A couple of weeks ago, the University of Akron menís basketball team was sitting pretty with a 9-2 Mid-American Conference record and control of its destiny.
Losing 3-of-4 in the league has a way of changing fortunes and perspective. The Zips (21-7, 10-5 MAC) still control their fate, but the margin of error is slimmer after those losses, including two in a row ó one against archrival Kent State and the most recent to Miami University.
Even UA coach Keith Dambrot said after the loss to KSU that he didnít view that as an upset. The Miami game is a different story.
During the past two losses, the Zips have struggled mightily from behind the 3-point arc, making 19-of-54 shots for 35 percent. The percentage isnít bad, but when splitting the games, the picture becomes clearer.
Against Kent State, the Zips shot 10-of-33 on 3-pointers, with many coming in the gameís latter stages when they were fighting back. Before the late surge, the Golden Flashes did an incredible job of staying out on Zips shooters and contesting most of their 3-point attempts. Four of the successful 3-pointers came in the last 2:30 when the outcome was virtually decided.
Perhaps Kent State left a blueprint for Miami. The Zips struggled to even get a shot off from behind the arc against the RedHawks, making 9-of-21 for 42 percent. Again, that percentage isnít the problem. But because the Zipsí offense is predicated on the ability to get those 3-pointers, the lack of attempts is a significant factor.
Going into their game against the Golden Flashes, the Zips had been averaging 11.7 made 3-pointers per game. Despite their late-game flurry, they still didnít hit that average. Against the RedHawks, not only did they not hit their average made, but they didnít get off their average of 29.6 attempts. Much of the credit for that goes to the Miami defense, which switched from man-to-man to zone throughout the game, keeping UA off-balance.
The Zips will be seeking a return to form when they face Bowling Green (14-14, 5-10) at 7 p.m. Friday at Rhodes Arena.
One of the Zipsí 3-point shooters, forward Reggie McAdams, has seen a drop in production, at least partially because of a sore back. McAdams couldnít find a rhythm in those past two games. He hasnít practiced consistently and heís 2-of-8 shooting, including 1-of-6 on 3-pointers, in the two losses.
Perhaps even more worrisome is a return of a familiar problem on defense. The Zips are again having trouble guarding the dribble drive and have given up 42 points or more in the paint in two of their past three games.
The Zips are also missing the defensive support that center Pat Forsythe provides in the paint. Last week, before sitting out the teamís 80-70 win over Buffalo with an injury, Forsythe said he would be back for the Kent State game. Now it might be fair to ask if Forsythe will return at all.
Despite the recent skid and injury issues, the Zips remain in solid position to take the top seed heading into the MAC Tournament.
The Zips have a one-game lead over Ohio, KSU (both will visit UA next week), Buffalo and Ball State and play their last three conference games at home, where they are unbeaten in 12 games. Most successful coaches would take those advantages in a heartbeat.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.