Akron vs. Ohio Game Recap: The Best Game of the Season

Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Akron and Ohio game us the best game of the season, and one that will be difficult to top. There is no way to describe this normally. This requires a special treatment.

There are games that defy explanation; games that push every limit of you as you watch them.

The games that do this to you shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. They are the teams that we look forward to watching each and every time they take the court against each other.

So it should have come as no shock that Akron and Ohio were going to treat us to one of the greatest games of the year. For the past five seasons, these two teams have battled and battled and battled again.

The championship in the MAC goes through this combination of squads. It doesn't matter who the players are on the court. This rivalry transcends any other names than the ones on the front of the jersey.

The chapter that took place on Sunday, January 12, 2014, will go down as one of the greatest chapters ever written. This one will be the one by which all others are measured. There is no greater story. This is it.

But you can't describe this game from beginning to end. It is better served in a series of vignettes centered around their prime players. Only then can you understand what these players achieved through hellish defense and massive stress in a game that could help decide a season.

Scene 1: Jon Smith
Ohio is losing. They need to mount a comeback against a difficult Akron defense, but they can't let the Zips get too far ahead. They need stops.

That is where Jon Smith comes in. Block. Block. Rebound. Block.

There are eight blocks in total for Smith, the majority of the nine that Ohio would total Sunday night. Smith wasn't an offensive presence -- he had just five points in the game -- but he stood tall near the hoop again and again. There were going to be no guards -- or anyone else for that matter coming inside. When Jon Smith was on the floor, this was his paint. Green is his favorite color.

Scene 2: Travis Wilkins
It is early and there is little that either team can do on the offensive end. Akron has built a lead, but it is not one that you can bank anything on.

Enter Travis Wilkins, maybe the least likely player on the floor to cause any kind of trouble for the Zips defense. He shoot only 30 percent from outside. He shouldn't be a problem.

But Wilkins will have none of that. He hits one three from the elbow, almost too calmly. Akron staggers. They bring the ball up, but they miss and Stevie Taylor grabs a rebound.

The next trip up the floor, the ball goes into the corner and Wilkins has his hands on it again. He takes the shot and falls back into the Akron bench thanks to a foul from Reggie McAdams.

The shot goes in. Wilkins then hits the free throw. In 45 seconds, Wilkins has scored seven points, almost as many as the team had in the first 12 minutes without Wilkins. He will finish with 14, but those will be the last threes he will hit on the night.

Scene 3: Maurice Ndour
Maurice Ndour lives inside. You aren't going to keep the ball out of his hands for long. Ndour wants it every moment of the game.

The newcomer to Ohio, he knows how important he is on offense. He grabs the ball and negotiates the Akron forwards, a wall of strength unlike any he is going to see in the MAC. This is where Ndour excels, what he was brought in to do.

Demetrius Treadwell attempts to block a pass inside. It gets through. Ndour spins and flushes it through.

A big head picture of the man from Senegal rises in the crowd and waves around.

Scene 4: Quincy Diggs
Flashback to last season. Akron is failing in the NCAA Tournament against VCU. Quincy Diggs is nowhere to be seen.

But then flash back to two years before. Watch Diggs fight and claw against Ohio, against the rest of the MAC. He is going to be good, really good. He isn't there quite yet, but the potential when he plays in this system is huge.

Now flash forward. Diggs is sporting the long dreads. He has a focused look on his face. He does not want to lose this game. This is where the conference is won or lost. Right here, on this floor in Athens. Diggs has seen this situation too many times in the past.

And through 20 minutes, Diggs has just three points. He hasn't found his rhythm. He is not able to make his shots.

Even through most of the second half, he struggles. He has hit free throws but the ball doesn't go down. But Diggs is better than this.

And then he finds the shot. It is as if everything clicked at once for him. He steps up and fires down a three. The game is tied in the final three minutes. Diggs is heating up. You can see it too. After another trip down the court, Akron calls timeout. Diggs takes the deadball and drops another three through the net. He calmly strolls to the bench. This is his game now.

Flash into the overtime. There is less than a minute left.

Diggs gets the feeling again. He needs to be perfect to keep Akron in this. The Zips are down four. He sets up and fires.

Swish. Clutch.

Next trip, the ball is again to Diggs. He sets up and drills the shot again. Only a two, but it is enough to tie the game. We are going into another five minutes.

When Akron pulls ahead in the final five minutes, it is thanks to Diggs again. He has help now. But they wouldn't be there without him.

He fittingly makes the last shot of the ball game for either team. This was Diggs' night. Some will say it is the night he re-established himself for the Zips. Showed why he was the 6th man of the year.

But that will be simplifying it too much. Diggs is already here. He just needed the right moment to show himself.

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