Updated Sun, Feb 26, 2012 4:09 pm
"I was actually just playing my normal game, the ref started talking to me about some of the stuff I do to prevent people from fouling me. I usually try to keep people's arms off me because they reach and do a lot of small things. He told me to stop doing that and he said 'I'd start calling fouls for you,' he said 'I'd make sure of it.' And I stopped doing that and he started calling fouls after fouls."
That's what Akron forward Zeke Marshall - listed at 7-feet tall - said after Akron's five-point win over Ohio at James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron on January 14.
Four Ohio players - Jon Smith, Ivo Baltic, Reggie Keely and Walter Offutt - fouled out of a game in which Akron shot 44 free throws compared to Ohio's 21.
Ohio University Athletics did not make head coach John Groce available for comment on the officiating in Akron, but, to be transparent, we were curious about Marshall's words, so we asked around about them.
Every coach who agreed to talk to us said, in so many words, the same thing: If true - that an official schooled Marshall on how to not only stop fouls from being called on him, but, if he stopped pushing guys around, the referee would call fouls for Akron's center - it is strange.
"I'd like to know who this official was, so he could tell the rest of us if he told Zeke that." Miami (OH) head coach Charlie Coles said. "It is bizarre."
If an official did that in a game where Coles was coaching? "I'd probably be a little upset."
Akron averages 27 free throw attempts at home in conference play, compared to 21.5 FTA on the road in MAC games. Akron's home opponents average just 15.6 free throws per contest.
Akron leads the conference in free throw attempts in conference play with 318. Ohio is second with 317.
To be fair, Akron's success often comes on the interior, and plenty of fouls committed by Bobcats in the first match-up were legitimate, but the words of Marshall - seen in the video above - stick out.
"My reaction would be that I think officials have a little more integrity than that," former Ohio head coach and current Western Carolina head coach Larry Hunter said. "Those people are professionals, well trained...they don't make all the right calls, players don't make all the right plays, coaches don't make all the right coaching decisions, but they are professionals, and there is a very high level of integrity. It is very bizarre."
In the first match-up between Ohio and Akron, Marshall scored 17 points and shot 11 free throws. Akron was 29-41 from the free throw line in a 68-63 win. The officiating crew of the first game was Ray Perone, Steve McJunkins and Kevin O'Connell.
"I've heard officials say to a player, 'If you don't do this, I won't call a foul' but it's usually something a lot tougher than what Zeke said." Coles added, about how much he is comfortable with officials talking to players. "I think if a player goes to an official and says, 'Hey what did I do on that foul?' I think an official has the right to tell him...he just tells the player quickly, I think that's ok. But you leave it at that. You don't coach the player...you don't do that. You answer that question that time and then you move on."
Sunday night at 8 p.m., Akron and Ohio face off once more, with the Zips 12-1 in the MAC and the Bobcats 9-4. Both teams are in line for the number 1 and 2 seeds in the MAC Tournament, respectively.