The University of Akron started off in its typical fashion during Saturday’s Mid-American Conference showdown against Ohio, falling behind by 13.
But there was nothing typical about the way the Zips finished. If their recent win over Bowling Green was their best game of year, this 86-72 victory eclipsed it and could very well reverberate throughout the rest of the season.
The Zips (17-4, 8-0) won their eighth consecutive MAC game and 13th in a row overall to solidify their spot atop the East Division and give them the longest Division I winning streak in the country.
The crowd of 5,770 played a large role in what happened on the court.
“When you have a full house and you’re looking around and everybody’s jumping, it’s human nature [to get fired up],” Zips point guard Alex Abreu said.
That emotion and Abreu helped lead five Zips in double figures. He led all scorers with 21 points, adding nine assists. Forward Nick Harney scored 13 points and freshman Reggie McAdams added 11, making three-of-four 3-pointers off the bench.
But the two big men, senior center Zeke Marshall (17 points, 12 rebounds, connecting on 8-of-8 from the floor) and junior forward Demetrius Treadwell (15 points, 10 rebounds, notching his fourth double-double in five games) played a larger role carrying the Zips.
Their frontcourt play, along with that of reserves Harney and freshman center Pat Forsythe, allowed the Zips to outrebound the Bobcats 40-22, including 11-6 on the offensive boards, which led to 11 second-chance points for UA.
“I can’t say where they’re going to be at the end of the year, but those two are going to get better and better,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said.
Bobcats coached Jim Christian agreed.
“I’ll give them credit — Treadwell and Marshall up front — if they want the ball at the glass, they go and get it, and unless you stop them, they’re going to go get a lot,” Christian said.
Ohio built its 13-point lead early but it was their best shot. Behind 23-10 at 10:03 of the first half, the Zips outscored the Bobcats 31-13 to take a 41-36 halftime lead.
The momentum continued through the second half as the Bobcats (15-6, 6-1) missed several opportunities to tie the score, thanks in part to the efforts of Treadwell, who delivered seven of his points and seven of his rebounds in the second half.
With the Zips holding a three-point lead, Treadwell’s jump shot and rebound on the Bobcats’ subsequent possession began a stretch when UA, leading 51-48, outscored Ohio 17-6 to take a commanding 68-54 lead with 7:36 left in the game.
“You have to want it. The key is hunger. It’s not physical,” Christian said of Treadwell. “You have to want it and we didn’t want it bad enough. There is no technique. We didn’t invent block outs over here.”
Defensively, the Zips frustrated and dominated the Bobcats, allowing them to connect on just 32 percent of their shots.
And contributions came from up and down the lineup, including the bench. Although outscored in the game, it delivered in the form of freshman McAdams, whose 3-pointers seemed to come at just the right moments.
“You just have to wait for your moment and … that’s my job on this team [making 3-pointers],” McAdams said. “That’s what makes us a great team. Our first five goes out there and gives it their all, and after they get a little tired, you have this great bench that comes out and picks it up. It feels like if one guy has an off night, another guy comes in and picks it up.”
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.