The University of Akron men’s basketball team picked the wrong time to “show quit.”
For those who missed its performance against Ohio on Saturday at Rhodes Arena, the Zips played a game that their fans aren’t used to seeing, especially at home.
For coach Keith Dambrot to use the “Q” word, it shows a coach who might have lost some faith in his team or who could be trying to work some psychological mojo to pull the Zips back from the abyss. This coming after two consecutive conference losses for the first time in two seasons.
Part of that comes from Dambrot having to play a depleted lineup due to injuries and suspension. Jake Kretzer (concussion), Reggie McAdams (mononucleosis) and Nick Harney (suspension) remain out and did not practice Monday, according to a team spokesman.
As for whether any of the three would be available for the game Wednesday, Dambrot said not yet. That will make the Miami game that much more difficult.
But make no mistake about it, part of what the Zips are enduring is of their own doing. Basketball teams with high aspirations don’t average double figures in turnovers, nor do they shoot less than 70 percent from the free-throw line, two common issues that continue to affect UA.
But the reality for them with respect to their most recent folly is that Dambrot’s blunt assessment of their performance against Ohio was dead on. They played as if they were just going through the motions for most of that game — settling for jump shots, mental errors leading to turnovers and generally shoddy defense.
Right now the Zips are tied with Ohio for fourth when it comes to seeding for next month’s Mid-American Conference Tournament. Had they beat Ohio, they would have maintained a first-place tie with the Buffalo Bulls, a team they lost to last week after mounting a furious comeback.
All-important seeding is going to come down to the final two weeks of the regular season in the MAC. UA would prefer to be one of the two top seeds, but now those chances appear remote.
The Zips will play Miami and Bowling Green, two teams they beat earlier in the conference season, and then Buffalo and Kent State, two teams to which they lost.
Here are the other teams with eyes on the MAC title and what they will face to close out the season, plus how they fared against their opponents in their first meeting of the season:
•?Toledo Rockets (23-4, 11-3): Northern Illinois (won first game); Western Michigan (lost); Central Michigan (won); Eastern Michigan (lost).
•?Western Michigan (18-8, 11-3): Ball State (won); Toledo (won); Northern Illinois (won); Central Michigan (won).
•?Buffalo (16-8, 10-4): Ohio (lost); Miami (lost); Akron (won); Bowling Green (lost).
•?Ohio (19-8, 9-5): Buffalo (won); Kent (won); Bowling Green (lost); Miami (won).
Right now the Zips are tied with Ohio for the No. 4 seed. They don’t want to relinquish their hold on it at minimum, primarily because they would be guaranteed first- and second-round byes. Miss out on that spot and they will have to play two more games in the tournament.
Dambrot, however, hasn’t given up on rising to become one of those top two seeds — a feat that can be described as tough at best. “I play for every game,” 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.