A game worth waiting for

“Although it was still two weeks away, University of Akron senior forward Jeremiah Wood was talking about Sunday’s game, an act considered taboo these days, especially since the Zips’ Mid-American Conference tournament seeding was still in doubt. But he did anyway.”

Although it was still two weeks away, University of Akron senior forward Jeremiah Wood was talking about Sunday’s game, an act considered taboo these days, especially since the Zips’ Mid-American Conference tournament seeding was still in doubt.

But he did anyway. Because the game is against Kent State, Sunday at Rhodes Arena in the final home game of his and five other seniors careers.

It won’t decide the tournament seeds or the MAC title (KSU has wrapped that title up) but with a win by the Zips can have a share of the MAC East title with KSU.

If there is any game to attend, it’s this one- although if you don’t already have tickets, you’re out of luck, since it’s been sold out since Tuesday.

There hasn’t been a time when this rivalry has been so heated in recent memory. The Golden Flashes have been near the top of the conference for a decade while the Zips have become a MAC power only in the last three years.

Last season, the Zips trumped Kent State three times, including on the final day of the regular season, which gave UA its first MAC East Division title, and in the MAC tournament semifinals.

In the meeting between the two teams earlier this season, UA squandered a 10-point halftime lead on the way to a 75-69 loss.

Not only did another close game add to the rivalry, but a foul by UA guard Steve McNees with 4 seconds left that preceeded a scuffle between Haminn Quaintance of Kent State and UA’s Quade Milum adds even more tension to an alright important contest.

Wood said he wasn’t happy with the Quaintance’s reaction to the foul, but understands tempers can flair in a close game.

But that’s all there has been between these two teams in the last three years. The margin of victory has come by an average of 5.5 points in the last eight contests, with the largest win coming last season at the Rhodes Arena, when the Zips won by 10.

That was a different time, when the Zips were untouchable at home. This year they’ve suffered losses to NIU and Virginia Commonwealth after winning 22 consecutive games at Rhodes Arena. But the Zips have been a different team lately.

Wood seems to be playing as well as he had before tearing is lateral meniscus a month ago and Cedrick Middleton too has come on as of late.

Middleton, who has battled nagging injuries all season, which took a toll on his production, has scored at least 17 points in each of the last four games, and is averaging 17.4 points over the last five games. It’s no surprise that UA has won four games during that stretch. Wood was a perfect 8-of-8 for 18 points against OU in his best game of the season.

Yes, all that really matters is the MAC tournament but this game is a game worth looking forward too.