Men's basketball | VCU 88, Akron 42: VCU blows past undermanned Zips
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Imagine if Shaka Smart considered Keith Dambrot his enemy instead of his best friend.
Smart coached Virginia Commonwealth to an 88-42 victory last night over undermanned Akron, a team he once served as an assistant coach for under Dambrot.
The lopsided South Regional game caused The Palace of Auburn Hills to be nearly empty at game’s end as the two coaches, who speak to each other almost daily during the season, shook hands and embraced.
VCU (27-8), a Final Four team in 2011 under Smart, shot 54 percent. The No. 5-seeded Rams will play Michigan on Saturday.
Akron, the Mid-American Conference champion, looked like a shell of the team that had won 19 consecutive wins before starting point guard Alex Abreu was suspended indefinitely on March 6 following his arrest on a marijuana trafficking charge.
The No. 12-seeded Zips (26-7) were missing starter Brian Walsh and reserve Pat Forsythe because of the flu, and reserve guard Deji Ibitay couldn’t play because of back spasms as Akron lost its fourth NCAA Tournament game in four tries.
“Hats off to Shaka,” Dambrot said. “He got his team ready to play. He knew what we were dealing with and came right at us.”
Akron fell behind 21-9 at the start and never could handle VCU’s defense, a swarming full-court pressure the team calls “Havoc.” The Zips committed 21 turnovers against a team that led the nation in steals and forced turnovers this season.
VCU still had its starters in and was still pressing despite being ahead by 40 points in the second half.
“He’s got a job to do,” Dambrot said. “His job is to get his team ready to win the next game. I don’t take any offense to it.”