. Is it senior leadership? Akron certainly had plenty of seniors on offense, where the bulk of this season's problems arose. Would things have been different if Chris Jacquemain wasn't kicked off the team? I really don't have the answer.
Regardless, the Zips face an explosive offense this evening. Bowling Green averages about 35 more passing yards than anyone else in the MAC.
Freddie Barnes and Tyler Sheehan should both be candidates for MAC Player of the Year. Barnes is leading the nation in receptions -- and it's not even close. Sheehan is passing for about 50 yards more than anyone else in the conference.
The way to beat Bowling Green is on the ground. The Falcons surrender an average of 130 yards more on the ground running than they accumulate. Their pass defense, however, is pretty good.
News and notes...
Tom Gaffney's preview talks about how Barnes and Sheehan developed their connection.
The Falcons are 10.5-point favorites.
Here is what I wrote about Bowling Green on July 29, when 67 percent of readers thought Akron would win.
This is the easiest prediction all year. Bowling Green is an awful matchup for the Zips. The running game is not what it needs to be to take advantage of the Falcons' only weakness. Can Miguel Graham keep up with Barnes? Maybe for a quarter, but this game will turn south quickly.
Akron 13, Bowling Green 47
Here are some additional details on the University of Akron men’s soccer team after the Zips earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament:
University of Akron coach Caleb Porter
Said to the Zips players at the Barley House: “Congratulations on getting the No. 1 seed. You're 20-0, but now you're 0-0 and the real season begins.”
On earning the No. 1 overall seed: “We're very excited. This is what we wanted and what we've worked hard for all year long. Our vision when we started this journey three months ago was to win the national championship. In order to do that, you have to put yourself in the best position possible going into the NCAA Tournament.”
On his players: “Our players have dug deep all year and they have learned lessons, which are important. They're battle tested and they got results. Now the fun starts. This is what we have prepared for and what we have been waiting for. It's a new season.”
Zips senior co-captain Ben Zemanski
On the bracket and the possibility of playing South Florida and Northwestern: “We definitely like our bracket. We like being No. 1. We expected it. I think were not looking for redemption per say, we're looking for one thing and that is to win a national championship. If they happen to be in our way, we'll be happy to take them down.”
Zips junior co-captain Blair Gavin
On receiving the No. 1 overall seed: “I was happy to get the No. 1 seed after all the hard work and effort we have put in everyday to win each and every game. I thought we are a deserving team. We have to win five games to win the national championship. Being No. 1 before the tournament is nice, but being No. 1 in the end is what we are looking for.”
- UA (20-0-0) earned a bye past the first round and will host the winner of Stetson (14-3-2) at South Florida (13-3-3) in the second round on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Lee Jackson Field.
- The Zips grabbing the top seed was not shocking because they are ranked No. 1 in the country in all five national polls and the RPI. Virginia (14-3-3), Wake Forest (14-3-3) and Ohio State (12-4-4) received the second through fourth seeds.
- North Carolina (13-2-3), UCLA (10-3-4), Penn State (12-7-2) and Tulsa (13-4-2) earned the fifth through eighth seeds.
- UA defeated six of the teams in the tournament — OSU, Tulsa, Penn State, Michigan State, Indiana and St. Louis — in the regular season before winning Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament titles.
- South Florida and Northwestern (10-4-4) are both on UA's side of the bracket. South Florida ended the Zips season in 2007 and Northwestern did so in 2008.
- This is the highest seed UA has received and the fifth time the Zips have been seeded. The Zips were seeded No. 15 in 2003, No. 9 in 2005, No. 14 in 2007 and No. 5 in 2008.
- UA could possibly host three games (Nov. 22 and 29 and Dec. 5) through the quarterfinal round. If they win those games, they would advance to the College Cup (Final Four) at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The national semifinals are Dec. 11 and the national final is Dec. 13.
- The Zips have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 24 times since the program started in 1955. UA lost to Duke 1-0 in the 1986 championship game, made the Elite Eight in 2005 and reached the Sweet 16 in 2008.
- The 20 wins are a school record and represent the fourth-longest winning streak in a single season. UA is also trying to become the first team in 35 years to win a national championship with a perfect record. Howard went 19-0-0 and won the title in 1974 to become the sixth team to accomplish the feat.
Check out my UA men's soccer stories in the Akron Beacon Journal and on ohio.com from Friday through today. Also, some past stories can still be found on the website.
Here are some additional details on the University of Akron men’s soccer team following Sunday’s 2-1 win over Hartwick in the MAC Tournament championship game:
University of Akron coach Caleb Porter
On sophomore forwards Teal Bunbury and Darlington Nagbe: “It was a great combo. Those two guys all game were a handful, and they have been all year. When they get going, they're tough to stop. Not only are they fast and skilled, they work off each other very well.”
On Hartwick’s style of play: ''Hartwick is a very physical team and they create a lot of problems for our team because they are direct and they have got big, strong guys. I am proud of our guys. That is not the type of game they like to play. We have smaller, quicker and more skillful guys. For them to deal with Hartwick's style of play is a credit to how much heart they have. A lot of the Hartwick guys are 3 to 4 inches taller and they are stronger.”
On his goal that sophomore Michael Nanchoff assisted on: “Our coaches always emphasize making our runs and just crashing the goal. 'That's what I did. I had the defender on my back and I was lucky enough to get up and get a touch on it.”
On his goal that junior Anthony Ampaipitakwong assisted on: “I saw Ampai and he one-touched it. I went near post. The keeper almost caught it, but I was lucky.”
-This is the 24th time UA has qualified for the NCAA Tournament since the program started in 1955. Its first appearance in the tournament was in 1961.
- UA has won seven MAC Tournament titles — three in a row — and 12 MAC regular season titles — five in a row — since joining in 1993.
- The 20 wins are a school record and represent the fourth-longest winning streak in a single season in NCAA history.
- Bunbury, Nagbe, Nanchoff and freshman defender Chad Barson were named to the MAC All-Tournament Team.
Akron will only play games in one or two cities for the remainder of the season. Thanks to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Zips will host all games until the Final Four, where the venue shifts to Cary, N.C.
As Caleb Porter put it, Akron put itself in the best possible position heading into the 48-team tournament, which gives Akron a first-round bye and potentially three home games before heading to 2009 College Cup.
The first opponent will either be Stetson or South Florida on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Lee Jackson Field. South Florida knocked Akron out of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, but the Zips beat the Bulls 3-1 in an exhibition game this season.
Here is what J.D. Brookhart had to say in his weekly press conference.
Darlington Nagbe scored a goal with 14 minutes to play that gave Akron a lead in the MAC Championship over Hartwick. Assists went to Teal Bunbury and Anthony Ampaipitakwong. Nagbe also scored the game winner against Northern Illinois in the MAC semifinal. Bunbury scored the first goal of the game.
There have been some scuffles. Hartwick's Michael Cunningham got his second red card for throwing down an Akron player. Within 30 seconds, refs gave another red card to Hartwick. It is now 11 men vs. 9 men in Akron's favor. Four minutes left.
The Zips won the MAC Championship with a 20-0 regular season record. The NCAA Tournament starts next weekend. The NCAA could not rob Akron of a No. 1 seed without admitting that the whole thing is fixed. If the Zips get a top seed, then they won't play another game away from Lee Jackson Field until the Final Four.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU. We might have to join Kent State football coach Doug Martin in burning the NCAA if the Zips don't get a No. 1 seed. Just kidding.
Final score -- Akron 2, Hartwick 1
Keep refreshing your page for minute-by-minute updates...
This should be a busy afternoon on campus. The men's soccer team will play Hartwick for the MAC Championship at 4 p.m. at Lee Jackson Field.
I wonder how old the childish "Peay" jokes have gotten for Governors' fans. I can only imagine how creative Ohio Valley Conference fans can get with insults. At Akron, we clutch to the mildly creative "Can't State" moniker. Austin Peay opponents have a bevy of ammunition. And the worst thing is, the most common chant in sports is unavailable to Peay fans ("Let's go Peay!").
I overheard that Tim Carroll will start today. Zeke Marshall comes off the bench. I think it's fair to make Marshall earn his spot among a few regular season games before anointing him a starter. Like in the exhibition game, I will document Marshall's notable plays in the ZEKE WATCH.
This is technically the first game of the Glenn Wilkes Classic, which will continue Nov. 20-22 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The Governors are 0-1, having lost Friday at No. 11 Tennessee 83-54 on Friday. Austin Peay got beaten in just about every aspect of the game. The team's 6-foot-6 swingman Anthony Campbell scored 17 to lead both teams.
The team will be presented its 2009 MAC Championship rings today. I got a picture of Joe Dunn's. It's posted below. My cell phone picture doesn't do this justice. The ring is absolutely stunning. If society permitted women to propose to men, that would be the ring to do it with.
Dunn gave me a catch phrase for when Marshall enters the game: "Zeke and Destroy." I fully expect that to be on an AK-Rowdies sign by the next home game on Nov. 27.
I had awesome Cavs tickets last night. Sixth row behind the Jazz bench. After letting Carlos Boozer hear it and cheering for the good guys, I must be careful not to break the No. 1 rule on press row: No cheering.
At that game, I was surprised to see a rookie get the ball in crunch time for the Jazz. That was Eric Maynor, who played twice against Akron. He was good then. He's almost as good in the pros.
Akron starters: Brett McClanahan, Darryl Roberts, Nik Cvetinovic, Carroll and Chris McKnight.
The big question on everyone's mind: Is today the day Keith Dambrot takes off Marshall's redshirt. Just kidding. But seriously, the PD's Elton Alexander confirms that Marshall looked very bad in the first few weeks of practice. Much to the coaches' delight, Marshall found a comfort level and began to improve.
You might be hearing Alexander shout "Give me them quarters." This is because he won a 25-cent bet about when Marshall would enter the game. He came in at 17:25, which was close to Alexander's guess of 17:34. I said 15:00. Tom Gaffney said 16:30.
Austin Peay has gotten in the paint for four straight layups. That is the reason we saw Marshall so soon. Akron is trying to work the ball into him, but the Governors are double-teaming. Brett McKnight and Humpty Hitchens made back-to-back 3-pointers based on Austin Peay's interior pressure.
The AK-Rowdies are well-represented. Having them here is a big difference in atmosphere. Not many showed up for the exhibition game.
Marshall has been on the floor for three minutes without much of an impact. ... As I wrote that, Marshall score his first collegiate basket on a rebounded jumpshot. Big ovation from the fans.
Akron needs to settle down. Austin Peay is making the Zips look uncomfortable. The nervous jitters are tangible.
The Zips' defense is nothing more than a turnstile. The guards are getting beat off the dribble. The big men aren't in position to contest the shot. The Governors are carving a layup line right through Dambrot's proud defense.
I love how intense Cvetinovic is. After a Chris McKnight layup, he charged off the bench flexing his muscles and shouting in celebration. It's two points in the first half of the first game of the season, but the Serbian reacts like the Ultimate Warrior trying to rev up the crowd at WrestleMania.
Marshall swatted his first shot. It was a volleyball spike. He followed it up with a turn-around, fade-away six-footer. This kid is very skilled.
Akron has begun to pull away as the players worked up a sweat and some of the nerves wore off.
Hitchens found a cutting McClahanan, who lobbed an alley-oop attempt for Marshall, but the pass was a little off, so Marshall did not finish. It was a nifty play, but it requires good timing.
Hitchens ended the half with a 3. Score: Akron 44, Austin Peay 32.
I haven't really watched any of the last few minutes. I have been consumed with reading the blog of Mark Titus, a bench player at Ohio State, whose only goal in playing basketball is to register a "trillion." You might not understand a "trillion" unless you read box scores. It denotes that a player logs one minute, but compiles no other statistics. Nice stuff, Mark.
Akron just gave up five points in a three-second span. An Austin Peay player drove down Main Street for an easy layup. A Governor stole Akron's inbound pass and was fouled. He completed a three-point play.
Austin Peay only brought 10 players. It would be nice if some members of press row could be spread across their seats. We're packed in here like the old Rubber Bowl press box.
Marshall just attempted a 3-pointer. He air-balled it. I could feel the anger from Dambrot across the floor.
While I'm carrying on criticizing Marshall, I'll point out that he could be a much better rebounder if he moved his feet while the ball was in the air. Athleticism and size is a big part of rebounding, but the truly great rebounders are tenacious before the ball touches flesh. ... As I typed that, Marshall got great position on a tip-back.
Akron has its best lineup on the floor: Hitchens, Roberts, McKnight, McKnight and Marshall. They extended the lead back to 14 with 12:18 to play.
Hitchens threw an inbounds alley-oop to Marshall. No dunk, but the lay-in is just as effective.
Carroll started, but he has only played three minutes. What's the point? And how long does this continue? What other coach would play a guy exclusively for the first few minutes of a game and during garbage time?
Marshall grabbed his 12th rebound. This confirms my suspicion from the exhibition game -- that Marshall is the best player on the floor. He has a double-double in his first ever college game.
Austin Peay went on a 12-2 run because of Akron's sloppiness. The Zips will probably win this game, but there is a lot to work on. They have to find a way to get more points in the paint. Akron's lead is only two.
Marshall swatted a shot into the band.
Cvetinovic blew two free throws with the opportunity to extend the lead with 2:30 left. Austin Peay tied it on the next possession with an easy layup. Dambrot called time out.
Roberts drove and was fouled. He is a good guy to be shooting free throws, at least based on last season's performance. He missed one in the first half. He missed both just now. Akron got the rebound off the awful brick.
Brett McKnight missed a runner through the lane. After the rebound, his brother fouled Anthony Campbell, who went to the line and made both to give the Governors their first lead.
Brett McKnight weaseled into the paint and airballed a finger roll. After a foul, Austin Peay made both free throws to make it a two-possession game. Hitchens rattled out a 3-point attempt. Austin Peay got the rebound, and Duran Roberson made another free throw to ice the game.
Hitchens made a 3. There are 3.8 seconds left. Akron fouled Campbell, who split the pair. The Zips needed a 3-pointer in the last three seconds. Hitchens stumbled up the court and didn't get a shot off in time.
It was an ugly game. Akron deserved to lose. They didn't play very hard. It was sloppy. The coach was messing around with a ceremonial starting lineup.
Final stats of note: Akron made only 15 of 25 free-throw attempts. The Zips shot 30 percent from the field in the second half. Austin Peay won the points-in-the-paint statistic, 28-22.
Final score -- Akron 77, Austin Peay 80
Austin Peay head coach Dave Loos:
"Even though it's very early in the season, this is very significant for us. I have a lot of respect for Keith and this program. To win here is really big for us. Akron is going to win a lot of games and be a tournament team. We are very proud of this win. I'm proud of how our guys got down, way down, and fought back."
"We played a very good Tennessee team on Friday night. I think it probably did help to have played a game. I told our players when we left there that this team might not be as long as athletic, but they would be pretty close and pretty good. This game is funny because once the momentum is going, it's hard to turn it around. We were just about buried."
"He is going to be a handful. He is long. He is skilled. All that is missing is a little experience and body building. He is as-advertised. It would give Akron what most mid-majors are missing. There were times when I thought it was over-the-back, but it really wasn't. I was impressed."
"I was pleased with (our speed). When Channels gets the ball in his hands, he really pushes it."
Akron coach Keith Dambrot:
"When you're up 15 points with 7:36 to play, you should win the game. We can blame me, blame them. I thought today we did a very poor job of handling prosperity first and adversity second. We gave game after game after game away last year. I don't know why anyone would be surprised that we gave this one away."
"With 1:22 left, we shoot a reverse layup. We miss four free throws. We start the second half and show no toughness and let them back in the game."
"The big boy wasn't perfect but he was better than the older guys. He just needs to learn."
"We've had trouble all fall finding out who to play."
"If we give up 80, we're going to lose. We didn't have one guy who could guard anybody, except Zeke under the basket.
"That's probably one of the most disappointing games that I've had here. That is just absolutely ridiculous. You almost don't have to shoot a shot and you can win the game. You can hold it for 35 and take six 35-second violations. That's how pitiful it was."
"You try to build fanbase and you try to build excitement, and then you do that. We're not getting an at-large bid anyway. You have to win in March."
"This group is not tough. Until they get tough, they won't win. It's frightening. We didn't lose turning it over a lot. We gave up 40 percent from the field last year. We gave up 80 and I don't think they're great on offense. He's a good coach, but you can't lose that game."
"If you lose one like that, what do you do in the nip and tuck games? When the game's on the line, do you have enough toughness to win? Do you think Dru Joyce would let us lose that game? Or Cedrick Middleton?"
"We went through the same thing last year. When we give up 80, we'll lose. This group has to get with it. Part of it is figuring out who to play. You can't play as many as we did. I know the big boy has to play, even if he's not good. He doesn't know what he's doing yet, but he's going to do some good things."
"I didn't yell at them. I just said you have to play better. You can't go 0-4 at the line. You can't give up 3s late in the clock. You can't give up layups late in the clock. We didn't make one play when it mattered. We got the ball right in front of the rim."
"I didn't think we played great at the point. I didn't think we guarded. I think Humpty played hard. He was the best of the three."
On why Carroll started and played three minutes: "I didn't like the way we started so I didn't get back to him."
"I'm not scared of North Carolina State. We can play with anybody and we can lose to anybody."
"It's how they feel about themselves. We have to become more consistent than that. You saw very little enthusiasm."
"I think leadership is a lost art. It's time somebody steps up. It's hard to step up without knowing how much you'll play."
On Marshall: "By March, we'll be good because he'll know stuff. He'll be better than he is now. He's just playing on instincts now. Building for March, we might as well play him when it matters."
On the lack of post offense: "We just refused to throw it in. When we did, we didn't make the cuts we were supposed to."
"We're doing something wrong at the beginning of the year. We don't guard. For some reason, their mindset is offense early."
On Cvetinovic: "He has to play because he has good fire in his gut."
"We haven't practiced with the McKnights at the three spot. Brett McKnight has to play better. He's had a rough fall."
Another week. Another beatdown.
Akron started with a loud burst of energy, which eventually dwindled to a soft hum. Any team can come out of the locker room with adrenaline and make noise. It is the disciplined, smart team, however, that sustains the momentum and plays for four quarters.
As a result, Temple scored 49 unanswered points. I don't think you'll ever see such a statistic in a game between two MAC teams.
Despite all of that, Patrick Nicely looked very sharp in the first half. I love the velocity at which he delivers the ball. Arms like Nicely's are rare. His accuracy has improved each week. It's such a relief that we don't have to worry about a quarterback for the next three years.
Overall, the offense and special teams made big mistakes. Temple took advantage by marching over the Zips defense, which had become demoralized. Before you knew it, a 17-7 lead turned into a 56-17 blowout.
This season has been disappointing. But until yesterday, I always saw the players fighting hard. Last night, I didn't see that. On Temple's extra point attempt before the half, Akron's line barely came out of their stance to contest the kick.
It doesn't matter if there is one year or five years on J.D. Brookhart's contract. When you invest $60 million into a facility that only one team will use (for the most part), you better go the extra mile and pay an extra $400,000 to get a coach with a track record of success. I hope that is one thing the board of trustees realizes.
We knew that attendance would be better this year. Most people understand that winning games is what puts butts in the seats in November, when the weather normally sours. Akron has had great luck with fantastic weather every week. Everything has been in place for a packed InfoCision Stadium except for the product on the field.
We are in our fourth consecutive season of a losing record. Every year, there have been injuries, adversity and a realm of other excuses. I buy Brookhart's excuses. Like I said, however, excuses can pass for a year or two. Eventually, the accountability falls on the coach, who serves as lead scout, general manager, head strategist, chief motivator, manager of personnel and sometimes the play caller.
Akron plays two more games this season -- the season that seems like it will never end. Next week, the Zips are at Bowling Green. The Falcons do through the air what Temple does on the ground. The Tyler Sheehan-to-Freddie Barnes combination might be the nation's most productive.
Then Akron finishes the year at home against Eastern Michigan. It will be two of FBS's worst teams playing on a Friday at 2 p.m. in late November. If actual attendance breaks 5,000, I will be surprised. Go Zips.
Humpty Hitchens was named an honorable mention All-American for mid-major schools, according to CollegeInsider.com.
Rodney Pierce of Buffalo, David Kool of Western Michigan and Jarrod Jones of Ball State are on the list as All-Americans. (I am looking forward to the Jones vs. Zeke Marshall matchup.)
The Zips will begin the regular season tomorrow vs. Austin Peay at 2 p.m. I will liveblog from Rhodes Arena.
A shot on goal was hard to come by Friday night. A goal, at times seemed, impossible.
Then in the 101st minute, sophomore forward Darlington Nagbe scored with 9:13 remaining in the second overtime to lead the University of Akron soccer team to a 1-0 win over Northern Illinois before 1,694 fans in a semifinal game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Lee Jackson Field.
UA (19-0-0) will play Hartwick in the MAC Tournament championship game on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Zips are ranked No. 1 in the country in all five national polls.
Zips sophomore midfielder Michael Nanchoff redirected a crossing pass from sophomore froward Teal Bunbury to Nagbe for the game-winner.
Bunbury started the play from the left side, and Nagbe finished it from about eight yards away.
Nagbe then whipped off his jersey and sprinted behind the goal and then back onto the field to celebrate with his teammates.
Nagbe embraced Bunbury with a hug near midfield and shedded some tears.
The 19 wins are a school record and represent the fifth-longest winning streak in a single season in NCAA history.
Zips junior midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong was taken off the field with a leg injury with 21:46 remaining in the second half. Ampaipitakwong and Huskies (10-8-1) freshman goalkeeper Jordan Godsey collided outside the goalie box after an offside was called. Both players were going for the ball, and Ampaipitakwong went down.
The tackle triggered some pushing and shoving between each team and Godsey was given a yellow card.
Nanchoff nearly scored a goal with 18:45 left in the second half when he kicked a shot from about 30 yards away off the crossbar.
Godsey made a tremendous diving save with 5:55 to go when he batted away a Bunbury shot from about 25 yards out.
The Zips held an advantage in shots (13-3), shots on goal (3-0) and corner kicks (8-2).
UA shut out its 14th opponent of the season, and freshman goalkeeper David Meves earned his 12th shutout. Sophomore Kofi Sarkodie, junior Chris Korb and freshmen Zarek Valentin and Chad Barson were the Zips' starting defenders.
Neither team had a shot on goal in the first half.
Hartwick overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat Western Michigan 3-2 in the other MAC semifinal Friday.
“It was a combination of three special players that linked up, with the end result being a great run by Darlington and a great service by Michael to win the game.”
“It was a fantastic run and finish by, in my opinion one of the best players in college soccer, in Darlington Nagbe. He doesn't always get the credit because he is an unselfish player, but if you know soccer and you watch our team and see the things he does in possession, its magic at times. I thought it was fitting that he scored the goal at the end because he is so important to our team in the attack.”
“I was very relaxed going into the last overtime because I had no doubt in my mind we would win the game and I looked at them and they felt the same way.”
“Teal played Mikey, and I made eye contact with Mikey. He played the ball too and the goalie came up. I had to get it in. I chipped it over him.”
“Teal Bunbury is my big bro. I told him I love him. We are both up top together and we take a beating together every single game.”
“We knew it was going to be a physical game; its a rivalry game, we had to mentally prepare for it.”
UA received all three MAC specialty awards. Bunbury won the Player of the Year, Valentin was tabbed as Newcomer of the Year and Porter was selected as Coach of the Year.
Porter has won three consecutive Coach of the Year honors.
Zips on the All-MAC first team are forwards Bunbury and Nagbe; midfielders Nanchoff, Ampaipitakwong, junior Blair Gavin; and defenders Valentin, Sarkodie and Korb.
Zips senior midfielder Ben Zemanski and goalkeeper Meves made the All-MAC second team.
- Bunbury is third in the nation with 15 goals in 18 games this season. He is the seventh UA player to earn the MAC player of the Year since 1993. He follows Steve Zakuani (2008), Corey Sipos (2007), Sinisa Ubiparipovic (2006) and Ross McKenzie (2005) as the fifth consecutive UA player to be honored as the MAC Player of the Year.
- Valentin becomes the eighth UA player to earn newcomer honors and the fourth in the last five seasons, following Nagbe (2008), Zakuani (2007) and Evan Bush (2005).
- Valentin started all 18 games for a defensive unit that allowed six goals during the regular season. UA's goals-against-average of 0.33 entering play Friday is tied with Monmouth for the best mark in the nation and is threatening to erase the current program standard of 0.45, set in 2008.
- Porter became UA coach in 2006 and has compiled an overall record of 64-11-7 (.823) in 82 games, including four MAC regular-season titles, back-to-back MAC Tournament titles and two trips to the NCAA Tournament, culminating with a Sweet 16 appearance in 2008.
University of Akron women's basketball coach Jodi Kest entered this season with a goal to have more players consistently score points.
That objective was accomplished in the season opening game.
The host Zips utilized a pressure defense and a balanced offense to defeat Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis 63-49 Friday afternoon at Rhodes Arena.
This is the second year in a row UA has started the season with a win at home.
UA never trailed and had four players score in double figures.
Junior Kara Murphy led the Zips with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in a game-high 38 minutes. Sophomores Jasmine Mushington (12 points) and Kyle Baumgartner (11 points, six rebounds) and senior Jolene Tamboue (10 points, seven rebounds) were also key contributors.
Murphy, a St. Vincent-St. Mary High School graduate, gave UA a 1-0 lead with a free throw 56 seconds into the game. The Zips built and maintained the lead the remainder of the game. The Zips led 36-22 at halftime and their largest lead was 52-32 following a 3-pointer by Murphy with 12:54 remaining in the second half.
IUPUI cut its deficit to 10 points at 55-45 with 6:11 left after two free throws from junior Jessica Huffman (14 points, six assists). Mushington countered with two layups to extend the lead.
IUPUI (0-1) committed 23 turnovers and UA (1-0) had 18. The Zips made 42.6 percent of their field goals (23-of-54) and the Jaguars converted 37.0 percent (20-of-54).
UA also held an advantage from the free throw line and from beyond the 3-point arc. The Zips made 12-of-19 free throws and 5-of-9 3-pointers.
Zips freshman Rachel Tecca and senior Ayla Guzzardo each contributed seven points in 30 minutes. Tecca, an Archbishop Hoban High School graduate, also had seven rebounds.
IUPUI freshman Clara Mitchell scored eight points and led all players with nine rebounds.
- Murphy was presented a basketball before the game in recognition of surpassing 1,000 career points last season. She is the youngest player in program history to score 1,000 points and also set UA's single-season scoring record (580 points) a season ago. Murphy has 1,043 career points in 62 collegiate games.
- UA has opened 2008 and 2009 with wins. The last time the Zips have won their first game in consecutive seasons was 1995 and 1996.
“I was happy with the win. It wasn't pretty at times, but anytime you open the season with a win at home your happy. Our defense was solid. We only gave up 49 points.”
“I will take today, because we had four players in double figures. For us to be successful, we need three or four players to consistently score in double figures.”
“I thought Jasmine Mushington played an outstanding game for us defensively and offensively gave us a big spark.”
“Rachel Tecca struggled a little bit offensively today, but she will get better. There will be a learning curve for her throughout the year. She gave us a lot of energy.”
“Our kids worked hard the whole game and had fun out there.”
“I think we are going to learn a lot from this from watching it on video to get ready for our next game against St. Bonaventure.”
“Everyone has really stepped there game up. We have some good shooters and players that can make some post moves. We're balanced.”
“It was definitely a first game. We had our up's and down's, but a win is a win. We have some things that we need to work on-communication is a huge one. We just had some memory lapses. We have a lot of new players working in and we had some players in foul trouble. We will get better.”
I have been getting numerous text messages from my friend who works in Kent State's athletic department. He wants to know what I think is going to happen tonight. How many points will the Zips score? Can they stop or limit Bernard Pierce?
Indeed, although Akron is miles from contention, the Zips' final games will have an impact on who plays in Detroit. Last week, Akron soiled Kent State's ability to control its own destiny. Tonight, the Zips have a chance to bring Temple back to the pack, which will make Ohio, Bowling Green and Kent State very pleased.
The Owls are undefeated in the MAC, however. This is mostly due to a shocking amount of output from Pierce, their freshman running back who leads the MAC in rushing by more than 40 yards. Pierce averages an unbelievable 134.6 yards per game, which is third in the nation.
And then you have the Temple defense, which gives up the second-fewest yards in the MAC. The Owls have a tough, physical front seven. Defensive end Adrian Robinson leads the conference with nine sacks.
Both the men's and women's teams held media day today. Here are some notes I jotted down from each:
Keith Dambrot showed up with Jimmy Conyers and Chris McKnight, his seniors. In the crowd were Humpty Hitchens, Nik Cvetinovic and Zeke Marshall.
They served lunch, so the crowd was fairly large with people from the athletic department, maybe a dozen media members and a bunch of fans. It was a nice event, for sure. I think the women's program profited most, because Jodi Kest got her message out to people who primarily care about the men's team.
Dambrot spoke about Dakotah Euton, whom the Zips began to pursue after John Calipari took over for Billy Gillespie at Kentucky. Dambrot said it was common knowledge that Euton was back on the market after Calipari arrived because Euton would not fit Calipari's style. Dambrot dodged Tom Gaffney's direct question of whether Calipari no longer wanted Euton, but that is a fair assumption. (That doesn't mean, of course, that Euton was not good enough to play there.)
Dambrot compared Euton to a more physical version of Rob Preston, although not so bouncy. Both are tall white guys who prefer to play on the perimeter, so I guess that works. The coaches took notice of Euton when he was playing on the same AAU team as Josh Sewell, an Akron target who is headed for Miami (Ohio). Despite his guard-type skills, Euton will play power forward or center for Akron, Dambrot said.
Dambrot on recruiting: "We need to get guys that Ohio State, Xavier and Dayton want, but we can't beat them. For every guy like Zeke (Marshall), there are 50 who say 'no.' We have to look at guys who will get better and get on them early."
The coach answered a question about scheduling. Only five games are locked in for next year: Oakland, Niagara, Temple and Oakland on the road; Wyoming at home. He said, "No matter what we schedule, our league is going to drag us down (in RPI). You can't play the big boys in their gym with their referees, but you can play them neutral." He also criticized some of the MAC programs that have not invested in basketball as being a reason for the low league RPI. Dambrot suggested providing more NCAA Tournament revenue to the conference champion, in order to encourage more development in basketball.
Dambrot made a great point. Akron is No. 8 in the Mid-Major Top 25. The Zips are also the only team on the entire list that has a Division I-A football team. That says a lot about the athletic department and Dambrot's success here.
Ronnie Steward will start playing in a week. That will create a logjam at guard. Six players could conceivably see time: Steve McNees, Brett McClanahan, Darryl Roberts, Humpty Hitchens, Alex Sullivan and Steward. Dambrot asked Hitchens to stand up and explain his policy for rotating the guards in and out of the game. Hitchens said it will be a day-to-day process. Dambrot added that he will allow players to grab a spot in the rotation, which they will not relinquish.
My guard rotation would be: Hitchens, Steward and Sullivan at point guard. Roberts, McClanahan and McNees at shooting guard, with McNees also playing minutes at the point until Steward settles in.
Dambrot asked Cvetinovic to stand up from the crowd and tell what he's been working on. The Serbian center said he has worked to control his emotions and bond better with teammates. Dambrot asked Marshall to stand up and say how the transition to college has been. The 7-footer went on and on about how grueling Dambrot's practices are. Marshall nicknamed his coach, "El Diablo," which, of course, is Spanish for "The Devil."
Dambrot addressed attendance after a fan asked why the Beacon Journal and Plain Dealer do not cover the Zips on road games. After downplaying the newspaper's impact, he said, "We can't let Toledo outdraw us with a 7-59 record. We will never get to where we need to be without doing a better job (with attendance)."
I asked Dambrot to what extent he has had conversations about a new basketball arena. He conceded that there have been talks, but Tom Wistrcill is the best person to discuss that. However, an upgrade in facilities is necessary for recruiting, he said. "We don't have a 'wow' factor. We've done it with all people skills. We understand the economy, but we have an open window."
Coach Kest was quite excited about her team's outlook this season, which will begin tomorrow at home with a noon game against IUPUI.
"We feel like this is our year," she said of her team, picked fourth in the MAC. "This is the most excited I've been in a long team."
The Zips return all five starters and three other rotation players. They also add true freshman Rachel Tecca from Hoban, a 6-foot-1 forward who provided a double-double in Saturday's exhibition against Ashland.
Along with the depth, especially in the front court, Kest is counting on a team that has improved its chemistry greatly since last season, when she released several players from the program. Kest has been seeking chemistry that urges players to fight for each other. "I think we have that finally," she said.
The Zips' weakness in years past has been rebounding. With a deep frontcourt, Kest believes that problem is solved. The coach also wants to average more points this year -- in the 70-per-game range.
I will preview the Temple game tomorrow morning.
This time last year was a day of great celebration. Zeke Marshall signed with Akron, relieving fans and coaches from months of rumors about a possible defection.
This signing day is about capitalizing on Marshall's talent. Three recruits signed today, and it is obvious that Keith Dambrot is finding big men who can stretch the floor by shooting 3s, which will keep Marshall from being double-teamed.
Dakotah Euton is a 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward who made 40 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. Michael Green is another sweet-shooting forward, and at 6-6, he will force opposing forwards to guard him on the perimeter. These two players will accompany Marshall for three years and require opposing defenses to stay honest.
The third recruit is Josh Egner, an athletic 6-7 forward who excels in transition. As a whole, this recruiting class also will be responsible for filling gaps left by the McKnight brothers.
A side question is: Who leaves the program? Dambrot has promised three scholarships. Only two are presently available. Dambrot apparently has an understanding with some players, who intend to transfer if they cannot find a place in his rotation this season. Judging on playing time last night, it appears as if one of the big men will be the one left out -- either Steve Swiech or Mike Bardo. Alex Sullivan is another possibility because of the crowded backcourt.
Akron is listed as a 13 seed on ESPN.com's Bracketology. I've been told that is subject to change before March.
Keep refreshing your page for minute-to-minute updates...
Tomorrow is the beginning of the early signing period for basketball recruits. With my election whirlwind, I neglected to mention that Akron recently locked up a third recruit for 2010. Dakotah Euton is a 6-foot-8 power forward from Kentucky. In fact, he was a former recruit of Billy Gillespie at Kentucky. When UK fired Gillespie, Euton reopened his recruitment. More on Euton coming as the night goes on...
What I can tell you on the record is that Bowling Green is the team rumored to have turned in Reno Ferri for alleged recruiting violations. I would tell you what the supposed violation is, but I've learned the hard way too many times not to post rumors, even if this is only a blog.
Mount Union's logo is amateurish. The script "Raiders" could be done much more professionally. It looks like a high school design.
The Zips other potential signees tomorrow include Michael Green from Dublin and Josh Egner from Massillon. This recruiting class is heavy on can't-miss talent, but it lacks what you'd like to call a superstar. Fans want every center to be Shaquille O'Neal or Dikembe Mutombo. They want every forward to be Kevin Garnett or Lamar Odom. They want every guard to be Steve Nash. The truth is, teams need solid filler players, who can play a role. Look at the successful MAC teams over the years. Unless you have NBA talent, the best teams are the ones who are full of smart role players. Kent State mastered that process.
Akron's starters: Brett McClanahan, Darryl Roberts, Nik Cvetinovic, Tim Carroll and Chris McKnight. I had to laugh out loud when I heard Carroll's name. I will bet Keith Dambrot is sending a message to one of the guards by doing that.
Humpty Hitchens came off the bench. He appears to be walking a little tenderly on his ankle. McClanahan, meanwhile, has hit two 3-pointers.
With 15:17 left, Zeke Marshall entered the game. I'll document his every move or at least try. ZEKE WATCH: 1) He caught the ball in the low post and quickly whipped a pass out to the perimeter. He certainly looked comfortable with the ball. 2) Wow. He just brought the house down with a giant dunk. He took off from the baseline and literally left the ground from outside the paint. If you were afraid Marshall wasn't aggressive, that is a great sign. 3) He blocked a shot without jumping. 4) He made a nice interior pass, feeding Chris McKnight for an easy layup. And with that, Marshall went to the bench after 2:10 on the floor, tallying a dunk, a rebound, an assist and a blocked shot.
I am/was one of the people concerned that Marshall would be passive. I recall all sorts of praise for Jimmy Conyers, and I bought it. He is skilled and athletic but never has asserted himself enough on the floor. I'm probably overreacting, but Marshall just sold me that he will contribute in a big way this season.
Akron has already taken 11 3-pointers, making five. Mount Union is playing a zone, which lends itself to giving up 3s. Still, I'd prefer to see what kind of post game the Zips can establish with the McKnights and Marshall.
Back to Euton... He appears to be a skilled big man who can shoot. Rivals.com called him a combo guard in one article, which said Duke and Florida also were interested in him. Euton originally committed very early and felt he wouldn't fit in well with the new coaching staff.
Marshall is back on the floor. 1) He gathered an offensive rebound on a free throw and put it back in. 2) He got beat in a post situation by a quicker Mount Union player. 3) He made a nice pass out of the post to a cutting Carroll.
Mike Bardo didn't make his first appearance until 5:30 was left in the first half.
There is a curtain blocking off one endzone. Aside from that, I think attendance is great. Tom Gaffney and I counted only about 300 fans at last year's exhibition against Walsh.
No Ronnie Steward. He'll be out for at least a couple more weeks with a leg injury. A bearded Alex Sullivan has entered the game, however. So has Steve Swiech, the spelling of whose name I always have to double-check.
Chris McKnight swatted a shot to end the half. Score: 45-17.
I'm sitting in between two of my constituents. Gaffney and Steve French are both Stow residents. French told his radio listeners that he wants me to lower his water bill and get a rec center for the city. Gaffney was upset about the city's sidewalk program making his sidewalks look like a checkerboard. Not to discuss my campaign too much, but these gentlemen are examples of why I found it crucial to meet as many people as I could. How else will I know what Stowites want?
Marshall is back on the floor. 1) He caught a pass on the block and glided to the hoop, getting fouled and missing a layup. He showed a nice foul shot stroke and made both. 2) Marshall swatted another shot. 3) On the other end, he stepped into a 17-foot jump shot that went off the back rim. 4) Cvetinovic found Marshall on a short interior pass. Marshall streaked for the rim before a Raider fouled him. He missed both free throws following a timeout. 5) He committed his first foul with 15:37 left in the second half. 6) Marshall swatted three shots on a single possession! The first was a jump shot that Marshall sent into the press row. The second and third were off rebounds, almost one after the other. The fans loved it. I loved it. How often do you see me use exclamation points?! 7) On press row, we think Marshall deflected another shot. This guy is a cold-hearted assassin. 8 ) Marshall backed down a short post player and delivered a perfect baby hook. He is really working to get open down low. 9) There was another blocked shot down low, either belonging to Marshall or Bardo. Marshall left the court to a chorus of cheers.
For those who are reading this to get a scouting report on Mount Union, here are some thoughts: The Raiders are overmatched tonight in size, athleticism and skill, so there's no point in comparing apples to oranges. The team is very good at protecting the ball, however. It's the first game of the year, and they've committed only 13 turnovers to an aggressive defense.
The stat sheet credits Marshall with seven blocks, two assists, four rebounds and eight points. As I type that, he comes back onto the floor. Back to the Zeke Watch ... 1) Conyers found Marshall's head poking over the rest and lobbed him a pass. Marshall wound up and slammed it. 2) Marshall was fouled while attempting to catch a pass. He made both foul shots. 3) Marshall blocked a shot without leaving his feet. The Mount Union player basically fed it to him. 4) He laid in another baby hook. Mount Union has made the mistake of letting him get too deep in the post without the ball. It's too easy for an entry pass, which is a guaranteed dunk or five-foot baby hook.
We interrupt this Zeke Watch to give a Swiech update. He blocked a shot and tossed an outlet pass to Hitchens for a layup.
After those few minutes of terror, Marshall returned to the bench. If he kept playing, a triple-double was likely.
Kyle Petersen entered the game for his first action. Dambrot is going with three guards (McClanahan, McNees and Petersen) and two centers (Bardo and Swiech) right now.
To put this all in context, Mount Union has only five players taller than 6-foot-5. The tallest Raider is 6-7. Marshall won't have it this easy against the Kenneth van Kempen's of the world (right, Elton Alexander?). But seriously, I'm happy to see Marshall is so aggressive and that he doesn't have any major deficiencies. Although you can't really ask for more from a true freshman in his first appearance, it's no guarantee that he will be the Freshman of the Year. It is a guarantee, in my opinion, that Marshall is going to be a major contributor to the reigning MAC Champions.
Alexander, by the way, is covering Cleveland State this year, as well as his usual duties on Akron and Kent State. He is a great writer and has forgotten more about basketball than I'll ever know. MAC fans are lucky to read him, whether they agree with his opinions or not.
Carroll stole the ball and went coast to coast for a dunk. He has six points and four rebounds. He holds the ball as the clock expires. Akron wins by 50. Marshall must be the story for people leaving Rhodes Arena.
Final stats of note: Marshall finished with 14 points, eight blocks, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and he was 5-of-6 from the field. Chris McKnight led the team with nine rebounds and was second with 13 points. Swiech also had nine rebounds. Hitchens had five assists. Mount Union's leading scorer was Matt Weir with eight points.
Akron's 3-point percentage (52.9%) more than doubled Mount Union's field-goal percentage (19%). Akron won on the boards, 53 to 37. Akron had 20 assists compared to nine turnovers. Mount Union had four assists and 14 turnovers. The Zips outscored the Raiders in the paint, 34 to 12.
Quotes from Dambrot:
"That's a difficult game to judge. Physically, we're so much bigger and stronger. The past two days, we've shown more fight than the previous preseasons. I thought we played relatively unselfishly."
Marshall "is the best talent that I've had since LeBron. You can't really tell sometimes in practice, but he had good presence, he was very calm. I thought he would play a little better because of adrenaline, but he's such a great kid. He's so unselfish too. He's going to be a great talent once he puts 20 pounds of muscle on him. He's playing now on instincts. That was a very good performance. I don't care who it was against."
"I told our guys, when he's in the game, you have to play a tad bit differently. If you can sniff them around you, let them go, because he's going to block it. We have to use his ability to receive the ball to our advantage. Our best players are our fours and fives. You have to figure out how to get all four of them out there. that might mean Brett McKnight and Chris McKnight at the three spot."
"I told our guys that I'm judging him every day on performance. Before this season is over, he's going to be one of our best players.
On how the MAC will defend Marshall: "What's going to happen to Zeke? They're going to try to mug him, because he's physically not strong yet. It's our job to protect him. That's what's going to happen in our league. They're going to beat him up physically."
"They never threw him [Marshall] the ball much in AAU. When we recruited him, we told him we would throw him the ball. In the first few weeks in practice, he couldn't get a rebound. He has come on very quickly in the last week. He has the ability to be a pro -- a first-round draft pick. He's going to have some peaks and valleys."
"The one thing he can do is, you're not getting it over him. It doesn't matter who you play against with that 6-5 wingspan."
"I like our versatility. I like that if one guy doesn't feel like doing it the right way, then fine, 'See ya.'"
"I thought McNees and Humpty didn't play as well as the other two at Cleveland State. It's achieve and receive. Ronnie will be back. Alex Sullivan has good talent. He just doesn't know anything. Bardo is caught a little bit, too. We're going to play the best guys by their performance."
"Nobody has grabbed a spot except Chris McKnight and Nikola. But Zeke is close. I've played young kids. I played LeBron when he was a freshman. Do we have a chance to be very good? Zeke gives us the ability to play with the big boys. As great as [Jeremiah] Wood and Rome[o] [Travis] were, we had to play a perfect game against the big boys because we were small. With him, we can get beat off the dribble and he'll knock one. We can use him to beat the press."
On possible jealousy of Marshall: "This team went to the NCAA Tournament and this guy comes in and gets all the publicity. Now all the writers want to talk to this guy. It's hard on the guys. They have to realize that if you win the big prize, everybody gets theirs."
On how the team will give out three scholarships tomorrow: "We have some guys that have told us that if they don't play, they will go somewhere else and play."
Final score -- Mount Union 38, Akron 88
The Zeke Marshall Era begins unofficially tomorrow.
The Zips will play Mount Union in an exhibition game Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Rhodes Arena.
The coaches are downplaying the impact Marshall will have in order not to place unreachable expectations on the true freshman center. The fact is, however, he will be the player everyone watches as Keith Dambrot unveils the 2009-10 Zips.
I don't expect Marshall to average more than eight or nine points this season, but I do expect him to swat a lot of shots. I do expect him to average as many rebounds as he does points.
This is only an exhibition game. If you remember last year's game against Walsh, you'll remember how ugly these things can be. The Zips avoided an upset to an NAIA team by the spin of a basketball off the rim.
Considering that performance, I don't think Akron will look anything near the MAC Champions of last season, but they should show cohesion and effort, for those were two of the attributes of last year's team that lost only one player.
I plan to liveblog from the game, as well as any other game that my schedule permits.
I tell you what, beating Kent State cleansed most of the bad taste from my mouth. Is it going to give Akron a chance at bowl eligibilty? No. Will it save J.D. Brookhart's job? Probably not.
But for one evening, it was good to root for the Zips. With perfect weather and a great effort by the players, it's the kind of evening that Akron fans envisioned when InfoCision Stadium was being built.
The University of Akron experienced two huge victories Saturday on the UA campus.
Both wins were high on drama and emotion.
The top-ranked Zips men’s soccer team secured a come-from-behind win to maintain a perfect record and the Zips football team defeated rival Kent State to hang onto the coveted Wagon Wheel.
The UA men’s soccer team, ranked No. 1 in the country in all five national polls, beat Hartwick 3-2 on Senior Night under coach Caleb Porter.
The Zips trailed 2-1 at halftime, but rallied for two goals late in the second half to complete a perfect regular season (18-0-0, 6-0-0) and win the Mid-American Conference regular season title before 2,158 fans at Lee Jackson Field.
It is the second time that the soccer program has had a perfect season. The last time was in 1968, when the Zips went 11-0.
The game-winner came in the 84th minute on an unassisted goal by junior Anthony Ampaipitawong from 13 yards out. It was set up on a through ball by sophomore Teal Bunbury into the goalie box and a back-heel redirection kick by junior Blair Gavin.
Ampaipitawong also had the first goal, a free kick from 22 yards out in the seventh minute.
Junior Chris Korb tied the score at 1-1 on a 35-yard kick into the right corner of the net in the 72nd minute. That goal was also unassisted.
The Hawks are 9-3-4 overall and 3-1-2 in the MAC.
It was the first time UA had trailed at the half since 2007, snapping a string of 53 consecutive matches.
Zips seniors Ben Zemanski, Stefan Ostergren, C.J. Kaufman and Ivan Sandoval were each recognized as part of Senior Night prior to the game.
UA will host the MAC Tournament this upcoming weekend. The top-seeded Zips will face the fourth-seeded Northern Illinois Huskies in a rematch of last year's championship game at 6 p.m. Friday. The championship game is 4 p.m. Sunday.
The UA football team rallied back from an early 3-0 deficit to beat rival Kent State 28-20 and win the Wagon Wheel for the third consecutive year under coach J.D. Brookhart.
The Zips (2-7, 1-4) ended a six-game losing streak in a Mid-American Conference game before a crowd of 20,802 at InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field.
UA had lost seven consecutive MAC games over two seasons and was in last place in the MAC East. The Zips put the past behind them and focused on the present and won.
The Golden Flashes (5-5, 4-2) entered with a three-game winning streak and were tied for second place in the MAC-East. With the defeat, KSU is third, 1 1/2 games behind leader Temple with two games left.
Seniors Alex Allen and Andre Jones each rushed for a Zips touchdown and freshman quarterback Patrick Nicely threw two touchdown passes to junior receiver Jeremy LaFrance.
UA led 7-3 after one quarter, 14-13 at halftime and 21-13 after three quarters.
Nicely completed 19-of-34 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns. KSU freshman quarterback Spencer Keith completed 30-of-59 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns.
LaFrance had eight catches for 126 yards and the two touchdowns and Jones had six catches for 93 yards.
Freshmen Tyshon Goode (eight receptions for 132 yards) and Dri Archer (eight receptions for 90) each made an impact for KSU.
UA rushed for 168 yards on 40 carries, an average of 4.2 yards per rush, and KSU could manage only 38 yards on 21 attempts, a 1.8 average.
Freshman Broderick Alexander (13 carries, 51 yards) and senior Joe Tuzze (8 carries, 45 yards) paced the Zips rushing attack.
Freshman Brian Wagner, junior Jalil Carter and senior Miguel Graham led the Zips defensive unit in tackles. UA senior Wayne Cobham and junior Mike Thomas each had an interception.
UA will host Temple in a MAC regular season game Friday at 8:30 p.m.
The University of Akron men’s soccer team will conclude its regular season at 7:30 tonight with a Mid-American Conference match against Hartwick.
The Zips, ranked No. 1 in the country in all five national polls, will attempt to finish the regular season with a perfect record on Senior Night.
I put together a story about the seniors – Ben Zemanski, Stefan Ostergren, C.J. Kaufman and Ivan Sandoval – for Friday’s Akron Beacon Journal sports section. That story, which focuses on Zemanski, can be read in the newspaper or online at ohio.com.
UA is currently 17-0-0 overall and 5-0 in the MAC. The Zips come into this matchup against Hawks (8-2-4, 3-0-2) after defeating Michigan State 2-1 Wednesday night.
In a more intense game than any other this season at Lee Jackson Field, UA coach Caleb Porter shouted instructions and encouragement louder than normal. UA's pep band and Zippy also kept things festive.
Sophomore Teal Bunbury gave the Zips a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 4th minute of an assist by sophomore Darlington Nagbe.
Spartans senior Tim Granaderos tied the score at 1-1 in the 39th minute off of an assist by sophomore Rubin Bega. That was the first goal the Zips had allowed at home in seven games this season and the first time an opponent had scored prior to halftime all season.
With the intensity turned up on the field, Porter turned up the volume from the sidelines and his players responded. Zips freshman Ben Speas and Spartans junior Nosa Iyoha got tangled up on the right side of the box and both fell to the grass. A foul was called on Iyoha and Porter called upon Zips junior Blair Gavin to take the penalty kick.
Gavin scored a goal off of the penalty kick in the 75th minute to break the 1-1 tie and help Zips keep their perfect season going. His shot hit the crossbar and dropped into the right side of the net. He is 4-for-4 on penalty kicks this season.
Quotes from Wednesday night's game:
“We knew it was going to be intense and in all honesty it was a game that we needed. We have not faced many opponents that have tested us, especially when we are defending.”
“We haven't been through much adversity and I think you can tell a lot about a championship-level team in the moments of adversity.”
“I thought in the first half after we scored the goal, for whatever reason we went on cruise control. There have been several games this year where that has happened and an opponent hasn't been able to really punish us.”
“[Speas] drew the penalty kick that ended up winning the game. He got tackled in the box ... he had the defender on his inside hip and he shielded the ball and the guy just kind of hooked him and tackled him. He made himself big and drew the foul, which was a great play.”
“Speas is special because he can get at people and get around people. He got around that guy and that guy had to clip him, that was his last play. The team trusted me to take the PK. My heart sunk a little bit when the ball hit the crossbar, but once it hit that net I was happy.”
“If I hit it well enough, I don't think there is a keeper than can catch up to it.”
Notes from Wednesday night's game:
-- UA will host the MAC Tournament and have clinched the top seed in it. UA will play in a semifinal game at 6 p.m. on Nov. 13. The MAC Championship game is set for 4 p.m. on Nov. 15. The NCAA Tournament, which consists of six rounds, runs from Nov. 19-Dec. 13.
-- The Zips held an advantage over the Spartans in shots (16-6), shots on goal (8-2) and corner kicks (3-1). Speas had three shots on goal.
-- This season, UA has defeated the Big Ten's top two teams (Penn State, Ohio State) and bottom three teams (Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana) for a 5-0 record. The conference's middle two teams (Wisconsin and Northwestern) are not on the Zips regular season schedule. The Zips did beat Wisconsin 2-1 in an exhibition match this season.
-- UA has outscored opponents 47-4 this season. The Zips have outscored their five Big Ten foes — Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State — 14-2.
-- The Zips student cheering section, the AK-Rowdies, were heard shouting “I believe we're Big Ten champs” following the game.
-- Speas starting in place of sophomore Michael Nanchoff, who was held out of the game due to an injury and the flu. Porter expects Nanchoff to be back in the lineup soon.
-- Junior Chris Korb, sophomore Kofi Sarkodie and freshmen Zarek Valentin and Chad Barson were the Zips’ starting defenders in front of freshman goalkeeper David Meves. Sophomore defender Matt Dagilis entered the game as a reserve.
-- Zemanski, Speas, Gavin and junior Anthony Ampaipitakwong were solid at midfield for UA. Freshmen Yoram Mwila and Scott Caldwell contributed as reserves.
Jody Demling recently reported on www.courier-journal.com that Dakotah Euton has orally committed to play on scholarship for the University of Akron men’s basketball team.
Euton, a 6-foot-8 senior at Scott County High School, picked Akron over Eastern Kentucky University, according to the report by The Courier-Journal that covers news in Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Euton had originally committed to the University of Kentucky nearly two years ago when Billy Gillispie was coach. He changed his mind when Gillispie was fired and John Calipari was hired prior to this season. He is expected to sign with the Zips this coming week and according to reports weighs between 200 and 215 pounds.
“I had pretty much decided, I had it in my mind the last couple of weeks that I wanted to go to Akron,” Euton told Demling. “It felt like the right time, so I went ahead and did it. It just felt right.”
Euton said he felt comfortable with UA coach Keith Dambrot and his coaching staff.
“Both schools had great staffs and fit my style of play,” Euton told Demling. “But I really felt like coach Dambrot was one of those guys - kind of like Gillispie - who plays players for not just talent but also for how hard they play. Players that do the intangibles, people that work hard. I have just always liked coaches like that.”
Euton reportedly also had scholarship offers from Oregon State, Nevada, Wofford, Coastal Carolina, UNC Greensboro, High Point, Murray State, East Tennessee State and Morehead State.
Euton is reportedly a good shooter that make a three-pointer and a mid-range jumper. He also has the ability to pass, defend and drive to the basket and finish at the rim.
He received a two-star ranking by scout.com and rivals.com.
I have anticipated this game for two years. No exaggeration.
The last time the Wagon Wheel game was played in Akron, the teams met at the Rubber Bowl. Ever since then, I have wondered how cool it will be for the teams to meet on the University of Akron's campus at a brand new stadium.
Well, it won't be quite as cool as I originally hoped because of the Zips' 1-7 record. The team does, however, have a chance to keep its rivals out of MAC East contention. And that appears to be the team's mantra this week: Spoil Kent State's hopes for the division title.
Holding their jobs for six years, J.D. Brookhart and Doug Martin are the longest tenured coaches in the MAC. Brookhart's record is slightly better, but the teams have always seemed to peak at different times.
As a Zips fan, I don't think I will ever forget the 2006 matchup. In that year, Akron was the hot-shot favorite to win the MAC and it had just knocked off N.C. State. Kent State dusted them up at Dix Stadium, 37-15.
Now the roles are reversed. Akron is the hapless bunch riding a six-game stink wave. Kent State has as much momentum as the program has seen under Martin. The Flashes sit at 4-1 in the MAC and control their own destiny for a trip to the MAC Championship.
Despite the discrepancy in records and momentum, you will find that these teams are quite similar.
The most obvious similarity is that both teams will rely on a teenage quarterback. Spencer Keith and Patrick Nicely are true freshmen -- highly touted -- but still learning. This will likely be the first of four duels between them.
Both teams start young running backs -- freshman DeVoe Torrence and sophomore Jacquise Terry. Both teams have sturdy defenses that, at times, have been let down by an offense that struggled to carry its weight.
But Kent State has gotten better results. The main difference between Akron's 0-4 MAC record and Kent State's 4-1 record is that the Flashes average about 60 more yards of offense per game. Another huge discrepancy is sacks per game. Kent State leads the MAC with 3.33; Akron is last with 0.75. The leader of Kent's pass rush is lineman Monte Simmons.
It was one year ago today when Akron last triumphed over a fellow Division I-A team. The Zips beat Toledo 47-30 at the Rubber Bowl on Nov. 5, 2008.
So we have gone an entire year without Akron achieving anything meaningful.
Just like Lloyd Christmas' swap of a dogmobile for a moped, however, Akron has a chance to "totally redeem" itself on Saturday against Kent State. In my opinion, a win over the archrival is worth five over the directional Michigans of the world.
The stakes are not so high for the Zips, whose season has slumped over thanks to a six-game losing streak. For Kent State, though, this game is big. So big, in fact, that coach Doug Martin is downplaying the rivalry aspect, hoping not to divert his team. After three straight conference wins, the Flashes sit in second place in the MAC East, with the ultra-important ability to control their own destiny.
What better anniversary gift could J.D. Brookhart and the Zips present to fans than a soul-crushing upset against the hated rival? None, I say.
A challenge arose for the University of Akron men's soccer team Wednesday night.
The top-ranked Zips were able to respond to Michigan State's challenge and come away with a 2-1 victory at Lee Jackson Field.
Junior Blair Gavin scored a goal off of a penalty kick with 15:24 remaining in the game to break a 1-1 tie and help the Zips keep their perfect season going.
The Zips (17-0-0) are the No. 1 team in the country in all five national polls.
''We knew it was going to be intense and in all honesty it was a game that we needed,'' UA coach Caleb Porter said. ''We have not faced many opponents that have tested us, especially when we are defending.
''We haven't been through much adversity and I think you can tell a lot about a championship-level team in the moments of adversity.''
Sophomore Teal Bunbury gave the Zips a 1-0 lead with a goal 3:18 into the first half from about 20-yards away on the right side. Sophomore Darlington Nagbe earned an assist by kicking the ball ahead about 20 yards. Bunbury, who has a team-high 15 goals in 17 games, gathered the pass and kicked the ball over Spartans sophomore goalkeeper Jeremy Clark and into the net.
Michigan State senior Tim Granaderos tied the score at 1-1 with a goal with 6:13 remaining in the first half. Sophomore Rubin Bega got the assist with a crossing pass from the left side of the box. Granaderos secured the pass and kicked the ball into the net from about 8 yards away past Zips freshman goalkeeper David Meves.
That Spartans goal was the first the Zips have allowed at home this season.
''I thought in the first half after we scored the goal, for whatever reason we went on cruise control,'' Porter said. ''There have been several games this year where that has happened and an opponent hasn't been able to really punish us.''
The Spartans (10-5-2) thought they had a 2-1 lead with 27:36 left in the game, but junior Jake Fullerton was whistled for offside as he kicked the ball past Meves and into the net.
The penalty kick came after Zips freshman Ben Speas and Spartans junior Nosa Iyoha got tangled up on the right side of the box and both fell to the grass. A foul was called on Iyoha and Gavin followed with a shot that hit the crossbar and dropped into the right side of the net for a goal.
''Speas is special because he can get at people and get around people,'' said Gavin, who is 4-for-4 on penalty kicks. ''He got around that guy and that guy had to clip him, that was his last play. The team trusted me to take the PK. My heart sunk a little bit when the ball hit the crossbar, but once it hit that net I was happy.''
The Zips held an advantage in shots (16-6), shots on goal (8-2) and corner kicks (3-1).
The Plain Dealer's Elton Alexander picked Akron to finish third in the MAC East.
This is the defending MAC Championship team that only lost one player (not a franchise player, either) and brings in the preseason favorite for Freshman of the Year. Yet they'll finish third in the division, according to Alexander, behind Buffalo and Miami.
I took first place in my election for Stow City Council At-Large last night.
I appreciate everyone's well-wishes and support. It was a hectic four months, and I'm very excited to simplifying my life by watching Akron beat Kent State on Saturday.