Updated Sun, Mar 17, 2013 3:54 am
The Akron Zips took home the Mid-American Conference Championship Saturday night, earning their way into the NCAA Tournament by defeating the Ohio Bobcats 65-46. Demetrius Treadwell turned in a double-double for the Zips with 13 points and 10 rebounds. D.J. Cooper was held to just three points and six assists. He did not convert a field goal.
“It was just one of those games,” said Cooper, “and definitely unacceptable. Can’t do nothing about it. It is what it is. I apologize to my teammates.”
Ohio’s loss and more the way it lost was the story of the year against Akron. In the Bobcats’ two regular season losses to the Zips they abandoned leads of 13 and 18. This time around, Ohio allowed Akron to come back from a nine-point lead the Bobcats built in the first half. Akron outscored Ohio 39-17 in the second half to finish off the ‘Cats.
“[In] the second half,” said head coach Jim Christian, “we played hard and we just couldn’t make a shot.”
“It’s really disappointing,” said Reggie Keely. “We came out here to win a championship and we didn’t get the job done. It was a thing to cement our legacy and we couldn’t get it done.”
The game started as many an Akron-Ohio game has. Marshall and Keely traded baskets to the start. Marshall had the first five points for Akron and Keely the first eight for Ohio. Brian Walsh tossed in a three-pointer to expand upon Marshall’s first five. On Walsh’s three-point basket he made a point to look to Ohio’s bench. Keely followed with a bucket at the other end and the chatter continued as a sign of the dislike by rivalry.
Offutt drove the basket with 15 minutes to play in the half to contribute to Ohio’s first lead. That basket was the first break in Keely’s domination of the start of the game. The next time down the floor Keely dumped in a bucket despite heavy contact in the paint. In less than six minutes, the senior forward had racked up ten points.
Cooper smiled as he called plays on trips back to Ohio’s end of the court. The point guard dropped a dime to Jon Smith as the clock approached 13 minutes. Smith’s layup gave the Bobcats a 14-8 lead.
Ohio’s voracity on defense showed in the early minutes. Before the clock struck 12:00, the Bobcats had forced five turnovers. But the score remained close as Marshall imposed his will underneath. A turnaround jumper by the center cut Ohio’s lead to five with less than 10 minutes to play in the half. Marshall finished with 10 points and nine boards.
The Bobcats kept the Zips at an arm’s distance on the scoreboard with help from Keely’s continued scoring along with contribution from Offutt. Offutt dropped seven first-half points on Akron.
But the Zips clawed their way back into the game by the break. Ohio held them to at least a six-point deficit for most of the half, but Jake Kretzer launched a three-pointer from deep on the wing with 3:29 on the clock to put the Zips down four. A Betancourt jumper combined with a Harney free throw put Akron down one.
Ohio made just one field goal in the last four minutes of the half when Akron made its run. That came as the clock expired and Hall bounced in a layup at the buzzer. Hall contributed four points in the half to help Ohio enter the break with a 29-26 lead.
The Zips made a quick point of tying the game out of the halftime break. Hall picked up his second and third fouls just more than two minutes into the half. But Akron quickly lost that momentum after Treadwell was called for a push going for an offensive rebound. The call forced the forward over the edge and his reaction drew a technical foul from the referee. Cooper sank both free throws to put Ohio back in the lead by two.
Treadwell quickly recovered, however, by knocking down a layup in the paint and drawing the foul. His missed free throw attempt kept the score tied at 31. Offutt came back on the opposite end—after being called for the block on Treadwell—to respond with a contested layup. Gilliam and Treadwell scored back-to-back baskets on the following two Akron possessions to give the Zips their first lead since 8-6 with just more than 16 minutes left in the half.
Akron soon expanded its lead to seven when Betancourt streaked for a fast-break layup after stealing the ball from Offutt. The Bobcats broke the Zips’ run when Cooper slipped a pass under two Akron defenders to Smith for a layup. Smith made a huge block on the opposite end, but a poor effort by Ohio on gathering the loose ball allowed Akron more chances to score. Harney eventually wound up with the ball and put on the line on a layup attempt. He hit both free throws to keep the Zips in the lead at 42-35.
Hall picked up his fourth foul with 8:07 to play, sending Treadwell to the line, where he made one of two. Marshall earned his third personal on the following possession to put Cooper on the line. He made just one of two and Akron continued widening its lead, which came to 11 at a three-point play by Harney.
“They made play after play,” said Cooper. “We got stops, but we just couldn’t get it going on the offensive end.”
Christian called a timeout with 5:40 left on the clock and Gilliam going to the line. Akron led 54-42 after that trip, but the Bobcats failed to convert on their next try. Treadwell widened the gap to 14 with a layup and Offutt got called for a travel on the other end, indicative to how much of the second half went to that point.
“We did fight,” said Christian. “We played hard. We just let [poor shooting] affect us so much we played frustrated on the offensive end of the floor. We didn’t play the next play, we played the last play.”
The Zips refused to slow down. Ohio failed to make a shot from the field for almost nine minutes toward the end of the game. The Bobcats made just two shots in the final 11:30. The lack of scoring allowed the Zips to run away with the game, 65-46, and the MAC Championship.
“Nobody planned it,” said Cooper, “or pictured us going out like this. We were up three at halftime and it’s just another one of those games—a learning experience.”
The Bobcats finished the game shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 18.5 percent in the second half. Ohio made just one of 20 three-point attempts on the game. Ohio finished the regular season 23-8 and 14-2 in the MAC and now seek a berth in the National Invitation Tournament field of 32.
“The NCAA Tournament was definitely the goal,” said Cooper. “It’s a blessing to be out here to play ball, especially for us seniors. I’m going to cherish—regardless of wherever we’re playing—my last few games.”