Akron punches ticket for NCAA Tournament with win over Ohio in MAC final

By Allen Moff | Staff writer Published:

By Allen Moff | Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- After enduring a week of nonstop banter about transgressions off the court impacting their abilities on it, the Akron Zips got downright defensive.

The top-seeded Zips silenced their skeptics with a phenomenal two-day effort on the defensive end of the floor at the Mid-American Conference Tournament, capped by a convincing 65-46 victory over No. 2 seed Ohio (24-9) in the championship game before a crowd of 12,102 at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday.

Akron (25-6) advances to the NCAA Tournament, and will receive its first-round pairing Sunday night.

One night after holding Kent State star Chris Evans to six points on 1-of-11 shooting from the field in a 62-59 semifinal win, a staunch Zips defense headed by 7-foot senior center Zeke Marshall and 6-7 junior forward Demetrius Treadwell held MAC Player of the Year D.J. Cooper without a field goal. Cooper, who entered the contest averaging 14.4 points and a league-leading 7.3 assists per game, went 0-of-8 from the floor and 0-of-6 from 3-point range, finishing with three points, six assists and five turnovers.

Akron held Kent State to 36 percent shooting Friday night, but did that one better by blanketing the Bobcats -- the MAC's top offensive team -- in the title game. The Bobcats shot 33 percent from the field and hit just 1-of-20 3-pointers, missing all 12 from long range and 22-of-27 shots in the second half, while getting outscored 39-17 and out-rebounded 26-14.

Ohio entered the contest averaging 73.8 points and shooting 47.1 percent from the floor, both tops in the MAC.

Defense is now the talk of Akron instead of junior point guard Alex Abreu, whose arrest for possession and trafficking marijuana the day before the Zips' loss to Kent State in their regular-season finale had stolen the spotlight from a team that was once nationally ranked after reeling off 19 straight wins.

"It's just unreal how resilient everyone in this program has been," said Akron head coach Keith Dambrot. "Our guys are tough guys, and they showed it. They just showed tremendous toughness on the defensive end."

The Zips avenged a 64-63 loss to Ohio in last year's title game, sweeping all three games during the 2012-13 season. They've advanced to seven straight MAC Tournament title games, and have now won three of them.

Treadwell was named MAC Tournament MVP after recording his second straight double-double, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Marshall contributed 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while senior Chauncey Gilliam scored 13 points and junior Nick Harney added 11 points and four boards.

Akron went scoreless for nearly five minutes and fell behind 16-8 out of the gate, but crept to within 29-26 by halftime. The Zips scored the first three points of the second half to tie it, but Treadwell was then called for a technical after disputing a foul call.

Cooper sank two free throws, his first points of the night, to put Ohio back on top 31-29. But the technical ultimately ignited Akron.

"Me personally, I know it cranked me up four or five notches," said Treadwell.

Treadwell hit a layup while he was fouled to tie it, then moments later hit another shot inside to trigger a 7-0 run that put the Zips up 40-33. Bobcats junior T.J. Hall hit a layup moments later to bring the Bobcats within 42-37 with 11:31 to play, but they would not convert another field goal for nearly 10 minutes while Akron methodically pulled away.

"We couldn't make a shot, and we let our frustration from not making shots effect us on the defensive end of the floor," said Ohio head coach Jim Christian, who captured a pair of MAC tourney titles while coaching Kent State. "D.J.'s such a good player that when he doesn't play well it's hard for us to score."

The Zips threw several huge defenders at Cooper throughout the game, starting with Treadwell.

"I knew Zeke, Treadwell and the rest of those guys would be guarding me the whole game," said Cooper. "It was just one of those games. Definitely unacceptable. It's very disappointing."

Senior forward Reggie Keely scored 19 points to pace Ohio, but 14 came in the first half. Senior Walter Offutt added nine points and 11 boards.

Dambrot earned his third MAC Tournament title as coach of the Zips, and had no trouble picking his favorite.

"This is the best one by far," he said. "To do what we did under these circumstances, it doesn't even compare."

Flashes senior forward Chris Evans was named to the All-Tournament team, along with Treadwell, Marshall, Keely and Cooper.

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Email: amoff@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9445

Twitter: @MoffRC

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