Akron (23-4) at Buffalo (11-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alumni Arena (6,100) -- Buffalo, New York. Television: SportsTime Ohio. Home Record: Akron 14-0, Buffalo 7-5. Away Record: Akron 7-3, Buffalo 4-9. Neutral Record: Akron 2-1, Buffalo 0-3. Conference Record: Akron 13-0, Buffalo 6-7. Series Record: Akron leads, 26-21.
GAME NOTES: The Akron Zips hope to avoid the recent storm of upsets as they visit Alumni Arena to put their nation leading 19-game winning streak on the line in a Mid-American Conference battle with the Buffalo Bulls.
Although the Zips seem invincible right now, they struggled against the Bulls when they first met this season on Jan. 26 in Akron. Buffalo held a 20-point lead before going a span of over 10 minutes without a field goal in the second half to allow Akron to rally back and claim the lead. The win improved the Zips to 26-21 in the series.
Keith Dambrot's Zips needed an extra session to complete their season sweep of Ohio, defeating the Bobcats, 88-81, in overtime on Wednesday. The victory was the 19th in a row for Akron, which is just one of five teams in the nation still perfect in conference play. During their 19-game win streak, the Zips are out-scoring their opponents by 13.8 points per game. The streak is the second longest in MAC history and their 13-0 start in league action is the best since the 1957-58 Miami-Ohio RedHawks went 12-0 to start their conference slate.
Zeke Marshall finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for Akron as it downed the Bobcats on Wednesday. Demetrius Treadwell tallied a team-high 21 points to go along with eight boards in the win, while Jake Kretzer (19 points) and Alex Abreu (16 points, nine assists) also impressed. Marshall is one of the finalist for the Lou Henson Award, presented to the nation's top mid-major player thanks to his stellar senior campaign that has yielded 12.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per tilt. Treadwell (11.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Abreu (6.0 apg) have also done their part to keep the Zips rolling. Akron is the only team in the MAC that features five players with 25 or more makes from beyond the arc.
Reggie Witherspoon's Bulls have followed their season-long three-game winning streak with back-to-back, heartbreaking setbacks to Manhattan (65-64) and Kent State (83-81 OT). Buffalo shot 31-of-61 from the field and 5-of-21 on 3-point tries to Kent State's 29-of-73 from the floor and 11-of-28 efficiency from long distance, but the Golden Flashes managed to overcome a 12-point deficit to force the extra session. Javon McCrea submitted a tremendous performance with 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight rejections, while Tony Watson II and Will Regan netted 14 points apiece. Cameron Downing gave the squad a lift off the bench with 13 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field to go along with 3-of-3 accuracy at the charity stripe.
The Bulls are averaging a modest 65.8 ppg on the year, but have turned up the heat at the offensive end of late, posting at least 75 points in three of their last four games. McCrea is the leader at both ends of the floor, as the 6- foot-7 junior is shooting .556 from the field, while leading the team in scoring (17.6 ppg), rebounding (8.1 rpg) and blocked shots (75). Watson complements with his perimeter shooting, converting .444 from behind the arc (64-of-144) and posting 10.8 ppg.
The Zips are one of the most complete mid-major teams in the nation this season and could break into the top 25 before the season's end if they keep up their momentum. However, it is extremely difficult to maintain focus and intensity throughout a long period of time like they have been doing, especially considering they are taking the best shot of every conference rival they face. The Bulls showed they can be successful against Akron when they clashed earlier in the season, but they will need to keep it up from the tip- off to the final buzzer to give their fans a reason to storm the court.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 71, Akron 68
03/02 10:45:45 ET