Akron wins way into tournament
CLEVELAND (AP) – Demetrius Treadwell scored 13 points and top-seeded Akron, its season nearly wrecked by a player suspension, beat Ohio 65-46 on Saturday night to win the Mid-American Conference championship and the league’s automatic spot in the NCAA tournament.
One week ago, the Zips (26-6) were in danger of seeing a special season crash when point guard Alex Abreu was arrested on drug trafficking charges. But Akron’s players rallied around coach Keith Dambrot and the Zips, playing in their seventh straight MAC title game, are back in the NCAA brackets for the third time in five years.
Treadwell added 10 rebounds and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Chauncey Gilliam also scored 13 points, Nick Harney had 11 and Zeke Marshall 10.
Ohio’s D.J. Cooper, the MAC’s Player of the Year, missed all eight field-goal attempts and scored just 3 points.
The Bobcats (24-9) shot just 1 of 20 on 3-pointers and 33 percent overall from the floor.
In the final minute, the fiery Dambrot, who acknowledged being drained by Abreu’s stunning arrest, put on his suit coat and shook hands with his staff. When the horn sounded, Akron’s players danced onto the floor of Quicken Loans Arena to celebrate a win they wrapped up with tough defense.
Akron held Ohio to 19 percent (5 of 27) shooting and just 17 points in the second half.
Cooper was bottled up all night. The only Division I player to record 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals in his career, he never got going and was taken out in the final three minutes with the game out of reach.
Cooper scored his first points on two free throws after Treadwell, who wore orange polka-dotted socks and red sneakers for the final, was called for a technical with 17:37 left. The shots gave Ohio the lead, but the technical seemed to fire up the Zips, who got a basket inside from Treadwell and went on a 9-0 run to open a 40-33 lead on freshman Carmelo Betancourt’s steal and layup.
The Bobcats were still within 42-37 when the Zips went on a 10-4 spurt to open a lead they would never give back.
With Akron up 54-42, Treadwell scored on a gorgeous up-and-under layup, a basket that sent Akron’s student section into a frenzy. It’s been a tough week for everyone around the Akron program following the arrest of the popular Abreu, who was charged with possession and felony trafficking after police said he accepted a package containing five pounds of marijuana.
The suspension threatened to squelch a season like no other for the Zips. They won 19 straight games, nearly got into the AP Top 25 and were picked by some experts to be the mid-major team to watch in the NCAAs, just as the Bobcats were a year ago when they knocked off Michigan and South Florida to make the national quarterfinals.
Now, it’s Akron’s turn to cause some of their own March madness.
Reggie Keely scored 19 points to lead Ohio, which opened the game 11 of 17 from the floor but went just 7 of 37 the rest of the way.
Cooper, who came in averaging 14.4 points and scored 21 in the semifinal win over Western Michigan, went scoreless in the first half and attempted only one shot – a 3-pointer that rattled out.
Still, the Bobcats led 29-26 at the half after T.J. Hall dropped a layup at the horn.
With Marshall, Akron had a substantial advantage inside and the Zips didn’t waste any time getting the ball to their big man, who scored the Zips’ first five points and seemed more engaged than he was in the first half of Friday’s semifinal.
Ohio answered with Keely, a 6-foot-9 senior. He made his first four shots and wasn’t intimidated by Marshall, taking it right at Akron’s center and scoring 14 first-half points.
Offutt scored on a drive and the Bobcats went on 10-0 run, doing it with Cooper as more of a decoy than anything else.
Trailing 25-16 and appearing on the verge of being in serious trouble, the Zips started driving to the basket and went on a 10-2 run to pull within one and were only down 29-26 at half.