Eastern Michigan (5-16, 3-5) at Akron (14-7, 5-3)
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 • 7 p.m. ET
James A. Rhodes Arena (5,500)
Live Statistics: Available at GoZips.com
Video Stream: Available at MAC-sports.com.
Radio: Akron-IMG Sports Network – SportsRadio 1350 AM (WARF) in Akron (flag- ship), and for free at SportsRadio1350.com and iHeartRadio. Bill Morgan (play-by-play) (6:45 p.m. ET airtime).
Akron Coach Jodi Kest (Slippery Rock, 1984): Kest is in her seventh season at Akron, posting a 88-117 (.429) mark. She is 314-270 (.538) in 20+ seasons as a collegiate head coach. Kest was named the 2010 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, and has guided the Zips to Cleveland for the conference tournament for the past three consecutive seasons.
Eastern Michigan Coach Tory Verdi (Keene State, 1996): Verdi is in his first season leading the Eagles after spending the last two years as an assistant coach at the University of Kansas.
The Series: Akron leads the all-time series with Eastern Michigan, 16-14, but has lost the last two meetings. The Zips are 4-3 vs. EMU under Kest.
Akron Closes Out Homestand with EMU
On the heels of two big East Division wins last week, Akron hosts defending MAC Tournament champion Eastern Michigan Wednesday at the JAR.
News, Notes and Storylines
• Akron handed Buffalo its first loss in the East Division Saturday by a 75-57 margin at Rhodes Arena.
• The Zips expanded a three-point halftime lead to outscore UB 38-23 in the second half, shooting 42.6 percent overall from the field.
• Kacie Cassell dished out 10 assists with just one turnover in 37 minutes of action, helping the other four starters to score in double figures.
• Cassell now has 157 assists on the season, surpassing Abby Hoy (1995-00) for the program's single-season assists record with eight regular season games left to play.
• Hanna Luburgh was tabbed MAC East Player of the Week for her efforts against Bowling Green and Buffalo. The junior averaged a double-double over the course of the two games with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
• Akron out-rebounded its opponent for the fourth straight game and the 12th time this year, winning the battle on the glass 44-40.
• Rachel Tecca continued her double-figure scoring streak, and has now reached double digits in all 21 of Akron's games this season.
• Taylor Ruper ranks sixth all-time in the MAC for career 3-pointers made with 238.
• The game against Buffalo was designated as UA's Play 4Kay game, and the program raised nearly $1,700 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
• The Zips have been ranked in the top-20 nationally in scoring offense for the past nine consecutive weeks. They are currently 11th, averaging 75.6 points per game, making UA the highest scoring mid-major team in the country.
• Akron is looking for its first win over EMU since the 2009-10 season. The Zips took down the Eagles twice that year, including in the first round of the MAC Tournament.
• A win on Wednesday would give Akron its second-highest win total in a season in the last seven years under Coach Kest.
A Look at the Eagles
The Eagles' roster has seen some ups and downs this season, including the loss of starter Olivia Fouty to a knee injury at the beginning of January. EMU enters Wednesday's contest with a 5-16 overall record and a 3-5 mark in conference play, with victories over Northern Illinois, Kent State and Western Michigan.
Natachia Watkins and Bianaca Cage pace the Eagles' offense with 9.8 and 9.5 points per game, while India Hairston grabs 6.3 rebounds per game.
As a team, Eastern Michigan holds its opponents to 59.9 points in league contests.
Last Time Against Eastern Michigan
Akron got off to a slow start and was never able to recover from its 19-point first half performance in a 91-46 loss to EMU on Jan. 28, 2012 at the Convocation Center.
The Zips fielded 11 players in the scoring column, but no one scored more than eight points. Eastern Michigan saw two of its starters post double-doubles, while the Eagles forced UA into 27 turnovers.
Buffalo at Akron Recap
Kacie Cassell dished out 10 assists with only a single turnover in 37 minutes on the court, helping Akron's other four starters to score in double figures as the Zips overpowered MAC East leader Buffalo, 75-57, Saturday afternoon at James A. Rhodes Arena.
The 10 assists were just what Cassell needed to break UA's single-season record, surpassing Abby Hoy (1998-99). The junior now has 157 assists on the year and eight regular season games left to play.
Due in large part to Cassell's playmaking, Akron enjoyed a balanced scoring attack from its other four starters with Sina King leading the way with 20 points. Rachel Tecca picked up 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field to go along with nine rebounds.
Hanna Luburgh and Taylor Ruper threw in 15 points apiece, as Ruper found her stroke from long range draining five 3-pointers.
Buffalo was guided by Kristen Sharkey's 14 points.
Luburgh Named MAC East Player of the Week
Hanna Luburgh was named the MAC East Player of the Week on Feb. 4, marking the second time this season she has earned this distinction.
Luburgh assumed the lead role in Akron's all-star cast last week as she averaged a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds in two crucial East Division victories over a three-day span.
The junior emerged with the first double-double of her career in UA's 68-63 win over Bowling Green, leading both teams with 25 points and an unprecedented 15 rebounds. Her breakout second half of 17 points and 10 boards, including a 7-for-8 performance from the free throw line down the stretch, carried Akron (14-7, 5-3) to its first win over BGSU since Feb. 10, 2001.
Luburgh followed that outing with 15 points and seven boards in a 75-57 victory over Buffalo as the Zips handed UB its first loss to an East division opponent this season. The junior was also a threat on the defensive end, issuing four blocks and a pair of steals in both contests combined.
A is for Assist, C is for Cassell
With her 10 assists against Buffalo, Kacie Cassell now holds the school record for the most assists in a single season, accomplishing the feat in just 21 games. She currently has 157 dimes on the year, surpassing Abby Hoy who had 156 assists in 29 games during the 1998-99 season.
Akron's win over Bowling Green snapped a 19-game losing streak to the Falcons, but was big for another reason. Remember when Dayton came to town ranked 16th in the nation? The Flyers are now 18-1, and their only loss is to BGSU.
Beast of the East
Although Akron has played MAC West Division opponents in four out of its last five games, it has exhibited some early dominance on its own side of the league. The Zips are 4-0 against the East so far this year.
80 Percent of the Time, It Works Every Time
The Zips have seen success so far this year when Rachel Tecca has scored 20 or more points in a game. In addition to scoring in double figures in all 21 contests, Tecca has scored 20 or more points on 10 of those occasions. Akron is 8-2 when she surpasses the 20-point plateau.
Getting to the Line
Rachel Tecca and Sina King get to the free throw line more than anyone in the conference in league play. King has the best free throw percentage for players with 20 or more attempts at .895, connecting on 34-of-38. Tecca has appeared at the stripe a league-leading 56 times in conference play.
A Little Streaky
With the win at Northern Illinois on Jan. 16, Akron tied its longest winning streak of the season at four games, mirroring its two four-game winning streaks from 2010-11.
Luburgh Makes It Rain
Hanna Luburgh has been shooting the lights out since conference play started. Through the first eight league games, Luburgh is shooting a blistering 51.5 percent from the field. She also ranks 21st in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, converting 41.2 percent of her attempts from behind the arc. At Northern Illinois, the junior connected on 7-of-11 attempts, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
The Zips' 93-58 rout of Kent State on Jan. 13 was the biggest win over a Mid-American Conference opponent since joining the league in 1992-93.
Out of the conference, Akron's 41-point margin of victory over Chicago State on Jan. 3 was the second-largest against a Division I opponent in program history, behind the Zips' 46-point win at Saint Peter's earlier this year on Nov. 26.
Keeping It Balanced
Akron has produced at least three players in double figure scoring in all 21 of its games this year - five players have reached double digits twice, and four players have hit the mark seven times.
Nine Is Fine
Akron's nine non-conference wins this year mark the most non-league victories in a single season in the history of the program.
Over the course of the non-conference season, the Zips have amassed 4,249 total miles in the air and on the road traveling to away games in the first half of the season.
How Can I Assist You?
The Zips have had no problem sharing the wealth this year, coming up eighth in the national rankings for assists per game as a team. Akron averages 17.5 dimes a contest, five more than the national average. UA's 1.1 assist/turnover ration is No. 23 out of 345 Division I teams.
Ruper Hits Century Mark
Senior guard Taylor Ruper played in her 100th career game in an Akron uniform Dec. 18 against Dayton. She has now started 82 consecutive games for the Zips.
Hats Off to the Grad
Before Akron's big win over Cincinnati on Dec. 15, Rachel Tecca graduated with her bachelor's degree in marketing management. The Tallmadge native, who holds redshirt junior athletic eligibility, will begin pursuing her MBA this semester.
The Zips have ranked in the nation's top-20 in scoring offense for the last nine weeks (as high as sixth), averaging 75.6 ppg, 13 points higher than the national average (62.3). Akron ranks No. 11 in the country this week, putting the Zips back on top as the highest scoring mid-major team in the nation. Just over 25 percent of their offense comes from behind the 3-point arc.
It is no secret where Akron gets its offensive prowess from this season. The Zips' top three scorers in Rachel Tecca, Hanna Luburgh and Sina King combine for over 64 percent of Akron's total points per game, and all are averaging in double figure scoring. The three starters are ranked one through three among all juniors in the MAC in scoring, and all fall inside the nation's top-75 in field goal percentage.
After its two big wins last week, Akron's RPI jumped 21 spots to 140. The Zips have the third-best RPI in the MAC East and the fifth-best in the conference overall. Toledo has the lowest RPI in the league at 46, followed by Central Michigan (54), Bowling Green (86) and Miami (134).
Building A Legacy
With Akron's win over Canisius on Dec. 1, head coach Jodi Kest surpassed former UA coach John Street for the most wins as a head coach in the history of Akron women's basketball. Street coached the Zips from 1982-89 and was the only male coach to ever lead the program. Now in her seventh season, Kest continues to develop the program that posted the greatest single-season win total in the history of the program in 2009-10.
Two in a Row
Akron fielded back-to-back MAC East Players of the Week the last two weeks in November in Rachel Tecca and Hanna Luburgh. The last time Akron had back-to-back conference Players of the Week was in 2007-08 when Sarah Tokodi received the nod two weeks in a row.
Top of the Crop
Rachel Tecca continues to lead the Mid-American Conference in scoring with 18.4 ppg., and is second in field goal percentage at .550. Her biggest statistic though may be that she does not appear in the MAC's top-10 in minutes played, meaning that she is posting these numbers in less time on the court than the other top players in the conference. She is also No. 4 in the nation in points per 40 minutes at 29.9.
Junior Sina King continues to make her case for the most consistent player in the MAC. She has scored in double figures in 20 out of 21 games, including the last 12 straight, en route to posting nine double-doubles. The forward is fluctuating between averaging a double-double, currently with 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds, and grabs 22.5 percent of the team's total rebounds.
Cassell Dishes Her Way Into the Books
Akron point guard Kacie Cassell moved up one more spot to No. 4 on Akron's all time list for career assists with 373, surpassing current UA assistant coach Ayla Guzzardo in the record books. Cassell recorded a new career-high 11 assists at Northern Illinois, and is currently second in the nation in assists per game at 7.5.
Tecca Reaches 1,000... And She Keeps Going
With two free throws at the 13:27 mark against Tennessee Tech, Rachel Tecca picked up points 999 and 1,000 of her career, becoming the first player to reach the milestone since Kara Murphy in 2008-09. Tecca, currently with 1,365 career points, is now Akron's fourth all-time leading scorer.
Tecca On the Boards
Rachel Tecca broke into the program's top-10 all time for career rebounds with 13 caroms at Saint Peter's. She has 163 rebounds on the year and 721 for her career, moving her to No. 7 on the all time list. Tecca already holds the record for the third most rebounds in a season in program history, when she pulled down 288 in 2010-11.
The Zips were 3-0 for the first time since their inaugural season in 1974-75. Their 9-4 non-conference record is the best start the team has had in 17 years, when it went 9-1 in 1995-96.
Ruper From Downtown
After becoming Akron's all-time leader in 3-pointers made at the end of last season, this year Taylor Ruper will see how far she can go in distancing herself at the top of the record books. Ruper has netted 54 three's so far this season, bringing her career total to 238. She is currently sixth all time in the MAC record books for career 3-point field goals made.
Zips Sign Four for 2013-14
Jodi Kest recently announced the signing of four standout student-athletes to National Letters of Intent to play for Akron beginning in 2013-14:
• Keanna Gary (Fort Wayne, Ind.) - Gary, a 6-1 forward, has built a strong career at the high school and AAU levels over the past three years. Last year as a junior, Gary averaged 11.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, in addition to 2.2 blocks. She received Honorable Mention All-State accolades from Hoosier Basketball Magazine, and was a 2012 IBCA All-State and All-Northeast Indiana First Team selection. Gary has also led her AAU team to the state championship title for the past three consecutive years.
• Hannah Plybon (Orrville, Ohio) - Plybon, a 5-9 guard out of nearby Orrville High School, comes to Akron as an ESPN 86 Grade, three-star recruit, the 107th best guard in the nation. In 2011-12, she averaged 20.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and three assists per game. Plybon has received all-state recognition for the last three years, including being named to the All-Ohio First Team as a sophomore and junior. The two-time Northeast Inland District Player of the Year currently ranks second in school history with 1,380 career points and one season left to play.
• Alex Ricketts (Mercer, Pa.) - Ricketts, a 5-11 shooting guard, has been named Offensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons after posting averages of 13.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game. She is a three-time First Team All-Region honoree and earned the title of 2011 Miss Basketball Player of the Year.
• Hannah Scipio (Westerville, Ohio) - Scipio, a 5-4 point guard from the Columbus area, was named one of the Top-10 players in District 10, in addition to earning Special Mention All-Ohio recognition and a spot on the All-OCC Capital Division First Team. Scipio averaged 14.1 points, 5.7 assists and 4.2 steals per game her junior season.
For the second consecutive season, the Zips were picked third in the MAC East Division behind Miami (Ohio) and last year's regular season champion, Bowling Green. Last season, Akron finished third in the East and sixth in the conference overall with a 7-9 record. Sina King earned All-MAC Second Team honors and Taylor Ruper received Honorable Mention.
Also for the second straight year, Rachel Tecca was one of five players in each division selected to the Preseason All-MAC team. An All-MAC selection in each of her two full seasons at Akron, Tecca was averaging 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in 2011-12 before her season was cut short due to injury.
Kest Reaches 300 Wins
Head Coach Jodi Kest picked up win No. 300 of her 20 year career as a collegiate head coach when the Zips defeated Buffalo for the third time last season in the opening round of the MAC Tournament. With the Zips' victory over Canisius on Dec. 1, Kest now stands alone as the winningest coach in Akron women's basketball history.
Bridging the Gap
Akron fields a unique roster this year with six experienced upperclassmen and pool of six newcomers that includes five freshmen. Coach Kest has maintained that the team will only be as good as the freshmen are able to play, as a big key to the Zips' success this year will be finding a balance between the abilities of the returners and newcomers.
Tecca and the 2013 WNBA Mock Draft
Rachel Tecca was projected to be selected 27th overall in the 2013 WNBA Mock Draft recently released by DraftSite.com. Tecca was anticipated to be taken with the third pick in the third round by the Tulsa Shock. She was one of just two MAC players to be included in the mock draft, along with Miami (Ohio) guard Courtney Osborn who was slated to be selected right before Tecca with the 26th overall pick. In addition to Tecca, the Shock was predicted to take Delaware's Elena Delle Donne as well as Brittany Chambers out of Kansas State.