Bobcats and Zips Look To Break Regular Season Split in MAC Tourney

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Ohio will once again face a familiar foe Wednesday in its quarterfinal game in the MAC Tournament. The Bobcats will face off against Akron (20-11, 12-6) Thursday night.

Ohio and Akron split the regular season series with each team winning its road game. The Zips stole an 83-80 double overtime victory in Athens on January 12, then the Bobcats traveled to the JAR and took advantage of a short-handed Zips squad.

In that January 12 matchup, Ohio had multiple chances to close out the game, but the Bobcats did not take advantage of those opportunities, allowing Akron to extend the game and eventually win it. With the game tied late in the second half, Nick Kellogg drove baseline, but he stepped on the baseline, giving the ball back to the Zips.

Then in overtime, Kellogg went to the line with Ohio leading 70-69. Kellogg made his first attempt, but missed his second, making it just a two point game. Had he made both, Akron would have been forced to shoot a 3-pointer, a more difficult shot to tie the game than the mid-range pull-up jumper that Quincy Diggs hit to send the game into double overtime.

Ohio played one of its most complete games against Akron on February 22, but it did so against a Zips team that was missing three of its key players. Reggie McAdams, who shoots 41.5 percent from 3-point range, missed the game due to a case of mononucleosis. Akron was without another one of its long-range specialists, as Jake Kretzer missed the game with a concussion.

Forward Nick Harney, who had been averaging 13 points and five rebounds a game in the four games before the matchup with Ohio, began his suspension from the team against the Bobcats.  Their absences were noticeable, as the Zips struggled to make shots all game, shooting only 26.8 percent from the field in the 66-50 loss to Ohio.

Unfortunately for Ohio, McAdams and Harney have both returned to the court, and Kretzer is probable for the game Thursday. Their returns provide Akron with three more capable scorers in addition to Diggs and the always problematic Demetrius Treadwell. In addition to his scoring ability, Harney also brings another rebounder into the fold for Akron, which could be problematic for Ohio.

In the first game against Akron, Ohio surrendered 17 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second chance points for the Zips. Then in the second game, Akron grabbed 18 offensive rebounds even without Harney.

Kretzer’s and McAdams’ returns also mean that the Bobcats cannot put so much focus on Demetrius Treadwell like it did in the last matchup. Without shooters on the court for Akron, the Bobcats were able to double team Treadwell without fear of him kicking it out for a 3-pointer. However, now Ohio likely will rely more on Jon Smith to play one-on-one defense against him.

It seems appropriate that Ohio and Akron meet up in the MAC Tournament. The two teams have played each other in four of the last five MAC Tournaments, including the last two MAC Championships. Following Ohio’s 63-55 victory over Miami Wednesday, Nick Kellogg was asked if it would feel like a MAC Tournament if the Bobcats didn’t play Akron.

Kellogg chuckled and responded simply, “Probably not.”