Road Trippin' With Reghi: Crossover Time (Blog Post 1/24/12)
by SportsTime Ohio's/ESPN Cleveland's Michael Reghi
With a third of MAC play in the books, let's begin the divisional 'crossover' period, a three week stretch that finds squads from the two divisions playing one another for their only meetings of the regular season. You have to like our television matchups tonight and Wednesday, as the Sportstime Ohio cameras are in Muncie's Worthen Arena, with the two divisional leaders having at it. Akron, 4-1, atop the MAC East, road trips to see the MAC West Division's top squad, the 4-1 Ball State Cardinals.
I like all the 'selling points' this one offers, as you'll need to stay locked onto many areas of the game for both. Like the point guard duel, that sees Ball State senior leader Randy Davis, who expertly runs Billy Taylor's offense with a stellar assist/turnover ratio, and always atop the league in assists per game, trying to maintain the upper hand on Akron's whippet quick lead guard, sophomore Alex Abreu, who has drawn rave reviews from Akron's coaching staff for his steadiness in becoming a focal point on both ends of the floor, and a large part of the Zips success. Davis maintains the perfect demeanor for the position, and also spearheads the MAC's top defense on the perimeter. His dash from end to end with the clock winding down on Jan. 10th, and the ensuing pass to Jarod Jones with under a second left, led to the game winning bucket for the Cards on the road against Toledo.
The aforementioned Jones, who sits top three in both points per game and rebounding, will get a stern test from the MAC's shot block leader, Akron's seven-foot junior center, Zeke Marshall, who has vastly improved his ability to alter and readjust opponents shots around the rims. Yet Jones has enough diversity in his game to extend his shooting range up to 19 feet, which will pull Marshall away from the bucket, and make him play earnest defense on Jones. Can Jones reach his averages of 17 points and 8 rebounds per night, while being stalked by Marshall?
And how does Ball State's head coach Billy Taylor, with the MAC'S stingiest defense, that allows just 57 points per, and holds the opposition to just 37% from the floor, get a handle on the high octane Akron offense, that features the very best scoring 2nd unit in the MAC? That group just bltized Kent State with a second half barrage from Nick Harney, who went for 19 of his 21points after intermission. He got plenty of help from Demetrius Treadwell, Quincy Diggs, and Brett McClanahan. Just a sensational effort, as Dambrot's bench completely took the game over in the second half.
Join Steve Mix and yours truly courtside in Muncie at 7pm Tuesday. We then hit the MAC roads, swinging east, and finding our way to Ohio's Convocation Center in Athens. The 'Cats of John Groce are on a four game home stand, with wins over East rivals Kent state and Ohio last week. How 'bout the 13,000 plus, that jammed the legendary venue on Gary Trent Day Saturday! They saw Ohio rally from six down with three minutes left to beat arch nemesis Miami, as DJ Cooper and Walter Offut continued their stellar backcourt play.
Western Michigan heads south, and will arrive in Athens at 3-2 in the MAC West.They took care of business with a home win over Central Michigan Saturday. Steve Hawkins is getting superb play from sophomore center Matt Stainbrook. The Cleveland product is averaging 14 points per game, while shooting a gaudy 60% from the field. He's improved his skillset on the offensive end, while giving the Broncos the best play in the middle since Joe Reitz' run in Kalamazoo. Michael Douglas and Demetrius Ward have both benefited from having Stainbrook bring that offensive presence around the rims.
I'm going to thoroughly enjoy both matchups, and it says here you will too! Let's get together both Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Sportstime Ohio at 7pm. There's plenty to take away from this portion of the schedule for MAC programs. Don't miss it!