When: 8:00p.m. EST
TV: CBS Sports Network
A lot has happened in MAC play since week two, when the Chippewas handed the Zips their first MAC loss of the year with a 92-81 effort. The Akron Zips (18-4, 7-2 MAC) have won five of six since then and the Central Michigan Chippewas (13-9, 5-3 MAC) have won their last four after getting off to a 2-3 start in league play.
The story from matchup number one was defense, or the lack thereof. Both teams shot over 46% from the floor and it was tied 40-40 at the half. Reggie McAdams lit up the Chips for 21 points, 10 fewer than his 31 in the Zips' win over Central last year. Normally when McAdams is on, Akron plays well, but that was far from the case.
The one-two punch of Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler were no match for Akron's drive defense, so despite only shooting the three-ball at 25%, the Chips were able to take it to the rack at will.
To put it simply, Central Michigan probably won't shoot that poorly (5-20) from the three-point line again. Akron's done a good job of guarding the perimeter this year, but the Chips will most likely cash in on the open ones. A lot has changed since that first match up, though. The Zips are playing much better defense and getting the ball to Isaiah "Big Dog" Johnson on offense, which is making them very tough to play against. If you double-team Johnson, Pat Forsythe (who is struggling right now), or Kwan Cheatham (he's beginning to try and develop an inside game), there will be shooters all over the floor to kick it out to.
The Chippewas need this win to keep pace in the league, and it may come down to the play of Luke Meyer and John Simons on defense. If they can bother Akron's bigs and hit a few triples, they could hand Akron a home loss for the first time this season. There's no doubt that Rayson, Rayshawn Simmons, and Fowler will need to shut down the guards and the perimeter, but even when Akron has had recent struggles shooting, they've won it down low.
This game will be won with defense. The offense will probably show up with each being offensive powerhouses, but the team that comes to play on defense will leave Rhodes Arena with a big victory.