One-game winning streak on the line against Akron

By Chris Sigley

At least Bob Huggins won’t have to be around all the long faces in Ohio as that state mourns over the Cincinnati Bengals’ heartbreaking Super Bowl loss.

The Akron men’s basketball coach and his squad have been in DeKalb since Saturday night preparing for tonight’s 7:05 game against NIU at Chick Evans Field House. It will be a homecoming for the 5-11 Huskies, who come off a four-game road series and have not played in the fieldhouse since Jan. 7 against Iowa.

Although tonight’s game will be a battle of the independents, both squads are in the same boat of teams that were turned away from the Association of Mid-Continent Universities (AMCU) when that conference voted not to expand.

“They’re one of the better independents,” Rosborough said of Akron. “They’ve toughened their schedule (including North Carolina State, Kansas State and Oral Roberts) so they can get a tournament bid.” The Zips were 21-7 last year, but were not invited to the NCAA tourney.

“AMCU is a good and respectable conference,” Huggins said, “and we’d like to be a part of it.

Along with their 9-5 record, wich includes Saturday’s 87-78 win over Wright State, the Zips bring senior powerhouse Eric “Cricket” McLaughlin and two other seniors and two sophomores to their starting lineup.

McLaughlin, who has been averaging 22.3 points per game, was a Street & Smith’s preseason honorable Mention All-America and holds UA’s school career assist record (392). The 5-11 guard also rates fifth in all-time scoring at Akron.

“We’re just going to turn the guys loose on him and get out there and play him,” Rosborough said of McLaughlin.

The Zips boast three other players who average in double figures, including 6-2 sophomore Anthony Buford (15.9 ppg), 6-6 senior Shawn Roberts (13.7 ppg) and 6-10 senior Scott Paterson (11.8 ppg).

The Huskies are expected to go with their original sophomore quintet of Donnell Thomas, Donald Whiteside, Antwon Harmon, Stacy Arrington and Andrew Wells. Although freshman Brent Varner started in place of Wells against Davidson Saturday because Wells was late for a practice, Rosborough said Varner will “probably not” start tonight.