AKRON, OHIO Since Keith Dambrot has been head coach at the University of Akron, games between the Zips and the Miami Redhawks have usually been low scoring, defensive battles. Wednesday nights encounter was a total opposite as the Zips took an early lead and never looked back while routing the Redhawks 69-49 before 3,357 fans at Rhodes Arena.
Akron (13-5,3-1 MAC) rebounded from its 78-65 loss at Buffalo Sunday, improving its home record to 9-2 overall and 2-0 MAC. Miami (5-12,2-2 MAC) saw its modest two-game winning streak come to an abrupt end and remained winless in "true" road games.
I thought we played our best game of the year Zips head coach Keith Dambrot said after the game. Everything went right for us and everything went wrong for them.
Senior forward Chris McKnight came off the bench to lead all scorers with 18 points and 13 rebounds. 12 of which came in the first half as the Lancaster, Ohio native registered the second double-double of his career. The other came last March in the MAC Tournament when he had 16 points and 10 boards in the 93-92 overtime win over Toledo.
We played better together Chris McKnight said. Against Buffalo, we didnt guard as well. If we can play like (tonight), we are really hard to beat.
Freshman center Zeke Marshall scored a career-best 13 points and registered three blocked shots. Brett McKnight, added 10 as the Zips defeated Miami for the fifth consecutive time at home.
When there are bigger games on our schedule, like Texas A&M and Niagara, it seems I play better. Marshall said.
Miami was led by senior guard Kenny Hayes, who had 15 points. Center Adam Fletcher had 11 points and 10 rebounds while Antonio Ballard contributed 10 and five boards.
Although the RedHawks put three people in double figures, it was a night where Miami shots would just not fall, especially from close in. The visitors shot a dismal 26.7% from the field in the first 20 minutes.
We got beat by a very good basketball team Redhawks head coach Charlie Coles said afterwards. They are the team that I think right now is the best team in the league. I dont think anybody compares to these guys.
Even though Akron led for the entire 40 minutes, the game was close early. But with the Zips leading 10-9 at the 14:15 mark after Hayes connected on a jumper from the right wing, the home team went on an 18-4 run to take complete control, 28-13, on a three by Chris McKnight.
Akron kept making its shots and Miami kept missing, so as halftime approached, the Zips opened their largest lead at 38- 20.
Even though Akron had a healthy lead, Miami's performance in its previous two games suggested the RedHawks might still be dangerous. In recent home wins against Kent State and Ohio, Miami used big runs in the second half to sieze victory.
When the visitors from Oxford went on an 8-2 run just 75 seconds into the second period to narrow the Zips lead to 40-26, those concerns started to creep into the minds of the Zips players and coaches.
But there would not be a late Miami run this time as the home team steadied the ship and maintained a double-digit advantage.
Akron's biggest lead was 24 points on two occasions, the last being 69-45 on a Marshall layup with 1:19 remaining before a pair of Hayes free throws and a driving layup by reserve Allen Roberts reduced the final margin to 20 points.
Final stats showed Akron's complete domination as the Zips connected just a tick below 50 percent from the field (26-for-54) and decisively won the rebound battle 41-30 while turning the ball over just eight times.
Both teams are back in action Saturday. Akron makes the short trek to Kent State for a meeting with the Golden Flashes. Miami starts a stretch of three-of-four at home, with Bowling Green coming to Millett Hall Saturday.
NOTES: The game was the 43rd lifetime meeting between the two programs. Miami leads the series 23-19, but Akron has won five of the last six encourters. Zips coach Keith Dambrot is 9-9 against Miami.... Before the game Dambrot presented Coles with a plaque in recognition of Coles becoming the all-time win-leader in MAC history. Coles moved past former Toledo coach Bob Nichols Saturday with a RedHawks win over Ohio . . . . The crowd of 3,357 was the second largest at home this season for Akron.