Bulls look to regain home-court dominance in crucial matchup with Akron
Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 22:02
Coming off a heartbreaking first loss at Alumni Arena against Ohio on Saturday, the men’s basketball team has little time to regroup as it hosts the top team in the Mid-American Conference East, Akron, on Wednesday.
The Bulls (14-8, 8-4 MAC) face off against Akron (17-8, 9-3 MAC) at Alumni Arena at 7 p.m. and travel to Kent State (14-11, 5-7 MAC) on Saturday for a noon tipoff.
The Bulls are looking to regain their home-court supremacy. Wednesday’s game against Akron is a ‘white-out;’ fans are encouraged to wear white to the game, and the first 300 students in attendance will receive a free white t-shirt from True Blue.
“It’s going to test the resiliency of our group,” said head coach Bobby Hurley. “Anytime you lose, you don’t want to lose, and you just hope your players respond well and play with a chip on their shoulder and hopefully we do that [Wednesday].”
Akron is 6-5 on the road this season and is no stranger to close road games. Its past three road games, in which Akron is 1-2, have all been decided by three points or fewer.
Two senior forwards, Demetrius Treadwell and Quincy Diggs, whom Hurley calls two of the best players in the MAC, lead Akron’s offense. Treadwell and Diggs are the Zips’ only double-digit scorers.
Treadwell is the Zips’ leading scorer with 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Treadwell scored a season-high 25 points in Akron’s last game, a 62-54 win over Northern Illinois (11-13, 5-7 MAC).
Diggs averages 12.1 points per game and unlike Treadwell has the ability to make outside shots. Diggs is shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Despite its current position as the top-seeded team in the MAC East, Akron is in the middle of the pack in almost every major statistical category in the conference and is ranked last in the MAC in free-throw shooting percentage. The Zips’ free-throw struggles should allow the Bulls to be more aggressive defending the rim.
Kent State is 11-5 at home this season. The Bulls defeated Kent State, 71-60, earlier this season on Jan. 18 at Alumni Arena. Hurley understands playing the Golden Flashes in their own building will present a different challenge from playing them in Alumni.
“You like familiarity [with] an opponent,” Hurley said. “It’s going to be a different game there. They have a great home crowd and they’ve won a few games recently and they’re playing better so it’s obviously going to be a tough game.”
Junior forward Will Regan was a major force in Bulls’ first matchup with Kent State, recording his only double-double of the season and scoring a season-high 25 points.
The Golden Flashes were able to limit senior forward Javon McCrea to 12 points and seven rebounds in that game. In his last eight contests since that game, McCrea is averaging 21.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
Kent State has a balanced scoring attack, with three players who average over 10 points per game. Junior guards Derek Jackson and Kris Brewer both average 11.4 points per game.
Brewer is a streaky scorer. He has three 20-point games this season, but he has scored six points or fewer in seven games and was limited to two points in three of his last six games. In his first game against the Bulls this season, he scored 11 points.
Jackson is shooting 39 percent from three-point range this season. Jackson is also a threat on defense, ranking third in the MAC in steals per game with 2.0.
Senior forward Darren Goodson is the Golden Flashes’ other double-digit scorer, averaging 10 points per game. The Bulls held Goodson to just two points in their last matchup.
After they play at Kent State on Saturday, the Bulls play at Akron and Ohio. Ohio has an identical conference record to the Bulls but holds the tiebreaker. The Bulls can move into a first-place tie in the MAC East standings with a win over Akron on Wednesday.
“We know we can compete with any team in the league,” Hurley said. “Here in the stretch run, we’re going to play some of the top-tier teams on the road and I think it’s going to make us better and tougher and prepare us more for the conference tournament.”