Zips to face Zags in NCAA tourney game

“PORTLAND: The University of Akron men’s basketball team will try to continue what has already been a banner-year for the program when the Zips face the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Rose Garden tonight. Being the tournament’s No.”

PORTLAND: The University of Akron men’s basketball team will try to continue what has already been a banner-year for the program when the Zips face the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Rose Garden tonight.

Being the tournament’s No. 13 seed, UA head coach Keith Dambrot knows his team will have to play its best and have some help from the nationally ranked Bulldogs to pull the upset.

We could play great defense and they may be able to throw over the top of us or drive it to the basket, or second-shot us, Dambrot said. The ball has to bounce our way a little bit. And, when we have opportunities to make open looks, we must.

The Zips will be at a distinct height disadvantage, with three Bulldogs listed at heights 6-foot-11 and one at 7-foot.

Redshirt sophomore Mike Bardo is the Zips’ tallest active player at 6-foot-10. Senior Nate Linhart, the team’s second-tallest player, stands 6-foot-8.

Senior Josh Heytvelt leads three Bulldogs who are averaging double figures in scoring with 14.9 points-per-game. Sophomore Austin Daye leads the team in rebounding, averaging 6.9 rebounds a game.

Despite the challenge that awaits UA, Dambrot said it’s important that the Zips remember the mantra he’s been saying all year: every play, every day.

I think the results come when the process is correct, Dambrot said. And the process, to me, is every play, every day.

Linhart agreed that the team’s success depends primarily on its execution.

We can’t worry what advantages they might have against us Linhart said. We just have to play defense like we always do, and scrap and make it a slugfest.

GU head coach Mark Few had high praise for UA’s toughness and defensive intensity.

I don’t think I’ve ever in 20 years of watching game tape seen a team that plays that hard, Few said. I think that’s going to be a real challenge for us to match their intensity, match their physicalness and just how much energy they play with, especially at the defensive end.

Tip-off for the first-ever meeting between the Zips and Bulldogs is set for 7:25 p.m. EDT and will be televised nationally by CBS.