It wasn’t a blackout like one that delayed the Super Bowl on Sunday, but a fire alarm worked some of the same mojo for the University of Akron on Tuesday night at Rhodes Arena.
The alarm sounded with 14:46 to go, waking up a moribund Zips team that until then had played as if it didn’t know it had the country’s longest winning streak and was finally receiving the national attention that it deserved.
Instead they played as if they could just flip a switch and turn it on, and Central Michigan (9-13, 2-7) let them know they were in a ballgame.
Despite trailing for much of the game, UA (18-4, 9-0 Mid-American Conference) finished with an 11-0 run and escaped with a 68-56 win to extend their MAC win streak to nine games and 14 overall, the longest streak in the nation.
Given the emotion-fueled win over Ohio on Saturday night, it wouldn’t have been unexpected for the Zips to come out with a hangover. And they did.
“It’s tough to come off a game like that, and play with the same kind of importance the next game,” said Zips point guard Alex Abreu (15 points, seven assists).
The Zips teased the crowd into a false sense of security, taking a 13-3 lead, but the Chippewas answered with a 15-3 run and kept the pressure up until the final two minutes of the game.
“We started too good,” Abreu said. “We just have to play hard every minute of the game.”
The Zips could blame no one but themselves for lacking offensive flow and an inability to take care of the ball. They committed 16 turnovers to allow the Chippewas to hang around with an opportunity to win.
The Zips can thank Central Michigan coach Keno Davis for taking his team’s final timeout with more than nine minutes left in the game. That allowed the Zips a chance to regroup and grind out a victory.
Looking to save a possession, Davis made the move. The Zips outscored the Chippewas 26-13 the rest of the way.
“We knew going into the game that we were going to have to maximize the minutes from our best players and that we were going to have to use timeouts,” Davis said, “whether it was when the other team got a run or to save possessions. A pocketful of timeouts won’t do you any good in a 20-point game.”
Much credit goes to UA junior forward Demetrius Treadwell, who was hampered with foul trouble most of the night and began the second half on the bench.
“It kind of took our advantage down low,” Abreu said of Treadwell’s foul trouble, “and we made a lot of mistakes.”
Treadwell had 12 points and five rebounds. Most of his scoring came in a 1:35 minute stretch when he made three consecutive shots as time ticked away without a method for Central Michigan to stop the clock.
“I thought he came back and played within himself really well,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said of Treadwell. “He’s a big key for us now. We have to have him now. That’s our new Romeo Travis. We don’t have anything that equals him at this point. Treadwell’s our best player. When he got back in the game, it was a huge difference.”
George M. Thomas 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/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.