Akron (1-0) at Saint Mary's (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 12, 3 a.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: McKeon Pavilion (3,500) -- Moraga, California. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Akron 1-0, SMC 1-0. Away Record: Akron 0-0, SMC 0-0. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, SMC 0-0. Conference Record: Akron 0-0, SMC 0-0. Series Record: Akron leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: A pair of the top programs at the mid-major level will collide as the Akron Zips visit McKeon Pavilion for a non-conference matchup with the Saint Mary's Gaels at part of the 24 hour tip-off marathon.
Akron began its season with a 72-63 victory over Coastal Carolina on Friday, despite committing 17 turnovers and converting just 15-of-26 attempts at the charity stripe. Coach Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron James during his high school career, will have to replace the top two players from last season's 26- win squad, and dominant shot blockers like Zeke Marshall are not easy to find. With Marshall in the middle, the Zips held the opposition to only 62.8 ppg and went 15-1 on their home floor. The backcourt is a big question mark, as Carmelo Betancourt failed to impress after filling in for Abreu last season.
The Gaels also came out of their season opener victorious as they downed Louisiana Tech, 83-70, on Saturday in Moraga. SMC was put on probation for four years in the offseason following its 28-win campaign that marked the sixth consecutive season with 25 wins or more. Coach Randy Bennett is looking to maintain that level of success despite the loss of the 2011-12 West Coast Conference Player of the Year Matthew Dellavedova, who was one of the top point guards in the nation throughout his career at SMC. Four newcomers played big roles in the matchup with Louisiana Tech as USC transfer Garrett Jackson, junior college transfer Kerry Carter, freshman forward Dane Pineau and fellow rookie Treaven Duffy all made their program debuts.
Betancourt had trouble in Akron's debut against Coastal Carolina as he was responsible for four of the team's turnovers and dealt out only three assists to go along with two points. The forward trio of Quincy Diggs, Demetrius Treadwell and Nick Harney picked up the slack as they combined for 38 points, 18 rebounds and eight steals. Diggs also committed six turnovers to go along with his team-high 14 points. Jake Kretzer gave the Zips a lift off the bench with 14 points. Although Akron came out of its matchup with the Chanticleers on top, it clearly has a lot to work on if it hopes to repeat as Mid-American Conference champion.
SMC caught fire and pulled away by shooting 60.9 percent from the field and converting 14-of-19 attempts at the charity stripe. Louisiana Tech was limited to a 1-of-9 clip from behind the 3-point line after the break. Brad Waldow led the way with 28 points and eight rebounds. Stephen Holt contributed 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Gaels, who also received 11 points from Beau Levesque. Waldow's outburst came after he averaged 10.2 points and six rebounds per game in 2012-13. Sophomore guard Jordan Guista finished with only three assists and four turnovers, although he made some key plays to spark the team's second half run to a comfortable double-digit advantage. The Gaels held a 38-28 edge in the rebounding battle and outscored the Bulldogs, 40-32, in the paint.
Akron will have difficulty preventing SMC from similar domination on the interior as it clearly does not have an adequate replacement for Marshall, who anchored the team on the defensive end with his presence. Bennett will find out if Waldow's unbelievable showing was a fluke or the beginning of his tenure as SMC's new big man on campus. If Waldow is ready to fill Dellavedova's shoes, the Gaels will not experience the significant drop off that many are expecting.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Mary's 72, Akron 62
11/11 10:37:31 ET