University of Akron coach Keith Dambrot is still seeking consistency from his Zips as the Mid-American Conference schedule begins Wednesday with a road trip to Ball State.
The Zips (8-5) can claim to be consistently inconsistent and they will head into the MAC season needing to improve greatly in some areas.
“We’ve had no normalcy, so we’ve played exactly like our schedule — erratically,” Dambrot said in a Monday morning conference call.
Dambrot can look back to a schedule and say that not playing for a 21-day stretch and then playing in a tournament in Hawaii, some 6,000 miles away and taking on 10 games in a 19-day period, did them no favors. He might be right, but he knows that other issues plague the team as well.
At times, the Zips behind the play of seniors Quincy Diggs (11.5 points and three assists per game) and Demetrius Treadwell (12.8 points, 7.6 rebounds) have appeared close to putting it all together. At other moments, such as last Thursday’s game against Marshall, it appears as if they’re worlds apart.
Much of it has to do with the elusive nature of building team chemistry. Dambrot said that right now it’s mostly psychological for his team.
What’s clear is that the Zips don’t really get a chance to begin slowly in conference play. Two of their first four MAC games are against teams — Ohio (10-3) and Toledo (12-1) — that are expected to challenge for the MAC title.
So what does Dambrot need from his team to start?
“We have to keep working on our [brains] and our ability to play together and not let things bother us and just be more consistent,” he said. “I’m not as disappointed in our record as I am in our consistency playing. If we can be more consistent, I can live with the results.”
Harney expects to play
UA senior Nick Harney is expected to play Wednesday night at Ball State following a collision near the end of the Zips’ 59-58 victory over visiting Marshall on Thursday at Rhodes Arena.
Harney left the game with a cut above his nose that required five stitches.
Ramping it up
The Zips also will have to look in their backyard for competition for the conference crown. Then again, what else is new?
Kent State racked up a 9-4 record during their nonconference schedule, including a win over Temple. KSU coach Rob Senderoff said it’s provided perspective for his team.
“We had some moments when I thought we played very, very well and we had some moments when we didn’t compete at the level we needed to compete at, so I think we have an understanding of how hard you have to play the game and that we have to go out at the start Wednesday and compete at that level,” he said.
KSU has lost two in a row, something that has shown Senderoff one of his team’s main weaknesses.
With the loss of key starters Randal Holt and Chris Evans from last year’s team, Senderoff said the Flashes need their reserves to pick up the slack.
“It has to be a collective effort,” he said.
Change for better?
Ohio University coach Jim Christian said during the teleconference that his team is different from the one that took the court last year.
How could it not be with the loss of point guard D.J. Cooper?
But it doesn’t sound as if different in this case represents a negative.
“One thing I think is clear is our team is a lot closer,” Christian said. “I think they get along better. They have a better understanding of what this group needs to do to win.”
That could explain the Bobcats’ 10-3 record, but Christian credits his seniors — including Nick Kellogg, the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 14.7 points per game — with wanting to do things differently.
“I have to give those guys a lot of credit because I think they’ve re-identified the way we want to play and what we want to do to win a game,” Christian said. “And then they did a good job of accepting the new players and the new guys have done a good job of blending in.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. 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.