Twitter handles featured on the Zips’ new uniforms were the center of discussion leading up to the matchup between the top two teams in the Mid-American Conference. Once the game started, it was the Zips that did the handling in the sold-out James A. Rhodes Arena, as five players in double figures led to a convincing 86-72 win over the Ohio Bobcats.
“It not only keeps you in the mind of the writers nationally, but it also keeps you in the mind of the [NCAA selection] committee,” said head coach Keith Dambrot, referring to the winning streak. “It’s our job to continue to win to keep the buzz going.”
A victory was certainly in question the first 10 minutes of the game, with Ohio jumping out to a 23-10 lead. The Zips could not find an answer for point guard D.J. Cooper’s penetration, as he continually created and found open shooters.
The Zips would find an answer for Cooper and the rest of the Bobcats, outscoring them 31-13 the final 10 minutes of the half.
A dominating performance by Akron’s starting frontcourt, Zeke Marshall and Demetrius Treadwell, and a trio of three-pointers split between guards Alex Abreu and Reggie McAdams, led to the 41-36 advantage.
“We played some of the best basketball over the last three-fourths of the game,” said Dambrot.
Ohio did manage to keep Akron’s lead within a few possessions for much of the half, but the Zips’ balanced offensive attack would respond for most of the 20 minutes.
Marshall, Treadwell, Abreu, McAdams and junior Nick Harney would all reach double figures during the night, building their lead to 59-50 with 11 minutes remaining.
That lead would increase to 68-54 at the 6:48 mark after nine consecutive points by Treadwell, Marshall and their big-man counterpart, Pat Forsythe.
The Bobcats would whittle the lead down to nine with 2:28 to go in the game, but 8-of-9 free throw shooting for the Zips down the stretch led to the 14-point win.
“If we can continue to win [the selection committee] has to look at us,” said Dambrot.
Abreu led all scorers with 21 points (7-of-10 shooting), while dishing out nine assists.
Marshall finished the night 8-of-8 from the floor. With 17 points and 12 rebounds, he had a double-double as did Treadwell who had (pts) and (rebounds).
Akron will have a quick turnaround, hosting Central Michigan (9-12, 2-6 MAC) on Tuesday night. The Chippewas are coming off of four consecutive losses.
The James A. Rhodes Arena was packed on Saturday night, holding 5,770 fans, which received high praise from Dambrot.
“To me it was the best crowd we’ve ever had here,” said the head coach. “Now the trick is to sustain it.”