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Akron ready to face Irish

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, March 17, 2011

CHICAGO — Barely 24 hours before he leads his team against Notre Dame, Akron coach Keith Dambrot described the Irish as among the nation’s most talented teams.

“They are a terrific offensive team, there is no doubt about that. Probably one of the most-skilled teams in the country, if not the most-skilled team in the country,” Dambrot said during a Thursday press conference. “They are going to be hard for us to score on because they are so big at the wing spots. They can contest jump shots and make it difficult for us.”

Yet for the No. 15-seed Zips to advance, Dambrot said his team needs to simply play one step above the second-seeded Irish.

“We have to play our great game, and they have to be average, or we have to be good and they have to be below average,” he said. “We’ve been in enough games, if we play well and they’re average, we’re going to win.”

Akron sophomore center Zeke Marshall, the Mid-American Conference tournament MVP, said there is one disctinct advantage for the Zips.

“Their overall size is a lot bigger than our team, but me, individually, I’m taller than everyone,” the seven-footer said.

Nonetheless, Dambrot said Notre Dame’s overall size will present problems for Akron.

“I think the biggest thing is can we score enough points to beat them,” said Dambrot, preparing for his second NCAA tournament appearance as head coach. “The games they have lost, they have been below 60 [points] mostly. I don’t know if we can hold them below 60, but I don’t know if we can score 75 either.”

Yet, Dambrot said the nature of sports could prove to be all the Zips need Friday.

“Most likely if we played Notre Dame seven times, they would probably win the series,” he said. “But we only have to win one game, and that’s the beauty of sports.”

Akron and Notre Dame tip-off Friday at 12:40 Central.