University of Akron center Zeke Marshall played exterminator Wednesday night at Savage Arena in Toledo.
Marshall swatted away Toledo shots as if they were gnats.
Add to the mix another powerful effort from junior forward Demetrius Treadwell and the two men gave the Zips (14-4, 5-0 MAC) a 71-56 Mid-American Conference win over the Rockets (6-10, 2-3). The win is the Zips’ 10th in a row.
Marshall led the Zips with 18 points and eight rebounds and tied his school record for blocked shots with nine for the game. Treadwell completed a second consecutive double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds — he was one blocked shot shy of a triple-double.
“When Zeke and Tree are dominating the backboards like that we’re hard to deal with,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said. “Zeke’s playing dominating basketball right now.”
Setting the tone early, the Zips ran out to a 36-21 lead at halftime.
They played ferociously on the glass, outrebounding the Rockets 43-29 and crashed the offensive boards especially hard pulling down 16 to Toledo’s 10.
But as effective as Marshall and Treadwell continue to be, many contributed to the win. Point guard Alex Abreu had a near double-double with 11 points and nine assists.
“Abreu continues to play better [and] that makes us much better,” Dambrot said. “[Marshall and Treadwell] have to be good, but Abreu is the main thing. When he struggles we have struggles.”
Abreu wasn’t alone in providing some energy. As he did last Saturday against Kent State, Chauncey Gilliam, who had been hampered by minor surgery on his left knee, came off the bench to give the Zips a spark when it looked as if they were faltering. Gilliam finished with 12 points.
The Zips took a hefty 15-point lead into the third quarter along with some momentum. That quickly changed as the Rockets peeled off a couple of steals that they converted and went on an 8-0 run to cut the Zips’ lead to 40-32.
After that, Abreu and Gilliam released a 3-point barrage, connecting on five combined on the same number of possessions to put the game firmly back in the Zips’ grasp.
Given the fact that UA has struggled with outside shooting in recent weeks, the sight of the Zips making 45 percent from the floor and 44 percent on 3-pointers had to be a relief for Dambrot.
“I thought we shot the ball better, but we still have a lot of growth potential,” Dambrot said.
From there the defense, which is shaping up to be a strength of the team along with its inside play, clamped down and never allowed the Rockets to come closer than 11 points.
Overall the Zips held Toledo to 38 percent shooting from the floor and just 17 percent on 3-pointers. The Zips also forced the conference’s leading scorer, Rian Pearson, to get 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting.
“I thought we had a couple of guys who didn’t play great, but that’s the beauty of our team,” Dambrot said. “We just have to have a couple of our main guys play great and our bench played well.”