Before departing for Puerto Rico, University of Akron basketball coach Keith Dambrot didn’t lament the fact that his team didn’t work the ball inside in their game against John Carroll last Monday.
Why? Because they shot 45 percent on 3-pointers. They apparently didn’t worry about the inside game against UNC-Asheville Friday in their second-round game at the Puerto Rico Tip-off either.
The Zips throttled UNC-Asheville 82-63 behind 50 percent shooting on 3-pointers. Senior forward Chauncey Gilliam led the way for the Zips with 22 points, including 5-of-6 on 3-pointers.
“Akron is a good, well-coached basketball team. Our growing pains showed against them. We didn’t execute,” UNC coach Eddie Biedenbach said. “You can’t give them that many 3-pointers and expect to beat them.”
Point guard Alex Abreu followed Gilliam with 12 points and nine assists.
Gilliam played his best game after struggling in the season opener against Coastal Carolina. After opening the season as the starter, Dambrot started Deji Ibitayo in Gilliam’s place against John Carroll.
“I was finally able to get some shots to go down,” Gilliam said. “It was a good feeling to get things going.”
The game was the first for junior forwards Demetrius Treadwell (6 points, eight rebounds) and Nick Harney (8 points, two rebounds), who had been ruled ineligible for the first three games of the season by the NCAA.
The Zips had missed the combination of Treadwell’s ferocious rebounding and the spark from the bench that Harney adds.
The Zips struggled with UNC-Asheville in the first half and led just 37-34 at halftime.
“I was a little concerned about us going into this game because of the tough loss we had yesterday,” Dambrot said. “UNC-Asheville shot the ball pretty well at the end of the first half to get back in the game.”
The Zips pulled away in the second half by shooting better than 53 percent. They shot 49 percent for the game. Their offensive efforts keyed the second half surge, but Treadwell pulled down six of his boards in the second half and Abreu worked more in the flow of the game, getting teammates involved rather than scoring himself.
“In the second half tonight, I was playing to the rhythm of the game,” Abreu said. “It meant I didn’t score as much in the second half. I judge my game by wins and nothing else. In the first half, I scored 12 points and the game was tied. I could have kept shooting and probably would have had 30 points. But, in the second half, I didn’t score and we ended up winning by 20 points. That’s how I judge the game.”
The Zips opened the second half with a 20-11 run to run up a 57-45 lead. They continued with another 15-7 run to take a 72-52 lead with just 5:41 left in the game.
“There were two keys in the game for us,” Dambrot said. “We rebounded the ball better in traffic in the second half, especially Treadwell. Then we had [Jake] Kretzer getting on the floor for loose balls and the kids rallied around him.”