USA TODAY Sports
The Zips out-shot the Bobcats in the second half and cruised to a 86-72 victory.
Well, we certainly didn't expect that outcome did we?
I didn't think a fourteen point victory for the Zips would happen, and I still can't tell if it's a fluke or not.
This game had all the makings of a big one. It started with the whole @ZipsMBB jersey thing that the NCAA didn't particularly approve of. Add on top of that a national TV audience, a sellout crowd, and oh yeah the whole both teams being undefeated in conference play that made it that much bigger of a game.
In Akron's last "big" game against Buffalo, the Zips fell behind by 20 early on in front of a capacity crowd. The same thing happened yesterday, when Akron had some troubles early and were down 23-10 just ten minutes into the game. Now, Ohio is definitely not Buffalo, but you had to feel the Zips weren't going down that easy. Akron then used a 31-13 run to end the half, and kept it going into the second half.
I hate to downplay the significance of this win, because it's a good one for the Zips. But, last year Akron beat Ohio at the JAR and the next time they played Ohio won by 25 in Athens. Ohio also got the ticket to the big dance in the MAC Championship Game, which ultimately is all that matters.
Let's take a look at some player bullets:
Alex Abreu (AKR)-Abreu had a career day with 21 points and 9 assists. Many saw this game as the "Abreu vs. DJ Cooper" game, and you'd have to give this round to Abreu. It seemed like he couldn't miss, and just as Cooper hit a three with six minutes left to cut the lead to eleven, Abreu came back down the court and swished a trey to all but seal the victory.
- DJ Cooper (OHIO)-Cooper had a pretty average game by his standards. He ended up with fourteen, but seven of those came from the free throw line. Going 1-5 from deep is not going to help matters.
- Ivo Baltic (OHIO)-Dr. Ivo had as many points as you and I combined. Baltic just disappeared this game, and the Bobcats need more out of him (especially as a starter) if they want to continue to be successful.
- Zeke Marshall (AKR)-Marshall was perfect from the field and ended up with 17 and 12. Abreu and Marshall save their best games for top-notch competition, and they certainly did that yesterday.
The one thing the Ohio fans may worry about after this game (in addition to the defense) is the bench play. Yeah, they got a good game from T.J. Hall, but he could have basically been in the starting rotation with Baltic's lack of offensive firepower. Other than that? Just twelve points from four players.
This is where things get sort of scary. Graduating this year are Cooper, Baltic, Reggie Keely, and Walter Offutt. Who fills their shoes after they leave? Hall looks like a gamer, but who else? Ricardo Johnson? Kadeem Green (who had a 4 trillion yesterday)? Jon Smith? Stevie Taylor? After a game like that, the future for Bobcat basketball looks sort of hazy. Jim Christian is a good coach and will get some good recruits eventually. He's starting to build through transfers, with Javarez Willis (Texas Tech) and Treg Setty (Southern Illinois) becoming eligible next season. I know it's just one game, but the bench really didn't show me anything against a quality team.
Compare this to Akron, who has just Zeke Marshall and Chauncey Gilliam graduating. Yes, Marshall is a huge loss, and Gilliam is a pretty big one as well. Surprisingly though, Gilliam played only two minutes yesterday and wasn't a factor at all. The rest of the Zips rotation, which goes eleven deep, is devoid of seniors. It's scary (in a good way for Zips fans) that starters like Demetrius Treadwell and Nick Harney have two years left.
This really became apparent to me yesterday when Akron was up 59-50 with ten minutes left in the game. The five on the floor for Akron were Carmelo Betancourt (freshman), Jake Kretzer (freshman), Reggie McAdams (freshman), Pat Forsythe (freshman) and Zeke Marshall. This group was going against the regular starters for Ohio. I told myself if Akron was able to hold them here, the game would pretty much be out of reach. For the next two minutes of game play while the regular starters were resting, Ohio scored just two points.
The stat lines for the Zips freshmen weren't too impressive outside of Reggie McAdams's eleven points on three 3-pointers. But, the fact that Ohio's starters weren't able to capitalize on playing the Zips backups for that stretch should worry Christian and make Keith Dambrot feel more comfortable with his team.
Sorry for being a Debbie Downer, but in all actuality this win is worth as much as a win against Northern Illinois in the standings. Unfortunately the lack of quality teams in the MAC will make it really hard to get an at-large bid for either team. So, it may not even matter if Akron won yesterday or Ohio wins the next go around. All that matters is when they (most likely) meet in the finals of the MAC Tournament, once again, to see who makes it to the big dance.