Men's basketball sweeps weekend homestand

“The University of Akron’s men’s basketball team defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Niagara over the weekend at James A. Rhodes Arena. On Friday night, the Zips defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB) by a score of 68-65. That game was an exact replica of the Austin Peay game, UA head coach Keith Dambrot said.”

The University of Akron’s men’s basketball team defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Niagara over the weekend at James A. Rhodes Arena.

On Friday night, the Zips defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB) by a score of 68-65.

That game was an exact replica of the Austin Peay game, UA head coach Keith Dambrot said. We were up 13 points at one point and had several easy, wide-open baskets and didn’t make any of them. So, instead of being ahead by 17 to 20 points, we were only up by 10 or 12 and never put them away.

We then allowed Arkansas-Pine Bluff to drive on us and make the game much closer than it should have been.

Akron had a 58-45 lead with eight minutes left in the game, but the offense failed to score on UAPB’s trap defense.

The Zips only scraped together two field goals in the remaining eight minutes.

Defensively, the Zips did not lock down UAPB either.

Our defense was terrible in the beginning, good in the middle and terrible at the end of the game, again, Dambrot said. That is very typical of this team right now. We are very inconsistent and that must improve in order for us to get better.

UAPB took a 65-64 lead with 50 seconds to go in the game, but Akron’s defense finally stepped up when UAPB missed three layups in the closing seconds. Two free throws by guard Humpty Hitchens closed out the game for the Zips, putting them on top 68-65.

Hitchens had zero points in the first half, but then carried the team early in the second half, Dambrot said. We will never win (by large margins) until he becomes more consistent on both ends of the floor.

On Sunday afternoon the Zips battled with a tough Niagara team to an 80-68 win. Center Zeke Marshall stepped up for the team with six blocks, and presented an offensive presence.

Zeke (Marshall) was terrific, Dambrot said. You can look at his stat line, 12 points, six rebounds, six blocks and think that was a pretty good game, but his impact today was deeper than that.

Niagara had hesitation every time they drove into the lane because when shots are blocked they usually turn into points and crowd momentum picks up. Not only that, players don’t like to get their shots blocked and the fear of that makes them commit mental mistakes.

Offensively the Zips had five players in double digits: Darryl Roberts (15), Steve McNees (14), Zeke Marshall (12) Jimmy Conyers (12) and Nikola Cvetinovic (11).

Down 31-23 at half, the Zips rallied offensively, shooting 14 of 22 from the floor after shooting just 8 of 29 in the first half.

We just kept throwing the ball inside and running a double team, Dambrot said. We were a little sloppy at times. Everytime we would get up on them, we would give up a three-pointer.

We are not where we want to be right now, but we are getting there. I thought we tried much harder today. That was the best performance we have had as a team this year. We still had some peaks and valleys, but Niagara is a good team they will win their share of games this season.

The Zips put away the game when Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich was ejected after receiving two technical fouls.

Roberts sunk all four free throws and gave the team a comfortable cushion to work with at the end of the game.

The Zips will travel to College Station, Texas to take on the Texas A&M Aggies.

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. Friday.