In the end, the University of Akron’s 109-83 loss to Central Michigan Thursday night at Rhodes Arena meant everything and nothing.
Last season UA (7-6, 1-1) lost to the Chippewas (6-8, 2-0) in the final of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. The Zips had an opportunity to gain some confidence months ahead of a potential tournament rematch. UA coach Jodi Kest said it was just another game for her team.
“It wasn’t even mentioned what happened last year,” she said. “That was last year. We have different players, they have different players.”
But the Zips banked on being able to leverage their home court to help carry them to victory. Needless to say, it didn’t happen.
Despite 30 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Rachel Tecca (Archbishop Hoban), who led all scorers, and 24 points and five rebounds from Hanna Luburgh, the Zips couldn’t contain a CMU offense that proved dominant.
Seven Chippewas, led by junior forward Jas’Mine Bracey with 21 points, scored in double figures for the game.
“We can’t have two players always scoring, we need other players to be consistent,” Kest said.
The Chippewas controlled every facet of the game and the Zips couldn’t match them shot for shot. UA connected on 41 percent from the floor but the Chippewas made 55 percent.
Eighteen CMU offensive rebounds led to 24 second-chance points. UA grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and lost the battle on the glass 51-31. The Chippewas dominated in the paint as well, outscoring the Zips 58-38.
“I have to give credit, Central Michigan, right now, they’re the better team,” Kest said. “When they can come on our home court and beat us by 26, there’s no question they’re the better team.”
The numbers don’t lie. UA had no answers on defense as the Chippewas scored with ease on dribble drives from the beginning of the game.
“The scoring wasn’t the problem today, it was our defense,” Kest said. “We spent three or four days and after watching us today, you would have never thought we defended the dribble-drive.”
When they weren’t getting layups, the Chippewas were making a respectable 38 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
“They have a lot of kids who can shoot the 3,” Kest said. “At times they have four or five kids on the floor who can shoot the 3 and they have a post player inside. They’re very hard to defend.”
The Zips trailed just 39-36 with 3:30 to go in the first half, but the Chippewas persisted and scored inside and pushed the lead to 52-43 at halftime.
Buckley leaving UA
University of Akron defensive backs coach Terrell Buckley will leave the program to join Bobby Petrino’s coaching staff at the University of Louisville, according to a report from ESPN college football writer Joe Schad.
Coach Terry Bowden heaped praise on Buckley at the close of the season for development of the team’s defensive backs, especially Malachi Freeman, a second-team All-Mid-American Conference selection who developed into a shutdown corner in his two years at UA.
The Zips’ coaching staff will have a different look in the fall with the loss of Buckley and offensive line and assistant head coach Alan Arrington, who died in an auto accident last month. Buckley would have been entering his third season as a Zips assistant.
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.