Akron (1-2) vs. UNC Asheville (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 16, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Coliseo Ruben Rodriquez (12,000) -- Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Akron 1-0, UNCA 1-0. Away Record: Akron 0-1, UNCA 0-1. Neutral Record: Akron 0-1, UNCA 0-1. Conference Record: Akron 0-0, UNCA 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Akron Zips and the UNC Asheville Bulldogs will square off for the first time ever this afternoon, as the two meet in a Puerto Rico Tip-Off consolation game.
Akron took on Oklahoma State in the opening round of the tournament, and even though it was down by double digits with less than 10 minutes to play, it climbed all the way back to force overtime before eventually losing, 69-65. It is already the second overtime loss of the season for the Zips, having fallen to Coastal Carolina in their opener, 74-70. Their only win on the young season was at home on Monday again John Carroll University (97-53).
UNCA also split its first two games of the season before coming to Puerto Rico, defeating Western Carolina (71-61) and losing to UNC Wilmington (67-59). The Bulldogs put forth a solid effort against a talented Tennessee squad in the opening round before falling, 75-68.
A Zeke Marshall layup with just over a minute remaining capped an 18-8 run for Akron and tied the game, but it shot just 1-of-8 in the overtime. The whole game was on the ugly side shooting wise, as the Zips launched 71 shots but made only 21 (30 percent). Doing his best to keep his team in it was Brian Walsh, who recorded his first-career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He also made three of the team's eight long-range field goals, and he now leads the team in scoring (13.3 ppg) through three games. Marshall also tallied a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards, with most of his scoring production coming from the foul line (8-of-11). Alex Abreu shot just 4-of-15 from the field for his 13 points but he managed to dish out six assists. Abreu started the season as a bench player, but he has started back-to-back games and has piled up 13 assists in that time. Jake Kretzer (10 points) rounded out the double-digit scorers and he also created a lot of second-chance opportunities with five offensive rebounds.
UNCA was able to keep its opening-round matchup within striking distance by draining 50 percent of its field goal attempts, but the Vols also shot 50 percent and they outrebounded UNCA by a 37-25 margin. Jeremy Atkinson continued his hot start to the season by putting up 18 points on a nearly perfect shooting night (5-of-6 from the field, 8-of-9 from the foul line), and he sits with a team-high 19.7 ppg through three contests. The senior also paced the team with nine rebounds, although no other Bulldog ripped down more than four boards. Jon Nwannunu and D.J. Cunningham each tallied 12 points. Trent Meyer finished with eight points and had a brutal shooting night (1- of-8), but helped out in other areas with six assists, four steals and a blocked shot. UNCA committed just 11 turnovers, which was a vast improvement from the 22 times it coughed the ball up the last time out against UNCW.
Although their chances for a tournament championship have been squandered, both teams will still play with plenty of pride as neither wants to go home empty-handed in the win column. Atkinson may be the best player on the floor, but Akron is the more balanced team and it will use its depth to prevail.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Akron 70, UNC Asheville 64
11/16 10:37:07 ET