Akron (1-1) vs. Oklahoma State (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 15, 10:30 a.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez (12,000) -- Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Akron 1-0, OSU 0-0. Away Record: Akron 1-0, OSU 0-0. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, OSU 0-0. Conference Record: Akron 0-0, OSU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES:The sixth annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off will begin play on Thursday morning with opening-round action between the Akron Zips and the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon.
Akron has gotten off to a 1-1 start following a loss in its season opener last Friday at Coastal Carolina (74-70), and a win at home on Monday against John Carroll (97-53). With the latest victory, head coach Keith Dambrot moved into fifth place on the program's all-time wins list with 205.
Oklahoma State took care of business in its opener at home by downing UC Davis, 73-65, and in the process extended its winning streak in home openers to an impressive 38 games. The trip to Puerto Rico will be the Cowboys' first outside of the United States for a tournament in school history.
This bout marks the first time Akron and Oklahoma State are meeting in men's basketball.
After a disappointing debut, Akron bounced back for its first win of the season by shooting 57.6 percent from the field and draining 13 three-pointers against John Carroll. Brian Walsh led the scoring barrage with 18 points on 8- of-11 efficiency from the field, and Deji Ibitayo was hot on his heels with 16 points. Ibitayo was deadly from beyond the arc in his first start for Akron, connecting on 4-of-5 treys. Alex Abreu scored 12 points and dished out a team- high seven assists, and Jake Kretzer also netted a dozen points. Chauncy Gilliam gave the Zips five players in double figures by scoring 10 points off the bench. Zeke Marshall filled up the stat sheet with eight points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots. The Zips will be leaning on Marshall's defensive prowess in the paint, as he has 25 career games where he's recorded four or more blocks. Through two games, the team has shown very good balance as six players average at least eight points per game, paced by Kretzer at 13.5 ppg.
Oklahoma State got its season off to a solid start even though it shot relatively poorly from the field in its opener, going 23-of-57 (.404), but it was able to drain eight three-pointers and take advantage of a busy night from the foul line (19-of-24). The Cowboys also played excellent defense, goading UC Davis into 21 turnovers. Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash led the way with 16 points apiece. Nash, who scored 13.3 ppg as a freshman last season, also contributed seven rebounds and four assists, and he is expected to be one of the team's top performers this winter. Phil Forte came off the bench to drain three three-pointers en route to 13 points, and Jean-Paul Olukemi rounded out the double-digit scorers for OSU with 10 points. Marcus Smart played his first game in a Cowboy uniform and the freshman was impressive across the board, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds and seven assists, although he shot just 1-of-6 from the field.
Akron has shown solid depth in the early going, but it doesn't possess the kind of star power the Cowboys have, as Nash and Smart have the opportunity to develop into two of the top underclassmen in the country. It's hard to gauge how each team will respond traveling to Puerto Rico to play a morning game, but figure OSU to have the advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma State 76, Akron 66
11/15 10:34:45 ET