Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Zip, Zipped, Zips...Conjugating Akron

No. That's not dirty.

The Zips arrive tonight, and its the start of a pretty big run that needs to be addressed one game at a time.  BG enters after a patch where they beat inferior teams, but did not play especially well.  BG was 4-2 on the crossover, but won their games by margins of 6,5,3 and 1 point.  Akron, for example, won their 4 by 20, 18, 15 and 12.  I don't like to talk about games in terms of whether yo blew somebody out, but I think it says something.

All that can be erased, though, if BG can recapture the elements of its game that were getting it along during the first trip through the East--namely, solid defense and improved rebounding.

As long as we are looking backwards, there are a couple of other things.  First, Keith Dambrot has a ridiculous record against BG.  He is 13-4 overall, and 12-1 while in Akron.  That's not a typo.  The last six seasons have resulted in just one BG victory against the Zips and absolutely zero at Anderson.

Now, that only win was pretty important.  It came on March 1, 2009, and put BG in a position to gain the regular season top seed.  Here's what I wrote back then.

Now, facing 2 minutes left, and no more timeouts, the Falcons had to get the ball in, which we did. But, the possession was still struggling, and it was starting to look like Akron would get the bal back with the lead. But, BG found Brian Moten in the late stages of the shot clock, and he drained a 3, a clutch, gotta have it, gut-check three from our senior guard. He drained it, and the Falcons were up 2. 1:03 left.

Akron got the ball inside, and missed, but the rebound went out of bounds and they had another chance. Shot clock off, they got the ball inside, but BG had a foul to burn, and Erik Marschall used it. Finally, Akron shot again with :14 left, and this time Nate Miller ripped down the board and fired a breakaway pass to Moten who flushed home a huge dunk to underscore the victory. 50-46.

And that's the kind of thing BG needs to pull out tonight.  This is a monkey they need to get off their back, and it will be against a team that is playing well.  Based on the info above, you know that BG already lost to Akron at the JAR earlier this year.  In that game, BG had mighty struggles on the offensive end, getting .85 points per possession vs .93 for the Zips.  (BG lost by 5).  That was a close game, (tied with 5:00 left), and BG can win this game if they can score better than they did the first time while continuing to defend.

In that game, Akron's Darryl Roberts scored 17 and Crawford 16 and 7.  Both of the big men--Calhoun and Marshall--were non factors.

Now, let's take a look at what to expect this time.  The first key test for BG will be perimeter defense.  Akron is a low-efficiency 3-point team.  In conference games only, they lead the MAC in attempts and are second in 3s made...but they are 9th in 3FG shooting.  They get over 1/3 of their points from beyond the arc. In other words, they keep firing them up, even if they aren't seeing success.  BG has got to challenge those shots.  They are 9th in FG% and 8th in Effective FG% and 7th in offensive efficiency.  They augment these numbers with very good ball security, which allows them to get shooting possessions more often.

They remain a good defensive team.  They allow only .96 points per possession, and are 3rd in FG% allowed.  They are 6th in 3FG% allowed, and allow less than half of their points on 2FGs, which is also the 3rd lowest in the MAC.  They are 6th in the MAC in forcing turnovers as well.  They are actually not great on the offensive boards--they are 8th in offensive rebounding, but also 4th in not allowing offensive rebounds.

Chart is all games.

As always, the watchword with Akron is balance. 9 players are averaging 10 minutes per game. No player averages more than 12 points a game, but six players average between 8.6 and 11.8. These include Cvetinovic (11.6), McClanahan (10.96), Marshall (9.56), McKnight (9.1), McNees (8.7) and Roberts (8.6).    Cvetinovic also leads them with almost 7 rebounds a game and Zeke Marshall is getting 2.4 blocks per game but is also 4th in the MAC in fouls per game.

Freshman guard Alex Abreu is also getting his career off to a good start.  He is 8th in the MAC in assists and 12th in A/T ratio, pretty good for a guy forced into action by the departure of Humpty Hitchens.

So, that's the challenge.  Akron appears to be playing better, they are used to winning, and they are certainly used to beating BG.  However, looking at what we see above, this is not a team that can't be beat, and there's no time like the present to turn around those numbers.  BG will need to play better defense, guard the perimeter, and probably make some outside shots to help take the pressure off the inside, with big Zeke hanging around...and rebound on the defensive glass, if nowhere else.

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