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Published: Sunday, 1/8/2006

Akron sinks Rockets to 0-3 in MAC

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

AKRON - There came a time during last night's game between the University of Toledo and Akron that, poised on the edge of the ocean, neither team could have gotten the ball wet.

It came in the early stages of the second half. There wasn't a side of a barn in northeast Ohio that was in danger of being hit.

That being the case, offensive rebounding was a key. Akron got it done, Toledo did not.

The Zips scored four of five baskets after offensive boards and the Rockets (7-4) were on their way to a third loss in as many Mid-American Conference starts. The final score was Akron by 75-58.

The final rebounding totals say that the Rockets had a 12-7 edge in offensive boards and played the Zips to a 29-29 standoff in total rebounds.

But those numbers weren't representative of what happened during the stretch when the game was up for grabs.

"We didn't get it done then," said UT forward Florentino

Valencia, who had 14 points and three rebounds. "We just have to get a body on people and work harder than we are.

"We work like crazy on rebounding in practice, but we're not applying it in games."

Before and after the mutual cold-shooting spree, Akron couldn't miss.

The Zips went on a 13-0 run late in the first half to forge a 38-28 edge at the break.

UT guard Justin Ingram laced a 3-pointer to open the second half and slice his team's deficit to seven, but that's when the Zips (8-3, 2-0 MAC) started hitting the boards.

Matt Futch, a 6-8 senior, rebounded and scored on a layup before Romeo Travis grabbed a carom and fed Nate Linhart for an easy basket. Then it was Futch mopping up with another basket after a rebound.

Nick Dials pulled up and leaned in with a jumper, was fouled, and scored an old-fashioned, three-point play on Akron's next possession, but Darryl Peterson rebounded the Zips' next miss and kicked it out to Dials for a 3-pointer that put Akron ahead 50-36 and signaled the end of the Zips' short-term shooting woes.

Three of Akron's next four baskets were treys and its lead soon reached 22 points.

UT coach Stan Joplin had a closed-door meeting with his team for about 45 minutes after the game.

"We talked about a lot of things," he said. "This isn't the same team I saw earlier and that's very disturbing. I don't like the team I'm seeing right now. We're not stopping the ball on defense and that's disappointing because we're athletic enough to do that. That's the fourth time we've given up 70-plus points and it's the fourth time we've lost."

Akron coach Keith Dambrot warned it would be silly to write off the Rockets.

"We were 1-3 last year and came back," Dambrot said. "So I guess it's not necessarily how you start but how you compete all the way through. Stan's kids will compete."

Valencia, whose defensive presence limited Akron's star Romeo Travis to 10 points, said his team is not lacking in effort.

"But something is missing and we'd better find out what it is," the 6-5 junior said.

Valencia and Sammy Villegas both started for UT for the first time in six games. Ingram tied for scoring honors with 14 and led UT with five rebounds and five assists. Akron shot 62 per cent during the second half and 56 percent for the game.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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