University of Akron basketball fans got their first look at the 2012-13 edition of the team that won the regular season MAC East Division crown last season.
Returning four starters and eight players overall, the Zips are predicted by the media to finish behind Ohio in the East this year.
The Zips, who rolled to a 111-72 exhibition win over Tiffin at Rhodes Arena on Wednesday night, showed an altered style of defense.
It’s more aggressive, faster paced and requires great conditioning and a deep bench.
It’s also a high-risk, high-reward proposition. With the Zips constantly pressing, breakdowns will result in open shots.
Reviews from the first half against Tiffin were mixed.
But the second half showed that it could be a potent aspect of the Zips’ game. UA turned a 55-46 lead into the beginnings of a blowout, courtesy of a 9-0 run to open the half. It eventually blossomed into a 25-4 run, an 80-50 lead and a comfortable victory.
Coach Keith Dambrot called it transitioning into the transition.
The Zips held the Dragons to 37.8 percent shooting and just 29.4 percent in the second half.
Still, Dambrot saw room for improvement.
“We need to turn it over more than that really. Thirteen turnovers are ridiculous when you’re trapping and pressuring the way we are,” he said.
But it produced its desired effect. The Dragons played with wobbly legs for most of the second half and didn’t get into any sort of offensive flow, instead relying on their best player, Joe Graessle, who scored 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
“It definitely worked for us tonight,” junior forward Demetrius Treadwell said. “We opened it up a lot because of our depth and pressure.”
But Dambrot realizes that it’s a defense not without challenges.
“It’s high risk. It’s [Virginia Commonwealth-like] really, but you can turn it on and off,” he said. “We’re trying to turn it on more than off just so we can get used to it. You can see the cumulative effect in the second half really.”
But do they have the horses to run with it all season?
“When you add [Alex] Abreu [who missed the game due to injury] to the mix, you can stay constantly fresh at the point guard position,” Dambrot said. “You can stay constantly fresh at the big man position. We have a lot of perimeter people.”
Ultimately, he said it’s a good weapon for his team to have because it allows them to spark comebacks if needed or go for the jugular when appropriate.
“We’ll get better at it,” he said.
Treadwell looks like he’s comfortable in a starting role, tallying a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, including six offensive boards.
“There’s definitely more focus. I’m more seasoned; I have another year under my belt,” he said. “I know what they expect this season so I got to come in, play my role and try to be a leader of the team.”
Dambrot said the big man is motivated.
“He’s sniffing a chance to play a lot of minutes,” Dambrot said. “He’s good at what he does. He’s a guy who can lead the league in rebounding. He’s that kind of athlete and he’s that strong.”
Pat Forsythe, a Brunswick native and transfer from West Virginia, led the team in scoring with 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end.
“My job is to come in off the bench for Zeke [Marshall] and give at least three or four minutes as hard as I can, rebound and if the points come, they come. I just do what I can,” he said.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.