Young Zips keep winning

“By Vincent Dorsey sports@buchtelite.com The University of Akron men’s basketball team used career offensive nights by freshmen Nikola Cvetinovic and Brett McClanahan to defeat the Western Michigan Broncos, 87-63, at Rhodes Arena on Sunday afternoon. The win marked the Zips’ sixth consecutive victory and avenged an 86-66 defeat at the hands of the Broncos in Kalamazoo, Mich.”

By Vincent Dorsey

sports@buchtelite.com

The University of Akron men’s basketball team used career offensive nights by freshmen Nikola Cvetinovic and Brett McClanahan to defeat the Western Michigan Broncos, 87-63, at Rhodes Arena on Sunday afternoon.

The win marked the Zips’ sixth consecutive victory and avenged an 86-66 defeat at the hands of the Broncos in Kalamazoo, Mich., last season.

Cvetinovic and McClanahan combined for 25 points and spearheaded an offense that shot 55.9 percent (33-of-59) from the field.

UA head coach Keith Dambrot said the success of the two first-year players is one of the main reasons for the team’s season-high win streak. McClanahan has played in UA’s last eight games and averaged 4.1 points in 14.4 minutes per contest, after sitting out the first part of what was expected to be a redshirt season.

What we’ve asked him to do is amazing, really, Dambrot said of McClanahan. He didn’t play for 15 games and (now) we’re running plays right at him.

The Nitro, W.Va., native described his career-high 13-point performance as a relief.

I just felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders, McClanahan said. I didn’t shoot the ball well at all my first couple games.

The freshman said the biggest adjustment he has had to make since seeing game action has been learning how to remain focused in practice and during games.

When I was redshirted, I would have major lapses, he said. I just wasn’t focused. Now, I have to force myself to be focused the entire time.

As has been the case during much of the team’s recent success, the Zips (15-8, 6-3 Mid-American Conference) dominated the interior play against the Broncos, outscoring the WMU in the paint, 34-22.

They just hammered it inside and I thought that was the big difference in the game, WMU head coach Steve Hawkins said. It was their game plan coming in to take it to us and we were exposed.

Sophomore forward Brett McKnight scored 19 points while brother Chris McKnight added 13 points.

Dambrot said his team’s offensive improvement in the past few weeks has been due to better execution of its offensive sets.

Conceptually, I think we’re better, he said. We’re taking better shots. We’re getting more inside-out shots and getting more transition shots.

The Zips will conclude their short, two-game homestand Wednesday night when they host MAC West-leading Ball State. Tip-off between the Zips and Cardinals is set for 7 p.m.

Call senior sports writer Vincent Dorsey:

330-972-7395.

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