Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Akron 68, Mississippi State 58

[recap] [box score]

Technically, this game was part of the 2k Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. I'm not counting it, though. Why? Because despite winning this game, Akron will not be advancing to the semifinals on November 17. It was pre-ordained that no matter what happened in these early "rounds," Arizona, Mississippi State, St. John's, and Texas A&M would make the trip to Madison Square Garden.

There are plenty of potential good reasons for this, and I'll give the organizers the benefit of the doubt. It's a tournament for charity, after all, and so if rigging the final four is what it takes to get more money for a great cause, then so be it.

But I'm not considering these early games part of the tournament. The 2k Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, for me, starts next Thursday. This was just an early-season road win for a very good Akron team against a projected top-half SEC club.

Akron notes: Alex Abreu outplayed Dee Bost on both ends of the court. Six steals on defense, and they came in a variety of ways: shooting passing lanes; roaming as a help defender; stripping Bost of the ball. He only had three assists (the whole squad only had six), but all three were spectacular, and the common thread running through them were the great instincts Abreu showed: A nifty over the head lob pass on an early drive; a touch-pass for a dunk off an offensive rebound before he hit the floor; and a lob pass on a screen-and-roll on which he went up for a jumper and then fired the ball to the rolling screener for the jam. He over-drove a couple of times in the first half, but that's a minor criticism in an otherwise brilliant performance ... The beneficiary of all three of those lob assists was Zeke Marshall, the seven-foot NBA prospect who had nine blocked shots in last year's MAC title game. Defensively, Marshall blocked five shots and altered several others, challenging shots both as the on-ball defender and as a helper. His offensive game needs work; he hit a 17-foot jumper early on, but threw up two jump hooks that didn't even hit the rim.

Mississippi State notes: Bost was a +3 in this game and played the whole second half, which means that Mississippi State was outscored by 13 points during the stretches that he sat on the bench in the first half due to foul trouble. It's not even that Bost played that well -- the Bulldogs just looked lost without him ... Renardo Sidney sat the final four minutes and change, despite the fact that Marshall fouled out with 3:17 to go. Given Sidney's history, my best guess is that it was disciplinary in nature, because MSU's only post player down the stretch was Arnett Moultrie, the UTEP transfer who had 15 rebounds but was a brutal two-for-13 from the field ... Sidney showed some flashes of the brilliance that allegedly lies below the surface with him, on one play spinning around Marshall for a layup and a foul, but he's clearly out of shape (no matter how much weight he lost in the off-season) and his defense on the pick and roll is about as bad as it gets. He has great court vision for a big, though, finding open shooters against straight man-to-man defense ... Freshman Rodney Hood, a smooth lefty, displayed a very nice midrange off-the-dribble game in my first look at him.

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