Men's Basketball: Akron ousts Ohio to remain unbeaten in MAC play

Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper is challenged while going to the hoop by Akron defenders Zeke Marshall and Jake Kretzer. The Bobcats were defeated by the Zips 86-72 on Feb. 2 at James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron. (Daniel Kubus | Staff Photographer)

AKRON, Ohio — With just more than six minutes remaining in Ohio’s 86-72 loss to Akron on Saturday, senior guard D.J. Cooper hit a three-pointer to bring the Bobcats within 11 of their rival.

On the Zips’ next trip down the floor, Cooper’s opposition, junior Alex Abreu, hit a step-back three of his own, igniting the capacity crowd at James A. Rhodes Arena.

As the referee put his hands in the air to signify the field goal, Abreu raised his accordingly toward a pack of fans across the court.

There, Akron senior center Zeke Marshall’s mother, Nicole Bozeman, adorned in a jersey bearing her Twitter handle “@MommaZeke,” mimicked Abreu and smiled.

She had every reason to.

The Zips (17-4, 8-0 Mid-American Conference) defended their home court, on which they have been perfect this season, and won their 13th-straight game — the longest such streak in the nation.

They shot 56 percent from the floor, had five players in double figures and almost doubled the Bobcats’ rebound total.

“It might sound crazy to a lot of people, but I don’t think we have anything to envy from anybody in the country,” Abreu said. “I think we’re full at every position, we’re big, we’re strong, we have guard play, we have shooters — there’s nothing that we really lack, other than confidence and knowing that we’re the best team.”

The Zips did nothing but improve their own confidence, and statistics show Abreu was fairly accurate in his post-game appraisal.
After trailing by as much as 13 midway through the first half, the Zips caught fire from the field and stormed back to cut the Bobcats’ lead to three, and took a five-point lead heading into the break.

Ohio (15-6, 6-1 MAC) failed to hit shots early in the second stanza — missing 11 attempts in the first 10 minutes — and Akron eventually capitalized by nailing back-to-back threes from the unlikely hand of freshman guard Reggie McAdams, who came into the contest averaging 4.8 points per game.

He had 11 on 4-of-5 shooting Saturday.

“(We) gave up back-to-back threes on plays we went over, so those things are frustrating,” Ohio coach Jim Christian said. “I mean — these guys feel bad when it happens. They look over and they understand it. But again, when you play good basketball teams those are the focus plays you can’t afford to give up when you’re behind.”

The Bobcats didn’t give themselves much of a shot in the game’s waning minutes, as a handful of good looks were left undone.

In the meantime, the Zips piled it on.

Ohio didn’t come within eight in the game’s last eight minutes.

“We weren’t as committed to getting stops (and) kind of took our foot off the gas,” Ohio junior guard Nick Kellogg said.

Kellogg was the Bobcats’ most productive on offense, as he had 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including a pair of three-pointers.

Outside of his performance, though, Ohio’s starters shot only 29 percent from the field in a team shooting performance of 41 percent — it’s worst conversion rate since being upset by Winthrop on Dec. 15.

Marshall, who joined junior forward Demetrius Treadwell with a double-double outing, scored the Zips’ last points of the evening on a layup with 41 seconds left.
Cooper, trying to draw last blood, raced the length of the court and hoisted a transition layup with an outstretched right hand.

Marshall trailed him down the floor, waited until he elevated and emphatically swatted the ball out of bounds.

As the whistle blew and the referee chased down the ball to finish off the last seconds of play, Marshall stared down at his opponent as if to say, “Better luck next time.”

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