The work in progress visits a familiar foe at 3 p.m. today when the University of Akron basketball team takes on Middle Tennessee State at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
With the series standing at 15-10 in favor of the Blue Raiders (the Zips won last year at Rhodes Arena), UA will be looking to shrug off some early season adversity in order to get back in the win column.
It started with their participation in the ESPN 24-Hour Tipoff Marathon early this week that required a midnight game in California against St. Mary’s. The Zips got blown out and then flew home right after the game.
“It’s been a bad couple of days for us,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said. “We didn’t practice very well. We’ve been a little tired from the trip and we haven’t been the same since we got back.”
The Zips will have to find some semblance of temporal equilibrium rather quickly to take on the Raiders. Middle Tennessee State (2-0) is on a 30-game home winning streak. Needless to say, jet lag isn’t an option.
“We’ll be ready to play,” Dambrot said. “We know we can play with them. We beat them last year. They’re a lot like us. They play just like we play.”
The Raiders feature a starting lineup with four players averaging in double figures, and the fifth is pretty close.
Among those are forwards Neiko Hunter and Shawn Jones, who combine for 26 points per game, making Zips forward Demetrius Treadwell key in today’s game.
It’s going to fall to Treadwell, who is averaging 15 points per game, to keep Hunter in check.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be matched up against both of them. The majority of the time, I will probably be matched up against Neiko Hunter,” Treadwell said. “He’s kind of skilled. He can score it down low. He can jump out and shoot it a little bit and runs the floor pretty hard.”
The Zips won’t be going anywhere fast if the play of their backcourt players doesn’t improve.
They were virtually invisible in the blowout loss against St. Mary’s and their outside shooting was lacking.
That’s painfully obvious to Dambrot who said that the Zips have to get better — or “settled” as he put it in post-game comments Tuesday morning.
Overall, Dambrot said he didn’t expect smooth sailing heading into the season, calling it a calling card of teams he’s coached, but he’s determined to fix the issues. He’s not particularly fond of the situation, but he expects this team to develop.
“We’re going to have to practice better in order to get better, so I’m going to push them hard after this game for 3½ weeks, so they’d better buckle up,” he said. “I’m going to push them as hard as I’ve ever pushed anybody. I don’t like some of the habits I’ve seen. We’ve got some issues playing-wise, but just emotionally, we’ve got some issues.”
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.