The University of Akron men’s basketball team will open the Mid-American Conference portion of its schedule at Ball State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
UA is seeking its third MAC regular season title in a row and its fourth MAC Tournament title and subsequent fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament in six seasons.
Sophomore point guard Carmelo Betancourt knows that for the Zips (8-5) to advance in the postseason they will need to continue to improve.
“There are a lot of things to work on,” Betancourt said. “We have to work on our defense, shoot better and take care of the ball. We have to do a lot of the little things better.
“We have to fix the little problems. After that we will be fine. We match up well with all of the teams in the MAC. That’s our league and what we pride ourselves in. We are going to play hard and we are going to go out there every night and give it everything we have.”
UA completed a nine-game in 19-day stretch Thursday with a 59-58 win over Marshall. The games were in Akron, Honolulu, Hawaii, Columbia, S.C., and in Akron.
“Different time zones, five-hour changes, three games back-to-back [in Hawaii] and then the game in South Carolina all kind of caught up to us,” Zips sophomore forward Reggie McAdams said. “It was nice to get back on track in this game.”
Zips sophomore forward Jake Kretzer said he and his teammates enjoyed the 80-degree temperatures in Hawaii, the rides on scooters and mopeds and visiting Pearl Harbor and the top of Diamond Head. They are also glad to be back home.
“Being on the road, it is cool to go to all these places, but at the same time it is hard,” Kretzer said. “We love to play at home. It is our home court and sleeping in our beds is huge. I remember when we got back that night I just laid in my bed and thought ‘Oh, it feels good to be back.’ I never wanted to be home more than I did that night. I know we were only gone for 10 days, but it felt like we were gone forever. It is good to be back.”
The Zips went 6-3 during the nine-game span that featured little time for practice.
“It was hard,” Zips coach Keith Dambrot said. “I will be honest, I don’t think I will ever take a team to Hawaii again, unless I make a lot more money. I haven’t been right since I have been back. My clock is all out of whack.”
UA will travel to Muncie, Ind., to play Ball State (3-8) with senior forwards Demetrius Treadwell (12.8 points), Quincy Diggs (11.5 points) and Nick Harney (7.4 points) leading in scoring. Betancourt, junior guard Deji Ibitayo, sophomore center Pat Forsythe and freshman center Isaiah Johnson each played well in Thursday’s win over Marshall.
“Our role players are not our issue right now,” Dambrot said. “Our role players have done a good job. Our better players have to play better. It is as simple as that. Your best players have to play well if you are going to have a good team.
“Nyles [Evans] thought he had the [point guard] job, now he has got to worry about Melo [Betancourt]. Pat thinks he has the [center] job, now he has got to worry about Big Dog [Johnson]. That stuff is good for your team. That is how we built this program. Nobody has been bigger than the program. I think everything is pretty much wide open right now. Every minute you are out there you have got to play. If you don’t play, then you are going to sit. … I think everyone is trying and we will play better here coming up.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.