By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - Akron has hired former Illinois coach John Groce to take over its program.
Groce replaces Keith Dambrot, who surprisingly left his alma mater last week after a successful run to coach at Duquesne.
Groce is familiar with the Mid-American Conference after spending four seasons at Ohio. He went 85-56 at the school and twice led the Bobcats to the NCAA Tournament. Ohio upset Michigan in the 2012 tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16.
Illinois fired Groce last month after five seasons. He finished with a 95-75 record, but the Fighting Illini went just 39-53 in conference play.
Akron's program was one of the MAC's strongest under Dambrot, who became increasingly discouraged that the league could only get one NCAA bid. The Zips made the NCAA field three times under Dambrot, but lost in this year's MAC championship to Kent State and played in the NIT.