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MAC Tournament Final Recap

by Andrew Force | March 14th, 2009

The sweet styling of the McKnight Brothers was on display Saturday night in the MAC Tournament Final.  The toughest ticket in town was for the duet’s vibrant harmony, competently contributing to a 65-53 Akron win.  Less famous than singer Brian’s McKnight family, these brothers (junior Chris, and sophomore Brett) have more to celebrate en route to the NCAA Tournament.

The third time was a charm for the Zips and Head Coach Keith Dambrot. 

In 2007, Akron came from ahead to lose to Miami (OH) 53-52.  The following year UA fell 74-55 to Kent State.  Prior to this game senior leader Nate Linhart unequivocally stated “I don’t consider it much of anything if I get here again and don’t make it.”

Akron earns a spot in the NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 1986, when they were Ohio Valley Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champions.  The Akron Zips’  coach back then was the stony Bob Huggins. 

The McKnights hail from Lancaster, Ohio a town of 37,000 residents southeast of Columbus.  Their games are similar to that of Sam Young.  Both forwards have range out to 18-20 feet.  Their strong bodies help them work the paint and back down with authority. 

“What makes it difficult is that they don’t have to get post position to score,” reflected Buffalo Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon.  “They are really good in the mid-post.  You can keep them away from the basket and still be in trouble.  They hit some fadeaway shots, with a hand up.”

Chris McKnight finished with 12 points, 3 rebounds and Brett earned All-MAC Tournament honors by scoring double figures off the bench for the third time in four nights.  His final line read 16 and 4, with two assists, two steals.

For Buffalo, a night after their emotional summit, two yearlong statistics fell.  Akron shot their best field goal percentage of the year (55%), also the highest percentage allowed by Reggie’s infantry. 

Con fuoco-with fire

The boys from Akron, Rubber Capital of the World, were burning plenty of it.  Screeching tires sounded the dragster-like start for the Zips.  No question Dambrot’s delegates got the hole-shot. 

Akron made their first five 3-pointers, four different players combining to raise the rafters.  The brothers scored 16 first half points, truly putting the game into urgency mode.

“We were down eight at halftime and they are shooting lights out, they can’t keep shooting like this,” said Coach Weatherspoon.  “And then you get to ten minutes to go in the game and they are still shooting like that.”

Bravissimo

“This moment is unbelievable,” said Brett McKnight.  “It is something everybody dreams of, winning something like this, accomplishing something not everybody can.”

All week long, Max Boudreau’s emblazoned shooting made him the hottest Canadian since Pamela Anderson, but he wasn’t a source of scoring on this night, offering eight points.  This output was thirteen short of Friday’s career high of 21. 

In defeat, Boudreau did claim Buffalo’s lone All-Tournament team slot.

The final two Akron wins featured Akron guard Steve McNees burying timely three-pointers.  Capitalizing on an ankle injury to starting point guard Anthony “Humpty” Hitchens, McNees once again delivered a shot to the opponent’s solar plexus. 

With 16:15 to play, McNees found the bottom, increasing the Akron lead to 43-27.

“This is as good as it gets,” said McNees.

Encore?

“I thought we played our best basketball the last three games of the year,” observed Akron Head Coach Keith Dambrot.

For a MAC team that should be seeded around 13-14 lines, any victory will be tough.  Unlike VCU,  Akron is not a one-trick pony.  They have a very balanced attack that disallows a simplistic lockdown strategy. 

Keep in mind Akron is 20-0 when they outrebound their opponent. 

“We just have to do what we have to do,” Brett McKnight knows.

All-Tournament Team

F          Nate Linhart (Akron)–MVP

F          Brett McKnight (Akron)

F          Max Boudreau (Buffalo)

F          Nate Miller (Bowling Green)

G         Steve McNees (Akron)

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