University of Akron men's basketball: Zips guard Bryan Trimble making presence known

George M. Thomas
Akron Beacon Journal
University of Akron guard Bryan Trimble Jr. and Central Michigan's Matt Beachler scramble after a loose ball in the first half of the Zips' 81-67 win over the Chippewas on Thursday night at Rhodes Arena. [Phil Masturzo/Beacon Journal]

As the season comes into focus for the University of Akron men’s basketball team, something is becoming abundantly clear.

Standout point guard Loren Cristian Jackson has a running mate.

Guard Bryan Trimble continues to step up for the Zips, including Thursday night against Central Michigan in the Zips' 81-67 Mid-American Conference victory.

If the past couple of games are an indicator, it looks as if the two players could be interchangeable options offensively for the Zips (7-3, 5-2). 

Against the Chippewas (6-9, 2-6), Trimble scored 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 7-of-14 from behind the 3-point line. Jackson, who has been the team’s primary offensive option, scored 13 points and dished out 10 assists, five of them to Trimble.

“I think he’s getting more and more comfortable and I know he’s a great shooter, so I’m just trying to find him in his spots so he can get his shot off quick because guys are going to pressure him or deny him or things of that nature,” Jackson said of Trimble, a 6-foot-2 junior.

The benefits of having someone who can provide a second scoring punch are obvious.

“Guys have to worry about him, so his gap is easy to drive,” Jackson said. “And then I can get a little break on offense. I can take a breather. I know when I give him the ball that he can make a play and put points on the board, so it’s given me a chance to take a break, a breather, and I can get more assists that way.”

There’s certainly a level of trust that’s developed between the two and on the team.

“Practice to be honest,” Trimble said when asked from where that trust comes. “Every day we’re just continuing to try to get better. I sat out last year and didn’t play. Every day in practice, it means something to us, knowing that we need that chemistry and we’ve got to get better.”

University of Akron forward Enrique Freeman blocks a shot by Central Michigan's Matt Beachler during the Zips' 81-67 win Thursday night at Rhodes Arena. [Phil Masturzo/Beacon Journal]

The development has come organically and within the framework of the game, Trimble said.

“I think he’s just reading the game and doing a great job of reading it. He’s doing a great job of finding open shooters. I mean that’s just a part of his game — he’s elevating right now,” Trimble said of Jackson. “Everyone knows he can score the ball at a whole [other] level. I think he’s just showing that his game has expanded to more than just scoring.”

Indeed, Jackson is starting to show he’s as much of a playmaker with the ball out of his hands as much as with it in them. Zips coach John Groce said he appreciates the fact Trimble complements Jackson.

“Cristian – there are a lot of eyes on Cristian when he has the ball and rightly so – and with our spacing and shot-making, we start making 3s like that, and Cristian made the right play all night long,” Groce said. “He had 10 assists; he could have very easily have had 15.”

Jackson said the ability to distribute the ball has always been part of his game.

“I’ve always been able to pass pretty well, but our team hasn’t really needed me to pass too much,” he said. “They needed me to score, so Bryan and those other guys scoring just give me a chance to pass.”

Having Trimble and Jackson does give opposing teams something to worry about offensively, and it will be an advantage as the Zips continue to endure an onslaught of five games in 11 days. That includes a road trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to face Western Michigan Saturday.

“It makes us very dangerous knowing that we have more than one guy who can go off at any moment of the game,” Trimble said. “It keeps the other team on their heels, and you just can’t let me and C.J. see a few go in because once you get us going, it’s a movie now.”

As much as Thursday’s win showed the Zips have two guys who can fill the hoop, team balance still exists. It was the second consecutive game four Zips scored in double figures and that a fifth came close.

Other players such as forwards Enrique Freeman and Maishe Dailey benefit, too.

“That makes us more difficult to guard when we have blend like that and we can get contributions from additional guys on top of C-Jack,” Groce said.

In the end, it takes a significant amount of pressure off Jackson, and that’s just fine.

“He’s more than a willing passer,” Groce said. “He’s about winning. He’s about making the right read.”

Reach George M. Thomas at gthomas@thebeaconjournal.com

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