Wood's return not enough for Zips

“The University of Akron men’s basketball team was defeated by Virginia Commonwealth, 57-52, marking the first time the Zips have suffered consecutive defeats at Rhodes Arena since the 2001-2002 season. The O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters contest was a defensive struggle throughout with both teams shooting a low percentage from the field.”

The University of Akron men’s basketball team was defeated by Virginia Commonwealth, 57-52, marking the first time the Zips have suffered consecutive defeats at Rhodes Arena since the 2001-2002 season.

The O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters contest was a defensive struggle throughout with both teams shooting a low percentage from the field. The Zips converted a season-low 28.3 percent (17-60) of their field goals while the Rams shot 41.2 percent (21-51).

UA (19-8 overall, 9-4 Mid-American Conference) struggled from beyond the 3-point arc for the second game in a row at home, converting 4-of-15 of their 3-point attempts. The team entered the game leading the MAC in average 3-pointers made per game at 8.6 and were averaging 9.9 makes at home.

Zips’ head coach Keith Dambrot said that, despite the Rams’ solid defense, UA’s inability to hit open shots was the difference in the game.

I thought we absolutely followed our plan except for a two-minute stretch where we got out and ran with them, Dambrot said. I don’t think they forced us into anything we couldn’t handle. We got open looks and we just didn’t make them.

VCU outscored the Zips 26-18 in the paint and affected UA’s penetration and low post game with 10 blocks. Freshman Larry Sanders recorded nine.

Rams’ head coach Anthony Grant said that with VCU’s primary focus on defending the 3-point line, the team’s interior players needed to effectively contest shots at the basket to prevent UA from taking advantage of driving lanes.

When (Akron) drove, Larry did a great job of blocking shots and changing shots, Grant said. He was able to affect the shots they got when they did drive the basketball.

Wood returns to action

In his first game since undergoing surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee Feb. 9, UA senior forward Jeremiah Wood recorded 14 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes of playing time.

Wood said that he was glad to get back on the floor and to contribute to the team.

I was really excited to play, he said. I’ve been missing the game, watching a lot of college basketball on TV.

I felt good laterally, but I didn’t feel good in terms of explosiveness and getting up off the ground.

The MAC Player-of-the-Year candidate added that he wanted to return in the team’s final non-conference game of the season to get back into the flow of a live game in preparation for the latter part of conference play and the MAC Tournament.

I wanted to just get on the floor (and) run up and down, Wood said. You gotta get that out of your system, and then hopefully be ready for the MAC Tournament. I’m pretty happy with the progress.

Wood only practiced with the team for two days before playing Saturday. Dambrot said that the team will continue to work Wood back into the team’s game plan this week in practice.

We were in transition again today, UA’s fourth-year head coach said. We were in transition without Wood when he had surgery, and we were back in transition today with him coming back.

I’m not complaining, but I think if it’s a week down the road, he’s a lot further along.

Along with Wood’s return, another bright spot for the Zips was the play of senior guard Cedrick Middleton. Middleton’s 17 points led the team in scoring and marked the third consecutive game in which he has posted double-figure point totals. He converted 3-of-6 3-point field goals in 35 minutes.

Dambrot indicated that as the Zips enter the final two weeks of the regular season he plans to give more playing time to his veteran players and let them lead the team to reaching their goals.

We’re gonna ride Ceddy and Dials now, Dambrot said. Our young guys are gonna have to wait their turn. We’re gonna ride Woody. We’re gonna ride Chris McKnight and (Quade) Milum, and then we’ll see where Brett (McKnight) and (Mike) Bardo fit in.

The Zips return to action Saturday when they host the Buffalo Bulls. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.


” #1.1361255:2349331511.jpg:wood, jeremiah_0225.jpg:Jeremiah Wood returned to actioin Saturday against VCU.:Jeff Harwell / Zips Sports Photography”