Zips squeak by in season opening win

“Despite displaying its youth in only shooting 35 percent (21-of-60) from the field and being outrebounded 47-27, the University of Akron men’s basketball team defeated Canisius College in its season-opener at Rhodes Arena, 56-46. Sophomore forward Brett McKnight scored 12 points – all of which came in the second half – to tie his career-high and lead the Zips.”

Despite displaying its youth in only shooting 35 percent (21-of-60) from the field and being outrebounded 47-27, the University of Akron men’s basketball team defeated Canisius College in its season-opener at Rhodes Arena, 56-46.

Sophomore forward Brett McKnight scored 12 points – all of which came in the second half – to tie his career-high and lead the Zips. UA outscored the Griffs, 34-20 in the game’s final period.

UA head coach Keith Dambrot said McKnight was able to take advantage of his matchup to spark the Zips’ struggling offense.

They had (Chris) Gadley guard him, so we took advantage of the size, Dambrot said. We picked and popped on the first play and Gadley didn’t really cover him… so we just kind of rode Brett a little bit at the end (of the game).

McKnight said he was looking for a way to get going offensively.

Once I hit my first shot, my confidence went up, the second-year player said. I knew I could out-quick him because he was so big.

After struggling defensively against Walsh University in an exhibition game, the Zips played strong defensively against the Griffs, forcing 16 turnovers.

UA is now 65-43 in season-openers and has won 45 of its last 49 contests at Rhodes Arena.

The Zips will look to add to their home-win total tonight at 7 p.m. when they host the Winthrop Eagles.

The Eagles, who like the Zips have lost most of their core players from last season, enter the game with a 1-1 record.

Dambrot said he sees many similarities between UA and the perennial winner of the Big South Conference.

They’re very similar to us, Dambrot said. They’re very crisp with their plays and very good defensively. I think it’ll be a battle of the youth.

Call senior sports writer Vincent Dorsey: 330-972-7395.