Preview: Ohio Prepares For MAC Rival, Akron

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The script is set.

Ohio is riding a seven-game winning streak. They’re a perfect 6-0 in the Mid-American Conference. The Bobcats’ 6-foot point guard D.J. Cooper is having a career-year and is boosting is status in the conference.

The Akron Zips have won 12 in a row and are a 7-0 in MAC play. Coach Keith Dambrot won his 200th game Wednesday against Bowling Green and has enjoyed watching his 7-foot center Zeke Marshall play well this season.

And for the first time this year, the two undefeated teams in the MAC finally meet in Akron, Oh., looking to take control of the conference.

The Zips are led by their big man, Marshall. He’s fifth in the nation with 3.65 blocks per game and averaged 7.5 last week, sharing the Co-MAC East Division Player of the Week with Cooper.

Marshall also jumped Ohio’s Reggie Keely in Wednesday’s game with a field goal percentage of .690. He is now second in the nation, while Keely remains third with a .689 percentage.

The Akron senior is expected to be a second round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and has been averaging 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds this season. He and Demetrius Treadwell have combined to form a vicious duo down low in the conference.

Treadwell has been dominating the boards with 45 rebounds in the Zips’ last four games. He’s currently fourth in the MAC with 7.5 rebounds per game and is second on Akron’s squad with 10.5 points a game.

The Bobcats, who average 31.1 rebounds a game, have been preparing their big men for Marshall and Treadwell’s size this week. Every time Kadeem Green or Jon Smith gets good position down low on one of the starters, Christian reminds the defender that that’ll be a 7-footer performing those moves.

“It'll be tough on what they've done thus far this season,” Ohio big man Ivo Baltic said. “But hopefully if we play good enough ‘D’ and rebound, it'll take care of itself.”

As a team, the Zips could be the deepest and have the best inside-outside game in the conference. 10 players average 11-plus minutes, each contributing three or more points a game. With Treadwell and Marshall dominating on the inside, the Akron shooters have easy targets from beyond the arc.

Akron’s top shooter is Alex Abreu, a 5-foot-10 guard. The junior has shot 41.0% from deep this season – seventh in the MAC – and is averaging 9.3 points per game. Abreu and Brian Walsh, a 6-foot-5 guard, have combined to hit 59 three-pointers this season from the starting guard positions.

The Zips’ fifth starter is Nick Harney, a 6-foot-7 forward who averages 9.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in only 18.7 minutes per game, the lowest average of all the starters. The top bench players for Akron are Chauncey Gilliam and Pat Forsythe.

Forsythe is a 6-foot-11, 240-pound center who averages 4.9 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.5 minutes a game. He had eight points against Bowling Green on 4-of-6 shooting. Gilliam is a small forward – listed at 6-foot-5 – and is the first off the bench, averaging 17.5 minutes per game. He’s capable of knocking down the outside shot, shooting 38.1% from deep this season, and averages 6.5 points per game.

Ohio owns a 35-31 edge in the rivalry’s history. The two split the regular season matchups last season, but Ohio took the one-point win in the MAC Championship to go to the NCAA Tournament.

Both teams will tipoff the nationally televised game at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. Fans who aren’t travelling up to Akron can watch the game on ESPNU. The Bobcats will be looking to become 7-0 in the MAC for the first time since the 1960-61 season.