There is no secret where University of Akron men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot wants the basketball during a possession.
“I think the key for us every night is going inside,” Dambrot said Wednesday before practice as UA (6-4) prepares to meet Texas Southern University (1-11) at 7 tonight at Rhodes Arena.
UA is certainly not lacking in confidence after defeating visiting Cleveland State 87-57 Sunday. The Vikings (7-5) never led in the game and were only tied with the Zips at 6-6. UA’s largest lead was 35 points.
The Zips asserted themselves near the basket with strength, quickness, precise passing and accurate shooting.
UA’s top two players in scoring and rebounding are 7-foot senior center Zeke Marshall and 6-7 junior power forward Demetrius “Tree” Treadwell. Marshall averages 12.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game. Treadwell contributes 10.0 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Nick Harney, a 6-8 junior forward, is also a key cog, averaging 8.9 points and 3.6 rebounds.
“We have always been good inside,” Dambrot said. “That is where we always make our hay. We have had good players in the past inside, such as the McKnight brothers [Chris and Brett], Romeo Travis, Jeremiah Wood, Nate Linhart and Nikola Cvetinovic. We have always had those types of guys, and now it is Tree, Harney, Zeke and [6-11 freshman center] Pat Forsythe that are getting it done in there. We feel like we have advantages that we can work with.”
Dambrot is also quick to point out UA features more than just post players. Junior point guard Alex Abreu (9.7 points), senior shooting guard Brian Walsh (9.1) and senior small forward Chauncey Gilliam (8.7 points) are consistent scorers. Abreu leads the team in assists with 5.9 per game.
The Zips have eight players averaging at least 5.2 points per game: Marshall, Treadwell, Abreu, Walsh, Harney, Gilliam and freshmen Jake Kretzer (8.7) and Reggie McAdams (5.2).
“Using our depth and making sure we are playing hard defensively are also very important,” Dambrot said. “We also need to continue to guard the 3-point line, which I think we are doing a better job of.”
Sophomore Deji Ibitayo and freshman Carmelo Betancourt have also been solid in reserve guard roles behind Abreu and Walsh.
“Our practice habits are better,” Dambrot said. “You can see us playing better in practice, there is no question.”
The game against Texas Southern is UA’s third during a six-game homestand. The Zips will host Princeton on Sunday, Coppin State on Jan. 2 and open their Mid-American Conference schedule with Western Michigan on Jan. 9. All three tipoffs are at 7 p.m.
“This is a big stretch for us,” Dambrot said. “We need to win these home games as we get ready to play our conference games.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.