Play Eastern Michigan on your court and the Eagles are road kill. Play them at their home arena in Ypsilanti, Mich., and they perform like warriors.
The Eagles are 0-10 on the road this season, but 11-2 at home at the Convocation Center. And that is what concerns the University of Akron about tonight’s game.
Of those 11 home victories, one came against Purdue of the Big Ten, another against Central Michigan, a team that challenged the Zips.
“We don’t want to get behind,” Zips coach Keith Dambrot said.
Considering UA trailed or held just a one-point lead at halftime in four of its past five games, the players might want to heed that piece of advice.
“I think they’re a dangerous inconsistent team,” Dambrot said. “A lot of their problem is that they don’t score all the time, so every game they’re in is relatively close because they hold the ball, they milk the clock.”
And that is something they are content to do.
The Eagles only allowed Northern Illinois to score four points in the first half of a 42-25 victory earlier this season.
It didn’t hurt that the Huskies hit only one shot in the half.
“If they have a good shooting night because they’re at home, they can win because they’re good defensively. They’re really good defensively,” Dambrot said.
The Eagles aren’t proficient offensively, averaging just 57.3 points per game. But they’re good on the defensive end, giving up just 59.6 points per game, first in the MAC. They also lead the league in defending the 3-point shot, allowing just 29.4 percent from beyond the arc, and they are second behind the Zips with 5.7 blocked shots per game.
If the Zips want to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 16 games and to remain undefeated in the MAC, they will have to strike a balance offensively and defensively, Dambrot said.
“How much do we want to try to speed them up at the risk of giving them easy baskets and how much do we want to play straight up and make them earn every basket,” he said.
An additional concern is a frontcourt that can equal UA’s in size.
Eagles center Da’Shonte Riley matches Zeke Marshall’s 7-foot stature and forwards Glenn Bryant and Jamell Harris stand 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9, respectively.
“They’re big. They play the zone well, so we’re going to have to attack the zone well,” Dambrot said. “We beat them badly last year, so our guys are going to have to be ready to play.”
Changes on horizon?
With the season’s stretch coming, expect Dambrot to make some changes tonight. He wouldn’t specify, but he did say after practice Monday that he’s looking for more pop off the bench, an area of the team that had an atypical scoring effort against Miami.
Forward Demetrius Treadwell (11 points, 7.4 rebounds) will reunite with former Euclid Panthers teammate Jamell Harris in tonight’s game. Harris, who was a year ahead of him, plays forward for the Eagles, averaging 5.1 points and 4.5 rebounds. Friendship aside, Treadwell said this game is all business.
“It’s just another game. I’m not going to me versus him or anything,” he said. “It’s our teams versus each other. I’m going to do what I can to help my team win the game.”
The Zips men and women will get another TV game in the coming weeks as each team’s second Miami game will air on SportsTime Ohio. Coach Jodi Kest’s women’s team will face the RedHawks at 2 p.m. March 3 on the regional cable network. The men will play Miami on STO at 7 p.m. March 5.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. 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.