On a night where the rest of the Akron team wasn't playing their best and with two rotation players out of the lineup, Demetrius Treadwell picked up the slack and then some.
Treadwell probably had the game of his life, scoring 25 points and snagging ten boards in Akron's closer-than-expected 62-54 win over Northern Illinois. "Tree" did everything he possibly could to snare the victory including stepping up as Akron's emotional leader for most of the night. That point total was a career high for the junior out of Euclid, Ohio and another double-double moved him into the top spot in the conference for that statistic.
Keith Dambrot recognized how vital Treadwell was in Saturday night's game:
"It was a grind. Tree carried us. If we didn't have him we wouldn't have scored 30 points."
That's probably an understatement, but really not much of one. Akron's other players combined for just 37 points.
Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery had some high praise for Treadwell as well:
"I thought the difference (in the game) was Treadwell. We just didn't have an answer for him."
Coming into the game Treadwell knew how pivotal this one was for the Zips' MAC title hopes:
"This game was important to us (especially) knowing Toledo lost. Every game gets bigger from here on out."
Dambrot echoed those statements, saying:
"If we would have lost this one we may not be able to win the championship."
A loss certainly would have put the Zips behind the eight ball for seeding respects. Western Michigan currently owns the No. 1 seed, Toledo has No. 2 and Akron has No. 3. The Zips have another huge game next Saturday against the current No. 4 seed Ohio who pulled off another come-from-behind victory over Buffalo Saturday afternoon.
For Northern Illinois, this was one it didn't necessarily need to have but was certainly one it could have stolen. Montgomery realized that, but said:
"If you want to win on the road, you have to do better than 12-21 at the free throw line."
Certainly the free throw line was a concern for the Huskies, but turning the ball over 13 times was also hampering. The shooting was poor as well, as Northern Illinois shot just 36 percent for the entire game.
There was a three-minute stretch in the second half that basically sealed the Huskie loss. Jordan Threloff made two free throws with 7:33 left to go to pull the Huskies within four at 49-45. It seemed like they were right back in it, but that was all for naught as the Huskies went on a four and a half minute scoring drought. When that's combined with a 6-0 Akron run during the same time frame, it equals disaster, and a loss.
That being said, the Huskies shouldn't hang their heads. They had a chance to beat one of the top teams in the country in a tough place to play. This program is starting to come around, and in a few years they'll be right there with the Buffalos (Buffaloes?) and the Western Michigans in the top-tier of the conference. But for now, they'll take a 5-7 conference record back home, where they face surging Eastern Michigan on Wednesday.
Akron on the other hand maintains its lead in the East and keeps a stronghold on a top four seed. It seems like the ultimate goal is to just get one of those top four (aka don't be five) and the tournament will basically be a toss-up from the semi-finals on. The road won't be easy though, as next week brings a road trip to Buffalo followed by the Ohio rematch.
It's officially mid-February in the MAC and that means every game becomes a meaningful one.
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