No shame in Zips performance

“CLEVELAND- Jeremiah Wood has given everything to the University of Akron men’s basketball team in the last five years, including the health of his knee, which has endured two surgeries with another coming in the near future. Wood had his jersey grabbed, his harms slapped and his emotions flushed after the Zips 74-55 loss to archrival Kent State in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.”

CLEVELAND- Jeremiah Wood has given everything to the University of Akron men’s basketball team in the last five years, including the health of his knee, which has endured two surgeries with another coming in the near future.

Wood had his jersey grabbed, his harms slapped and his emotions flushed after the Zips 74-55 loss to archrival Kent State in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.

It was one of the few instances in his career at UA that Wood’s attitude was somber after a game. The other was last year, in the same situation, on the same stage, with the same prize on the line: a trip to the NCAA tournament.

It was one of the senior’s worst MAC tourney performances of his career, despite shooting 4-of-9 on field goals. Tournament MVP Haminn Quaintance dogged Wood for the entire contest and used four of his fouls on Wood, who shot a dismal 5 for 14 at the line.

For any senior who has played their final (or one of their final as the Zips have a good chance at playing in the new College Basketball Invitational tournament) games of their career, regrets are always most prominent in their mind.

Both Western Michigan senior Joe Reitz and Central Michigan guard Giordan Watson, who were both bounced by the Zips in the semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively, echoed Wood’s remarks.

Wood’s biggest regret: working on his free throws, which he said he didn’t (or couldn’t) do because he was always rehabbing his knee injuries, which put him out of commission for half his sophomore year and all of his would-be junior year. He also missed three games this season with a torn lateral meniscus.
Head coach Keith Dambrot said playing on a bum knee for three consecutive days probably took a toll.
It was just another in a long list of things he had to overcome as a Zip.
Wood summed up his career at UA saying, Struggle to live. Live to struggle.
It has certainly been a struggle at times for Wood: the knee injuries, the rehab sessions and the disappointments in the MAC championships.
But what Dambrot told his team in the locker room, after they suffered a loss one game away from an NCAA tournament birth for the second year in a row, summed it up best.
I told them they took an average program and turned it into a good one.

Since he arrived at UA for the 2003-’04 season, the Zips have won 13, 19, 23, 26 and 23 games. They’ve made two appearances in the MAC Finals, the only two since the Zips joined the conference in the ’92-’93 season and they won their first postseason game since the Bob Huggins era, which they did without Wood.

Last year, a poor clock operator cost the Zips a chance at an NCAA tournament bid. This year, it was Kent State, who was simply a better basketball team – They owned us this year, Dambrot said- which they proved by beating the Zips three times this season.

They may not have made it to the NCAA tournament, but there is no question Wood and fellow seniors Nick Dials and Cedrick Middleton, struggled to stay a live at times, but there also is no question they were major factors in the two best UA teams ever assembled.