The University of Akron men’s basketball team treated its Monday night game against John Carroll exactly as what it was, a glorified practice.
The Zips demolished the Blue Streaks 97-53 as five players scored in double figures and they dominated on both sides of the ball.
Senior guard Brian Walsh led the way with 18 points and Deji Ibitayo followed with 16 on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-5 from the 3-point arc.
The most glaring change that coach Keith Dambrot made was to insert Ibitayo into the starting line-up in place of Chauncey Gilliam, who started in Friday’s season opener against Coastal Carolina.
Ibitayo made the most of the opportunity by finishing in double figures.
Dambrot made the move to make Ibitayo feel more comfortable, he said.
“It kind of forces me to play him minutes,” he said. “Chauncey didn’t like it much, but it was good for Deji.”
But more troubling signs presented themselves against John Carroll. The Zips did little to work big men Zeke Marshall and Pat Forsythe into the offense.
Combined, the two took just eight shots while four other Zips got at least that many.
“It’s hard to get it inside to him when they’re beating the hell out of him on every play,” Dambrot said. “He’s not going to be a guy you throw it to 25 times a game. We never have. That’s just not his psychological makeup.”
Point guard Alex Abreu agreed: “I feel like our big men were definitely getting the ball in there but they were getting swarmed. We tried to throw it in and everybody just get in the paint, so we just skip it.”
Secondly, they appeared all too willing to settle for shooting 3-pointers, hitting 45 percent on the night. The lack of an inside game didn’t faze Dambrot.
“They packed it in; we shot it,” he said.
And they connected on 13-of-29.
“If you shoot 45 percent from three, you’re going to win,” Dambrot said. “I don’t think we took too many bad threes, most of them were open threes. When we shoot open threes, because we’re a good shooting team, we’re going to make most of those.”
This was little more than a tuneup for the team’s appearance at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, in an opening game against Oklahoma State.
The Zips go in without forwards Demetrius Treadwell and Nick Harney.
Dambrot knows this weekend will be a struggle, but he’s not worried about the season.
“I think the key to this is when we get 15 pounds off of Abreu and we get those two guys back,” he said, “but I think until we do that we’re going to have some struggles.”
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.