Akron (4-2) at (16/13) Creighton (8-1)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 • 2:05 p.m. ET
CenturyLink Center Omaha (17,260)
Television: ESPN3. Larry Punteney (play-by-play) and Nick Bahe (analyst).
Available at GoZips.com – webcast and live statistics free of charge.
Radio: SportsRadio 1350 AM (WARF) in Akron (flagship), for free at SportsRadio1350.com and on iHeartRadio. Steve French (play-by-play) and Joe Dunn (analyst) will have the call beginning at 1:35 p.m. ET.
Akron Coach Keith Dambrot
Is in his ninth season at Akron, posting a 188-89 (.679) mark. Dambrot is 296-159 (.651) in 15 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He is 1-1 all-time against the Bluejays, with both games coming as head coach of the Zips.
The Series: The series, which began during the 2005-06 season, is tied 1-1, with both teams winning at home. The Zips defeated the Blue Jays 76-67 on Feb. 19, 2011, in the Sears BracketBusters. UA fell 71-60 to the Bluejays in the first round of the 2006 NIT (March 16, 2006) at CenturyLink Center Omaha.
Zips to Face Nationally-Ranked Creighton
For the first time this season, the Akron Zips will face a nationally-ranked team in 16/13 Creighton.
News, Notes and Storylines
• Akron is coming off an 82-77 overtime win over Middle Tennessee at home on Dec. 2. It was UA's third overtime game in six contests this season.
• Five Zips scored in double figures, led by Alex Abreu's 19 points. Zeke Marshall (14), Chauncey Gilliam (13), Brian Walsh (12) and Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell (10) also reached double figures.
• Zeke Marshall has now blocked at least five shots in three-straight games and in four of the last five contests (five against Middle Tennessee).
• The Zips have played three overtime games in their first six contests of the season for the first time in program history. The previous high was two overtimes to start the 1980-81 campaign.
• Akron has committed fewer turnovers than its opponents in all six contests this season. UA has also recorded more assists than the competition in all six games.
• The Zips rank sixth in the nation in 3-pointers made per game (9.8) and have not connected on fewer than seven long balls in a single game (seven vs. MTSU).
• Zeke Marshall continues to own the defensive space around the rim, blocking more shots (27) than 222 DI teams and averaging more swats per game (4.5) than 262 DI squads (games through Dec. 2).
• Akron has four players scoring in double figures and six averaging 8.0 points per game or better, including Alex Abreu (12.2), Zeke Marshall (12.0), Brian Walsh (11.5), Jake Kretzer (10.3), Chauncey Gilliam (9.5) and Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell (8.7). In games through Dec. 6, the Zips are the only team in the MAC with four players scoring in double figures and six players averaging at least 8.0 ppg.
• The Zips are 40-17 (.702) in the month of December under ninth-year head coach Keith Dambrot.
A Look at the Bluejays
Creighton enters today's game with an 8-1 record and is coming off a 64-42 road win at Nebraska on Dec. 6. The Bluejay's 64 points against the Cornhuskers were a season-low.
Creighton is led by preseason All-American Doug McDermott, who is averaging 21.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Ethan Wragge (10.7 ppg) and Gregory Echenique (10.6 ppg) also average double figures while Echenique (7.1 rpg) is the team's top rebounder.
On the Line vs. Creighton
• A win over the Bluejays will give the Zips their first win over a ranked opponent in the program's Division I era (since 1980-81).
• A victory would give Akron its fifth start of 5-2 or better under head coach Keith Dambrot.
• A win would snap Akron's two-game losing streak in true road games.
Last Time Out vs. Creighton
Brett McKnight scored a game- and season-high 21 points to lead Akron to a 76-67 win over Creighton in a non-conference ESPNU BracketBusters match-up on Feb. 20, 2011, at Rhodes Arena.
McKnight scored 13 points in the second half and finished 9-for-13 from the floor in 20 minutes off the bench to help Akron to its fifth-straight victory and fifth-consecutive win on its home floor.
Nikola Cvetinovic contributed 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes as a starter, while fellow starter Steve McNees rounded out the Zips' double-figure scorers with 11 points and six rebounds in 35 minutes.
Doug McDermott led the Bluejays with 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Akron vs. Middle Tennessee Recap
Freshman Jake Kretzer's clutch overtime play helped give Akron an 82-77 win over the visiting Middle Tennessee on Dec. 2 at James A. Rhodes Arena.
Kretzer scored all of his eight points in the overtime period, making two 3-pointers and two free throws late to seal Akron's fourth win of the year.
The game featured two 10-0 runs, one for each team, and saw 14 ties and 14 lead changes.
Alex Abreu led five UA players in double figures with 19 points and pitched in with seven assists and four steals. Zeke Marshall had 14 points, five rebounds, five blocked shots and two steals while Chauncey Gilliam (13), Brian Walsh (12) and Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell (10) also reached double digit points.
The Blue Raiders were led by Raymond Cintron's 22 points including, four 3-pointers, and Marcos Knight, who had 21 points and six rebounds.
Just How Young Are They?
• Akron entered the season as the ninth-youngest teams in the nation, with 16 players having a total of 15 seasons of collegiate experience (0.94 years/letters won per player). In fact, 12 of 16 players have one year or less in the experience column prior to 2012-13.
• Last season, the Zips had 15 players with a total of 19 seasons of collegiate experience, the 20th-youngest team in Division I basketball (1.27 years/letters won per player. Akron is one of just four teams to appear on this list in each of the past two seasons (Navy, Illinois State and Wright State).
Who to Guard Tonight?
One aspect of the Zips' lineup that makes it so hard to defend is the ability for any player to lead the squad in scoring on any given night. Last season, eight different players led Akron in scoring, with only two players holding top scoring honors in back-to-back games. So far this season, five players have had a least a share of the top-scoring performance, with Brian Walsh as the only player to lead the Zips in back-to-back game.
Welcome to December
• The Zips are 40-17 (.702) in the month of December under ninth-year head coach Keith Dambrot, including a 27-3 mark at home (.900).
• Akron has won 14 of its last 15 December games at home, with UA's only loss coming against VCU in overtime on Dec. 29, 2011 (76-75).
The Road Warrior
Akron takes to the road a lot in the first eight games of the season, playing six of those contests away from Rhodes Arena. The Zips have already played at Coastal Carolina and three games in Puerto Rico, with road games left at Creighton and at Detroit. In all, UA will travel 6,504 miles.
One bright side to the long road stretch...the Zips will play six-straight home contests beginning with a matchup with Arkansas-Pine Bluff at the JAR on Dec. 18.
Lights, Camera, Action
The Zips will appear on television a minimum of nine times this season, with the potential for 12 additional TV games. Akron has gone 2-1 so far, defeating Penn State 85-60 on ESPN3 in its last TV appearance (Nov. 18).
Facing a Ranked Opponent
• Akron's match-up with No. 16/13 Creighton will be the 25th meeting against a ranked opponent in UA's Division I era (since 1980-81). The Zips are 0-24 (0-14 in true road games).
• Akron last faced a ranked opponent on March 18, 2011, falling 69-56 to (4/4) Notre Dame in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.
• Looking at the Mid-American Conference, the last true road win for the league came on Feb. 23, 2008, when Kent State defeated No. 23 St. Mary's (Calif.).
A Tale of Two Halves
• The Zips have seen a major difference in their play between the first and second halves of games this season.
• Akron is out-scoring opponents by a slim 4.0 points per game in the first half, while allowing the competition to shoot 45.1 percent from the floor and 47.4 percent from long range.
• However, the second half has been a different story. The Zips are +10.7 points per game in the scoring column while holding opponents to just 36.4 percent shooting from the floor and 20.9 percent from behind the arc.
• UA is shooting 3.0 percent better in the second half (48.8 vs. 45.8) and is converting on 70.1 percent from the charity stripe, compared to 67.2 percent in the first 20 minutes.
Solid Bench Play
• The Akron bench has been the catalyst for success under ninth-year head coach Keith Dambrot and this year is no different.
• The Zips' bench holds a +10.8 scoring advantage over the competition (29.5-18.7), having been out-scored just once this season (38-21 vs. Middle Tennessee, 12/2/12). The Akron reserves are shooting 42.7 percent from the floor while holding opponents to just 36.6 percent.
Breaking Down the Stats
• Junior guard Alex Abreu ranks second in the MAC and 16th in the nation in assist rate, recording a dime on 40.54 percent of the field goals made by the Zips while on the floor.
• Senior center Zeke Marshall leads the MAC in block rate and is second in the nation, swatting 16.17 percent of the shots taken by Akron opponents while on the floor.
• As a team, the Zips are tied for 35th nationally in points per possession, averaging 1.08 points per offensive possession. Akron's shooting has also been effective this season as UA is averaging 1.16 points per shot, which is tied for 22nd nationally.
Akron vs. the Missouri Valley
The Zips are 6-17 all-time against the current members of the Missouri Valley Conference. Akron has faced Creighton (1-1), Drake (1-2), Evansville (0-4), Illinois State (2-6), Indiana State (1-1) and Northern Iowa (1-3) on the hardwood.
A Look at the Polls
• Two opponents appeared in the Dec. 3 editions of the AP and USA TODAY Coaches polls. Creighton (16/13) and Oklahoma State (23/23) appeared in both polls.
• Akron is ranked 16th in the Dec. 3 edition of the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 Poll. Seven of UA's mid-major opponents appeared in the rankings, including No. 3 Creighton, No. 5 Ohio and No. 11 Middle Tennessee. Cleveland State (46), Western Michigan (22), Kent State (11) and Eastern Michigan (2) all received votes.
• Entering today's game, the Zips check in at No. 55 in the Ken Pom RPI rankings (games through Dec. 6).
• So far, Akron has played two teams inside the top 40 of the RPI, including Oklahoma State (No. 26) and Middle Tennessee (No. 40). Four of the Zips' next six games come against teams in the top 125 of the RPI, including No. 18 Creighton, No. 124 Detroit, No. 115 Cleveland State and No. 88 Princeton.
• UA could add one more high-RPI opponent with its home game in the 2013 Sears BracketBusters event.
MAC Freshman of the Year Resume
Freshman wing Jake Kretzer is building a nice resume for Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year consideration. He ranks first for 3-pointers made (15), first in 3-point percentage (.484), second in offensive rebounding (2.0 rpg), second in field goal percentage (.488), third in scoring (10.3 ppg), tied for fourth in in steals (1.2 spg), and fifth in rebounds (4.2 rpg) among all MAC freshmen in games through Dec. 6.
1,000 Point Club
Senior center Zeke Marshall is on pace to become the 40th member of Akron's 1,000-point club. Marshall needs 91 points to join the group.
– 909 - Zeke Marshall (2010-Present)
39. 1,013 - Sam Serves (1942-47)
38. 1,023 - Nate Linhart (2006-09)
37. 1,041 - Hank Vaughn (1946-50)
36. 1,046 - Dru Joyce (2004-07)
35. 1,055 - Bobby Walker (1946-50)
Inside the Scoring Numbers
The Zips have been one of the top defensive squads in the league over the last nine seasons. In 277 games under head coach Keith Dambrot, the Zips have held 200 opponents to 70 points or less, going 161-39 (.805). Akron has held 155 of those foes to 65 points or less, going 135-20 (.871). On the flip side, Akron is 27-50 when allowing 70-plus points (.351).
Looking for No. 200 & 300
Head coach Keith Dambrot can reach two coaching milestones this season. He needs 12 wins to become just the second coach in school history with 200 wins at Akron, joining Russell Beichly (286, 1941-59). Dambrot is also just four wins away from winning his 300th career game (15 seasons).
Senior center Zeke Marshall continues to be one of the premier shot blockers in the nation. In games through Dec. 2, Marshall is third in the nation in blocked shots per game (4.5), has blocked more shots (27) than 222 DI teams and is averaging more swats per game (4.5) than 262 DI squads.
The Century Club
Junior guard Alex Abreu has appeared in 73 games in two-plus seasons for the Zips. Barring injury, Abreu and the Zips need to play in three postseason games for him to reach the century mark this season, joining senior center Zeke Marshall.
How Hard is it to Win 20 Games?
• The Akron Zips are the only team in the Mid-American Conference to have won 20-plus games in each of the last seven seasons. In fact, only 17 teams (Akron, Butler, BYU, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Marquette, North Carolina, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Syracuse, Texas, Utah State and Xavier) have won 20-plus games in the last seven seasons.
• Taking things one step further, the Zips are one of only seven programs with at least 22-plus wins during that same stretch (Akron, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Utah State).
• On the coaching side of 20-win seasons, head coach Keith Dambrot is currently tied for 13th place among active coaches with current 20-plus game winning streaks (7) and tied for the tenth-longest streak at the same program. Only two coaches [Mark Few, Gonzaga (13); Stew Morrill, Utah State (12)] have posted longer streaks of 20-win seasons solely at mid-major programs.
Career List Watch
• Senior center Zeke Marshall, with 273 blocked shots in his career, broke the career mark at Akron against Detroit on Nov. 26, 2011. Marshall also owns the single-game (9), single season (94), freshman (59), sophomore (92) and junior season (95), and Akron Rhodes Arena single-game (7) blocked shot records.
• For the third-straight season, the career games played school record could be equalled or eclipsed. Senior center Zeke Marshall has appeared in 111 games over the last three seasons. He would need to appear in 30 games to tie and 31 games to break the school record of 141, set by Steve McNees (2008-11) and Nikola Cvetinovic (2009-12).
• After breaking the freshman and sophomore season assists records, junior guard Alex Abreu is setting his sights on moving up the career top-10. Against Penn State on Nov. 18, he became just the ninth player in UA history with 300 career assists (311). He is currently eighth on the all-time UA list and needs eight dimes to pass Steve McNees (318, 2007-11) for seventh place.
Looking at the MAC Record Book
• Senior center Zeke Marshall passed Ohio's John Devereaux (260, 1980-84) and Jason Terry (262, 1992-96) in Puerto Rico to take over sole possession of second place on the MAC list for blocked shots (273). At his current pace of 4.5 blocked shots per game this season, he should break the MAC record of 301 (Lonnie Jones, BSU, 1998-02) in roughly six more games Princeton).
• Compared to other coaches all-time in the MAC, head coach Keith Dambrot is fifth in league history with a .628 win percentage while coaching in the league (208-123 overall; 188-89 Akron, 20-34 CMU), fifth in overall wins (208), sixth in league games winning percentage (.620, 103-63) and seventh in conference wins (103).