Updated Sun, Feb 3, 2013 12:29 am
The Ohio Bobcats dropped their first conference game of the season in a loss to the Akron Zips, who now sit alone atop the Mid-American Conference. Point guard Alex Abreu led the Zips with 21 points on the way to an 86-72 victory.
“I thought Abreu was the difference in the game tonight,” said Ohio head coach Jim Christian. “He controlled the tempo of the game and we let him get in the lane too much.”
Abreu hit on 7-10 shots and added nine assists. Akron (17-4, 8-0) outrebounded Ohio by 18 and ended the game shooting 56.1 percent. The Bobcats (15-6, 6-1) shot just 40.7 percent.
If the first 12 minutes of the game were indicative of the result, Ohio would still be undefeated in the conference. D.J. Cooper started the game reminding the Zips of his primary skill—passing—wrapping the ball around the backs of two Akron defenders to Reggie Keely for a layup. Demetrius Treadwell shot right back with a fadeaway jumper to knot the teams at two.
Zeke Marshall hit a mid-range jumper with 16:08 to play to give Akron a two-point lead, but Nick Kellogg answered with a layup and a three the following two possessions to put Ohio up two. Keely widened the lead to four with a layup immediately after.
The Bobcats continued hitting shots and getting stops until the run reached 12-0. By holding a lead for much of the first half, Ohio effectively neutralized the sold-out home crowd in the James A. Rhodes Arena.
Ricardo Johnson hit a big three-pointer with 10:03 remaining in the half to give Ohio a 13-point lead, its largest of the game. From that point on, however, Akron began to slowly chip away at the lead.
Marshall ripped down an offensive rebound and slammed it back down over a seemingly helpless Keely inside nine minutes. Marshall ended the game with 12 rebounds—four offensive—and 17 points.
“You’ve got to want [to rebound],” said Christian. “The key is wanting it. It’s not physical, you’ve got to want it and we didn’t want it bad enough tonight.”
Marshall hit another jumper with 4:36 remaining in the half to cut Ohio’s lead to three, getting the crowd back into the game. Ohio managed to stretch the lead to six once more in the following minutes, but could not maintain offensive efficiency. Brian Walsh sank two free throws to tie the game at 33 and Abreu followed with a three-pointer to give Akron the lead. The Zips’ comeback effort led them to a five-point lead at halftime.
Akron busted out of the gates with the same intensity. Nick Harney hit a layup 16 seconds into the half. Ohio began turning the ball over and throwing away possessions. Akron took advantage of every opportunity, sustaining its lead.
The Bobcats managed to keep the deficit relatively low for much of the half. Cooper hit two free throws with 9:22 remaining. After that trip to the line was when the Zips gained control. Akron went on a 9-0 run to increase its lead to 14. Ohio failed to get any closer than nine points the rest of the game.
“We’ve got to keep moving,” said Nick Kellogg. “We’re going to see [Akron] again, so we’re not too worried about it.”
Ohio plays Akron again on Feb. 27 at home. The Bobcats next head to Ball State Wednesday, Feb. 30 for a chance to get back on the winning side. The game against the Cardinals will be Ohio’s fourth consecutive road game.
*Photo Credit: Kate Hiller