Cliché but true, tonight’s game against Bowling Green in the Stroh Center is the classic trap game for the University of Akron.
It’s the looking-past-your-next-foe game, the don’t get cocky game.
It sets up that way for the Zips (15-4, 6-0 Mid-American Conference) as they prepare to take on the Falcons (7-12, 2-4).
After overcoming a 20-point deficit against Buffalo, the Zips, who are off to their best start in the conference under coach Keith Dambrot, are ripe for an upset.
After Saturday’s comeback, the Zips should know not to take the Falcons for granted.
The first half against the Bulls exposed almost every flaw of the Zips.
But that second half, during which they ramped up the defense to help spur a 19-0 run, showed just how dominant they can be.
But will they finally put both halves together for a complete game?
It won’t be easy, especially against a Bowling Green team that ranks fourth in the conference in defense.
“We understand what kind of game it’s going to be,” Dambrot said.
“They’re going to play like Ball State. They’re going to hold the ball for 30 seconds and try to get us at the end of the clock.”
Looking back to last season, the Zips were lucky to escape the Stroh Center with a win on a shot in the game’s closing seconds.
This season, the Falcons have point guard Jordon Crawford and forward A’uston Calhoun, who average 16.5 and 15.7 points per game, respectively to challenge the Zips again.
Crawford’s high offensive output could be viewed as a gift and a curse.
The 5-foot-6 point guard is the Falcons’ most effective offensive weapon, but with the Zips’ sizeable frontline, he won’t have an easy time scoring near the rim.
The Falcons’ center, Cameron Black (Kent Roosevelt), is an imposing presence on the inside as well, but has not produced a lot offensively, averaging 3.4 points per game.
Dambrot expects the Falcons to mix things up on defense, using man-to-man and zone schemes in an effort to confuse the Zips.
UA will have to be patient on offense and trust its inside game.
“The key for us is we have to play, play, play and be consistent for us and not get into holes by 20 points because if you put yourself in that position too many times, you’re going to lose some of those games,” Dambrot said.
If the Zips are going to put everything together before Saturday’s East Division showdown against Ohio (15-5, 6-0) at Rhodes Arena, now is the time.
Center Zeke Marshall said the team’s plan is to keep their momentum going.
“We have a collective agreement to not allow each other to fail,” he said. “That’s how to keep it going.”
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.