It wouldn’t be wise of the University of Akron basketball team to look past Ball State in its Mid-American Conference opener tonight at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind.
Although the Cardinals are 3-8, sometimes it takes the efforts of just one player to turn what looks to be an improbable situation into a possible one.
Big man Majok Majok dropped 26 points and 13 rebounds on the Zips last year and that was with Zeke Marshall on him. Now, the Zips are a bit green in the frontcourt with centers Pat Forsythe and Isaiah “Big Dog” Johnson at the center position. It’s conceivable forward Demetrius Treadwell will get a lot of time defensively on the 6-foot-9 Majok.
First-year Ball State coach James Whitford knows what to expect.
“They play really hard. They’re a tough team,” he said. “They’ve been a very good defensive team and to me, watching this year, they’re more of the same.”
The Cardinals rely more on four players to generate their offense, but the Zips have a more balanced approach.
Only forwards Quincy Diggs and Treadwell currently average in double figures for UA. The rest of the offense is diversified with four other players averaging 6.5 points or better. UA will need its bench players to come through consistently for the conference season if the Zips are to repeat as regular-season and tournament champions.
The Zips currently have a problem that has remained with them since the start of the season —a lack of noticeable chemistry. They’ve rarely appeared comfortable playing with one another. A flash of it will come in one game, such as Oregon State, and then disappear in games such as the recent one-point victory over Marshall.
Dambrot said that it’s a psychological block with his team.
“We just have to be more consistent effort wise,” he said.
Cleaning that up is going to have to start with two significant areas — turnovers and free-throw shooting. The Zips are averaging 14.3 turnovers per game. In the past four that’s increased to 16.
Free throws have proved to be just as problematic. The Zips are shooting 61 percent from the line.
Those two stats suggest that much of the team’s struggles are of its own making and can be corrected. There’s no better time than the opening game of the MAC schedule to start.
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.