In all conferences across the nation, the top teams normally do not separate from the rest of the pack until the latter stages of conference play.
This is not the case in the Mid-American Conference East division this season. Two unbeaten teams will clash this Saturday in Akron, Ohio. Ohio (15-5, 6-0 MAC) will be hoping to extend their season-high winning streak to eight games when they travel to Northeast Ohio to take on division rival Akron (16-4, 7-0 MAC) on Saturday night at 5 p.m.
The Bobcats, who had their Wednesday night home clash with Eastern Michigan canceled due to a surprise security situation with an “armed fugitive,” will have a week off between games. They will be looking to use that rest to their advantage, since Akron compiled their 12 straight win on Wednesday night in a 68-55 road victory over Bowling Green.
Last season, Ohio won two of the three meetings between these two schools. The second win was the most important, because it was the 64-63 win in the MAC Tournament final. The victory gave Ohio one of the automatic NCAA Tournament berths, and the chance to showcase their talents in front of the nation, which they took full advantage of.
For Ohio to snap Akron’s 12-game winning streak, they will need to find a way to neutralize 7-foot center Zeke Marshall. In Akron’s 68-63 home win over Ohio last season, Marshall scored 17 points and collected six rebounds in the win. If Marshall can impose himself down low and get the likes of Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic in foul trouble, Akron has a great chance to gain separation from Ohio in the standings.
Ohio will need to receive contributions from many players if they want to claim their fourth straight road win. D.J. Cooper and Keely were able to combine for 43 points in their win at Kent, but Walter Offutt, Baltic and Nick Kellogg combined for 13 points. If those three can pick up some of the scoring load, it will be hard for Akron just to key in on Cooper.
To put into perspective the impressive streak Akron is on, they have not lost since December 15, which came in a road game against Horizon League opponent Detroit. The Zips average 74.8 points per game, 38.3 rebounds per game and 15.1 assists per game.
Besides Marshall, other players that Ohio must be wary of are junior forwards Demetrius Treadwell and Nick Harney, and junior guard Alex Abreu. Treadwell averages 10.5 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, while Harney averages 9.6 points per game and Abreu averages 5.8 assists per game.
Keith Dambrot is the head coach of the Zips. Dambrot recently signed a fresh 10-year contract with Akron, and with a career 200-91 record as the head coach of the Zips, it is easy to see why the school wanted to make sure that he is a part of their immediate future.