Akron Zeke Marshall

Akron takes control of the MAC with thrilling, OT win over Ohio

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In what may end up going down as the best game that no one saw this season — it did happen to coincide with the thrilling, 79-78 Georgetown win over UConn, which is a clear example of why college basketball is so irrevocably broken — Akron somehow managed to outlast Ohio in overtime, 88-81, to take a two-game lead in the MAC standings and keep their slim bubble hopes alive.

The Zips scored the first nine points of the game and then watched as Ohio used a 34-7 run to open up a 34-16 lead late in the first half. After trimming the lead to 11 points at the half, Akron used a 19-4 run to open up the second half, and that’s when the fun started.

The Zips and the Bobcats are two very good basketball teams, and throughout the final 12 minutes of the game, everyone tuned in got a chance to see two mid-major heavyweights trade punches. Every time Akron pushed their lead to six or eight points, Ohio had an answer, whether it was a DJ Cooper three or a three-point play from Travis Wilkins. On the final possession of regulation, Walter Offutt missed a three that would have won the game, but Jon Smith was there for the tip-in as time expired, and we headed to overtime.

Akron pulled away in the extra period, which may actually have been the best case scenario for MAC fans.

The Zips still have an outside chance at earning an at-large bid. It’s a long shot, but it’s there. If they can make a run to the league’s tournament title game where they end up losing to Ohio, they’ll have a puncher’s chance at getting a bid. I’d love to see them in. With the size of their front line — namely Zeke Marshall — and the play of Alex Abreu at the point, Akron can pull off an upset on the nights that their threes go down.

Ohio isn’t getting an at-large bid. If the MAC wants two teams in the dance, this is what had to happen.

We’ll see how things play out, but the one thing that we can all agree on is that a rematch of Akron and Ohio with an NCAA tournament bid on the line would be a lot of fun.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)