The nine games in 19-day stretch is finally over for the University of Akron men’s basketball team, and coach Keith Dambrot is happy to have six wins after it.
Dambrot could do without some of the stress from the past 19 days, but he found time to smile after the Zips’ 59-58 win over visiting Marshall before a crowd of 3,784 Thursday night at Rhodes Arena.
Northeast Ohio was hit with heavy snow and cold temperatures all day Thursday, and the Thundering Herd (5-9) gave the Zips (8-5) all they could handle until the final horn.
Dambrot could finally exhale after Herd freshman guard Kareem Canty fired a 3-pointer from inside the midcourt stripe that banged off the rim at the buzzer.
“Every team has their stretches in a season where they have their struggles,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said. “We certainly just went through ours and I hope this is the last one we have for the rest of the season. I am sure though there will be more. The good thing is we won the game. We tried to give it away. We made a lot of mistakes, but it was a team effort, coaches, players to get this win.”
Freshman reserve center Isaiah Johnson led the Zips with 12 points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes. Sophomore center Pat Forsythe contributed nine points and six rebounds.
UA struggled early and trailed 11-3 when senior Nick Harney (eight points) entered the game with 13:36 to go in the first half. Senior Demetrius Treadwell picked up his third foul at 12:09 and Marshall was up 14-7. The Zips slowly mounted a comeback spearheaded by three reserves — sophomore guard Carmelo Betancourt (five points), Johnson and Harney (eight points) — and held a 31-25 lead at halftime.
“They came at us,” Dambrot said. “They came pretty hard. Treadwell got in foul trouble and Big Dog [Johnson] saved us. Big Dog is good on offense. We just have to get him fresher more often. If he can drop 10 [pounds] I think he would be a little more fresh. He is going to be a good player. . . . I thought Harney helped us in the first half big time and Carmelo has played well over the last 10 days. He gives us good defensive effort.”
Treadwell scored his first points of the evening with 14:44 to go in the second half with a jumper and added a layup moments later to give UA a 45-34 lead. He finished with four fouls, four points and three rebounds.
The Herd cut their deficit to 47-45 with a Canty layup at 6:52, 59-56 following a Ryan Taylor layup at 1:05 and 59-58 at 50.5 seconds after a Chris Thomas steal and dunk.
UA had a shot-clock violation with 14.7 seconds to go. Marshall tried to take the lead, but was unable to after a missed layup by Canty, a missed tip by Smith and a rebound by Betancourt. Senior Quincy Diggs (seven points) took a pass from his teammate and was fouled. Harney emerged from the scrum bloodied, and Diggs missed both free throws.
“I thought I brought a lot of energy,” Betancourt said. “We needed some energy. Tree was out. I felt like we needed energy and that is my job.”
Thomas secured the rebound and then Canty missed as the game ended after a timeout.
“We had a foul to give,” Betancourt said. “I felt like he was looking pretty good at the rim, so I decided to foul him, but they didn’t call the foul. . . . We embrace these games. We were fortunate enough to win. Some way, somehow we found a way to win. If we take care of the little things, we will be fine. If we would have taken care of the ball [five turnovers in the final four minutes], it wouldn’t have been that close.”
Taylor led Marshall with 16 points and five rebounds. Canty, Thomas and sophomore TyQuane Goard had 10 points apiece.
“We grinded it out defensively and we did a good job rebounding [42-29 edge],” Dambrot said. “They are a pretty physical team.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.