Akron (4-2) at (16) Creighton (8-1)
Sunday December 9, 2:05 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: CenturyLink Center Omaha (17,390) -- Omaha, Nebraska. Television: ESPN Full Court. Home Record: Akron 2-0, Creighton 5-1. Away Record: Akron 0-1, Creighton 1-0. Neutral Record: Akron 2-1, Creighton 2-0. Conference Record: Akron 0-0, Creighton 0-0. Series Record: Series tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Akron Zips will be looking to pull off an upset when they visit the CenturyLink Center Omaha to square off with the No. 16 Creighton Bluejays.
The Zips are coming in with a little bit of momentum as they picked up their third win in a row last Sunday by defeating Middle Tennessee by five points in overtime. The decision improved Akron's record to 4-2. Both of Akron's losses came in overtime contests versus Coastal Carolina and Oklahoma State. The team began its winning streak against UNC-Asheville and Penn State in the Puerto Rican Shootout. Coach Keith Drambot's team has averaged 83 points per game while limiting its opposition to 66.7 ppg during the span of its current streak.
The Bluejays come in with an 8-1 record that includes wins over Wisconsin, Arizona State, Saint Joseph's, and most recently, Nebraska. The only loss came at home when the Boise State Broncos shocked coach Greg McDermott's squad in Omaha. Creighton is shooting 52.4 percent from the floor, 76.4 percent at the free-throw line, and outrebounding foes by 5.1 boards per game. It has one of the highest scoring averages in the country with 80.6 ppg.
Creighton and Akron have played twice before, with the home team winning each time. Creighton beat the Zips 71-60 in the 2006 NIT in Omaha before falling at Akron 76-67 in 2011 in a non-televised BracketBusters matchup.
Akron's ability to light up the scoreboard was on display its last time out as it shot 52.6 percent from the floor and assisted half of its made field goals. It also held a 26-21 edge in the rebounding battle and forced the Blue Raiders into 21 turnovers. Point guard Alex Abreu led the way with 19 points, seven assists, and four steals. Zeke Marshall, Chauncey Gilliam, Brian Walsh, and Demetrius Treadwell also reached double figures in the contest. Marshall also blocked five shots, making it three games in a row he has accomplished that feat. Abreu leads the team in scoring with 12.2 ppg, while Marshall (12 ppg), Walsh (11.5), and freshman swingman Jake Kretzer (10.3 ppg) all own double- digit scoring averages as well. Akron has committed fewer turnovers and recorded more assists than its opposition in each game this season.
The Bluejays played a physical game to get by their intrastate rival Cornhuskers their last time out. Creighton dashed to a 64-42 victory behind its 46 percent shooting from the field including an 8-of-17 mark from three- point range. Doug McDermott scored 27 points, Gregory Echenique had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Grant Gibbs had 10 assists as the school won in Lincoln for the first time since 2004. McDermott (21.9 ppg., 6.8 rpg.) is the nation's only returning consensus First Team All-American, and also is the nation's top returning scorer (22.9 ppg. last year). McDermott has plenty of help with senior center Gregory Echenique (10.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg), senior guard Grant Gibbs (7.0 ppg, 6.4 apg) and junior guard Austin Chatman (8.7 ppg, 4.4 apg) joining him in the starting lineup.
Akron has a good chance to compete for the Mid-American Conference championship this season if it keeps up its stellar play, but the Bluejays have one of the best teams in the NCAA this season. The Zips will have to execute with precision to hand Creighton another loss at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Creighton 85, Akron 73
12/09 10:31:43 ET