Ohio and Akron gear up for battle of the MAC’s best

Coach Jim Christian knows just how big Wednesday’s game is.

“It’s no bigger than any other big game in college basketball: Oklahoma-Oklahoma St, Duke and North Carolina.”

Akron will visit the Convocation Center with first place in the MAC on the line. The teams have a combined for only conference loss this season.

“It’s a heck of a race. Probably the best race in the MAC…maybe ever,” said Christian.  “The first of all of our goals was to win the conference regular season title. We’re right where we need to be.”

In the first matchup between these teams, Akron’s inside presence wore down the Bobcats and the Zips ran away with an 86-72 win. Forwards Zeke Marshall and Demetrius Treadwell combined for 32 points and 22 rebounds in the victory. By comparison, Ohio grabbed only 21 rebounds as a team.

While Ohio’s smaller squad has struggled rebounding the ball all season, they usually make up for it by shooting a high percentage, this was not the case in their first matchup. The Zips shot a stellar 56 percent, while Ohio shot under 50 percent.

To make matters worse, Ohio is coming off an ugly loss to Belmont. Ohio struggled in all facets of the game, especially defensively. Defensive rotation was lacking, there was little to no inside presence and the Bobcats shot 39 percent.

However, Ohio shoots the ball much better at home. They average 77 points when they play at the Convocation Center, and only 69 points on the road.

Christian offers a simple solution to this problem.

“We’ve got to shoot the ball better,” he said. “Last time we didn’t shoot it well there, but we’re playing at home.”

Ohio will need to contain Akron junior Alex Abreu. He scored a game-high 21 points on 70 percent shooting on February 2. He also hit 3 three-pointers in five attempts.

The last matchup between these teams was a little chippy. Both teams combined for 55 personal fouls. This game should be no different, considering the trash talking has already begun.

Akron’s sophomore guard Brian Walsh fired the first shot. Walsh, who was watching Ohio get dismantled by Belmont, tweeted that he felt Ohio was playing like “frantic little boys.” Reggie Keely responded with some smack of his own (Keely would later correct his statistical error. Ohio is 5-4 against Akron).

“We took his tweet a little personal,” said Keely. “I think we’ve got a bunch of grown men on our team.”

“When guys are coming at you, calling you little boys, especially from a rivalry school like Akron, we take it a little personally,” he said. “I had to throw my two cents in, but mine was all in good fun.”

Just another chapter in a budding rivalry. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., Wednesday night, in the Convocation Center.

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