Akron Zips men’s basketball team faces another tough game streak

There’s something oddly or comfortably familiar about this week for the University of Akron men’s basketball team.

After a not-so-close loss to Kent State last month, the Zips faced part of the schedule when they played three games the following week.

After a narrow loss to KSU, the Zips find themselves in the same situation and face two of the same opponents – Eastern and Western Michigan – as well as Northern Illinois.

Despite the loss, UA coach John Groce said the game could be used to propel the Zips to success this week in those games, much like the previous event when they won four games right now.

Not hard enough:University of Akron fails in ‘high profile’ game against Kent State: takeaways

“Our biggest thing is to play well,” he said of his team’s goal. “I think we played very well in all three [games] in five [days] heading to the Kent game. I think we played very well in the Kent game. I think we play really good basketball and we just want to keep doing that.

Groce ticks off a myriad of things his team did well against KSU and, given the low loss margin and compared to the first game the Zips lost by double digits, he has a point.

The Zips shot 50% against the Golden Flashes, a respectable 39% from behind the 3-point line and beat them on the boards 29-27.

“We were off the charts,” he said, “and we want to continue to build on that as we head into the stretch.”

But shortcomings in other areas dictated the outcome, Groce said.

The Zips allowed 59 percent shots from behind the arc and they shot just 11 of 17 from the free throw line. Changes in their favor in these two stats could have influenced the outcome.

University of Akron reserve Garvin Clarke shoots in a game earlier this season.  With three games this week, the Zips are going to need strong contributions from their reserves. [Karen Schiely/Beacon Journal]

Losing to KSU hurts them in the short term to place in the Mid-American Conference tournament with KSU 10-4 and UA 9-4 in the MAC and the Golden Flashes holding the tiebreaker by virtue of the sweep of the season.

There are plenty of games to ultimately decide the rankings, and one or more of those games this week could be pitfalls.

In wins this season, their games against Western Michigan (74-73) and Eastern Michigan (46-44) were among the most contested. The Huskies also gave the Zips fits until the final moments of the game. It would seem that any of the games could be a waiting trap.

Groce said anything can happen at this point in the season and the Zips need to stay focused one game at a time.

“You play a team the second time, there are no secrets, a team takes shots on any given night,” he said, “anything can happen, so we have to make sure we can control that. that we can control and that’s playing well and doing the things that we’ve been doing for – especially – the last week or two.”

Following:University of Akron men’s basketball coach John Groce: Kent State outplayed us

A big difference for the Zips heading into this streak compared to the first gauntlet of such games is the confidence in the reserves.

“We received more contributions from [guard] Garvin Clarke, Mike Dawson, Aziz Bandaogo, Mike Wynne,” Groce said, “so that added depth to our team, which also made us better in the last two weeks.”

This plays strongly in favor of a team that has shown resilience all season, even in defeats. Ultimately, this intangible could allow the Zips to find success.

Following:Photos: College Basketball/Akron Zips vs. Kent State

“Now that’s the only thing since the start of the unconference that they’ve ever had,” Groce said. “It allowed them to get through.

“I’m excited with the way we’re trending. I’m obviously disappointed with last Friday night. All of our guys are. I wanted to make sure we were playing well, our guys were focused on that and for the most part we Do it.”

Contact George M. Thomas at gthomas@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter @ByGeorgeThomas.

University of Akron reserve center Aziz Bandaogo (21) dunked in a game earlier this season. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

Akron west of Michigan

Time: 6:00 p.m. Tuesday

TV/Radio: ESPN3/WHLO (640-AM)

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